Jacob Calvin Meyer | Observer Reporter
The first game of a tournament for the No. 1 seed is supposed to be a cakewalk. But when Peters Township boys soccer head coach Bob Dyer was preparing for his top-seeded Indians’ WPIAL Class 4A match against Fox Chapel Saturday night, he knew it wouldn’t be easy. And it wasn’t easy, as the Indians won 2-0 on its home turf to advance to the quarterfinals.
“I think there’s a lot of parity in the WPIAL, and I think they played a good game against us. I also think there was some stress with our team,” Dyer said. “One team has nothing to lose (Fox Chapel), and one team has everything to lose. I don’t think we handled that particularly well, so hopefully now we got past that.”
Neither goal for Peters, which entered the match out of Section 2 without a loss, came easily, as both were shot from outside the penalty box. They both came on virtually unstoppable shots from 20-plus yards out from two senior forwards: Logan Brinsky and Tyler Opferman.
Dyer said having senior leadership is crucial come playoff time, and Class 4A’s top seed might have the advantage in that area.
“We have five senior captains, and we start nine seniors,” Dyer said. “We’ve got a lot of senior leaders. This is a good year for us to make a run.”
Fox Chapel started the match holding possession for much of the first 10 minutes. That ended, though, when Brinsky, Peters Township’s top striker, stole a pass and netted an impressive left-footed shot from 20 yards.
“That’s just how we want to play. We want to pressure the ball,” Dyer said. “Defensively, we want to pressure up high, they make a mistake, and now we only have to go 30 or 40 yards to score a goal, and it worked there.”
Both defenses stood pat for the rest of the half, and the Indians took a 1-0 lead into halftime.
Halfway into the second half, Opferman, also a senior forward, scored a goal similar to Brinsky’s, booting it perfectly in the right side upper corner from 25 yards out. Dyer said he wants his strikers to have the confidence to rip it when they have the opportunity.
“We want shots on goal. That’s the style of soccer we want to play,” Dyer said. “We want to get shots in the frame as often as we can. When any of those guys are around the 18, get it in the frame.”
The Indians’ defense played a very physical match, using their size to prevent Foxes scoring opportunities. While Dyer was pleased with his team’s physicality he said the defense needs to communicate better if the Indians want to advance in the playoffs.
“We want to make sure that we’re physically into the game,” Dyer said. “The back line played alright, but did not play well. We have a lot of things to clean up there with communication. A shutout is great, don’t get me wrong, but we can do better.”
Fox Chapel head coach Erik Ingram said his team wanted to prove Saturday that it deserved a better seeding than it got.
“I’m proud of my guys. We definitely should not have gotten the No. 16 seed. That was kind of ridiculous, but the powers that be thought differently. I thought we were in it the entire game,” Ingram said. “We weren’t coming in here treating this like the 16-1 (matchup); we were treating it like we’re (two) of the more talented teams in the WPIAL.”
While Dyer isn’t going to complain about first-round shutout win, he said his team has to play with more “emotion” if it wants to advance in the playoffs, citing losing the majority of the 50-50 balls against Fox Chapel as a need of improvement.
“We’ve got to come prepared to battle for these 80 minutes,” Dyer said. “They won more 50-50 balls than us, and to me, that’s heart and that’s desire, and we need to do better at that.”
Peters Township takes on ninth-seeded Butler in the quarterfinals Wednesday. The location and time of the match is yet to be determined.