Jason Mackey | Observer Reporter
Take any sport the WPIAL offers, and there’s usually one program that has cornered the market. That, through its success, has become synonymous with the sport.
Clairton and football, for instance. Maybe Seton-La Salle and Mt. Lebanon taking over the girls basketball world. Or North Allegheny ruling the roost when it comes to swimming, cross country and boys volleyball. Locally, there’s been the unprecedented success of the Canon-McMillan wrestling program, but it’s time to throw one more school-sport combination into that mix, especially with what has transpired over the past few years: Peters Township soccer.
Without even mentioning conference titles, the boys and girls programs have combined to win six championships since 2004, the girls team one WPIAL and two PIAA Class AAA crowns, the boys team two and one, respectively. Combined record during that span: 303-51-20. Combined conference record: 167-14-7. Down years, at least by everybody else’s standards: none.
“I think the kids understand that the expectation that we place upon ourselves, within this program, is winning titles,” said Peters Township boys coach Bob Dyer, whose team has reached the WPIAL final seven of the past nine years. “It’s how you get yourself recognized within this program. If you want to get your name on the wall, you better win a title.”
And it doesn’t get any easier if you’re a female. The girls team has won the past two PIAA Class AAA titles, including one in 2011 after the Indians scored 113 goals and allowed 16 despite needing to replace seven seniors. Peters Township also has reached the WPIAL Class AAA final four years running, averaging nearly 21 wins per season during that span.
“There’s definitely a lot of pride, especially in the past two years, with being able to prove ourselves even after we lost some players,” senior Duquesne recruit Olivia Roberson said. “We always come out with a new team every year, and we have to prove ourselves again.”
The primary reason for the sustained success is Peters Township’s youth soccer program, popular as ever. “I started playing when I was 3, and I think all my friends on the team also started then,” Roberson said. “So it starts pretty early for us.”
That competitive level only increases in high school, enabling coaches like Dyer to take things a step further.
“It’s a tribute to the feeder program,” Dyer said. “The youth program does a great job at Peters of giving us the talent. It’s not like we’re training the talent at the high school level; it’s
already there. And because they give you such good numbers, the kids compete; it’s very hard to get on the field. That competitive level of the kids during practice allows you to advance. The kids are sometimes happy to get to the games because they’re going at each other pretty good during practice.”
Too bad other teams usually aren’t. And it shouldn’t change much this fall.
The Peters Township girls team returns a heap of talent, including Roberson a 30-goal scorer a season ago and Virginia commit Veronica Latsko, arguably the WPIAL’s best player after totaling 78 goals the past two years. Add to that mix midfielder Nicole Hume and defender Abbie LaVigna (Kent State), as well as several other returning starters in forward Emily Franty, midfielder Rachel Troscinski, defender Morgan Creehan and midfielder Laurel Carpenter, and you get a potent blend of talent and experience.
“It’s kind of a relief this year knowing that we’re so comfortable with each other,” Latsko said. “We really know how to work off of each other.”
The boys team should be strong, too, addressing the loss of Matt Venanzi (Pitt) with a group approach and an experienced back line that includes Mark Enscoe, Bryan Hall and Matt Giroud. The
midfield will be strengthened by the return of Sean Baxendell, Max Lindsay, Cale Bollman and Christian Petrozza.
“I think we’re going to be a much better team,” Dyer said. “Whereas in years past, you’ve always read one or two names, I think this year it’s going to be more of a group effort.”
Both teams jumped out to 2-0 starts over the weekend, with the boys team knocking off Exeter Township, 3-0, Friday and West Lawn Wilson, 1-0, Saturday. The girls crushed Penn-Trafford and State College both 5-0 with Latsko and Roberson scoring nine of the 10 goals.
“Most of the time, when one of us gets the ball, we’re not even looking at the other player,” Roberson said of playing with Latsko. “I know where she’s going to run, or she knows where I’m going. We already have the passes strung out in our heads. It’s pretty easy playing with each other.”