Friday, November 2, 2012

Saturday soccer preview

I asked Peters Township girls soccer coach Pat Vereb after his team's 3-0 victory over Gateway in the WPIAL Class AAA semifinals whether there was anything different about this one, as opposed to the other 18  ... or the four previous trips to the WPIAL finals.

"We treated this game like the marble rye," Vereb said, making a fantastic Seinfeld reference.

But while no one will be stealing bread from the elderly, Vereb did have a point, which he got to later. That point was that playoff soccer is different. And it has meant different things to our two WPIAL finalists, the Peters girls and Canon-McMillan boys.

For the Peters girls, that has meant having teams pack it in against them, essentially shifting their strengths to the defensive end while hoping for a close game and a late goal.

Worked during a 1-0 win over Hampton in the quarterfinals. Not so much against Gateway in the semis.

"Playoff soccer is more win at all costs," Vereb said. "I think teams get a little bit more defensive, hold on and see if they can steal the game at the end."

The Canon-McMillan boys suffered a pair of 1-0 losses to Peters Township  during the regular season, but Big Macs coach Larry Fingers made a few tweaks for Wednesday night's championship match against the Indians.

Fingers changed seven positions total and inserted three new starters into the lineup, though he declined to tell me exactly who was coming and who was going. The result was a 2-1 win behind second-half goals from Jake Wilcox and Ivan Viveros.

The goal, Fingers said, was to put "more hungry players" up top while ensuring there was good distribution in the midfield. Basically, he gambled and traded defense for offense.

"Usually when you play Peters or St. Clair, the big-name teams in the WPIAL, teams tend to ride it out and go for a counter-attack or a win on PKs or whatever," Fingers said. "This year, I made a promise to the kids that we’re not going to lay down for anybody. That we’re going to push, play our game and see what happens.

"I think our guys were nervous playing with so many players on the attack and conceding so much in the back."

We'll see if it works again. Lots of great soccer Saturday, with all of our teams at Elizabeth Forward. The Peters girls will play No. 2 seed Seneca Valley at 4:30 p.m. Seneca Valley is also 19-1 and has won 19 straight after a season-opening loss to Hampton.

The Canon-Mac boys (17-4), meanwhile, will take on No. 2 seed Upper St. Clair at 6:45 p.m. Similar to Peters Township, Canon-Mac suffered a pair of one goal losses to this section rival: 2-1 on 9/11 and 1-0 on 9/29.

The consolation match features the Peters boys playing Pine-Richland with a trip to the PIAA state playoffs on the line. So, yes, it's conceivable that all three PIAA slots could come from Section 5-AAA. See you at EF.

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