Thursday, November 4, 2021 | 7:01 p.m.
For the third season in a row, the Mars and Plum girls soccer teams will meet in the WPIAL Class 3A Championship, with the final episode taking place at 1:15 p.m. on Saturday at Highmark Stadium.
The seeded Planets (15-0-1) have won the last two games, but the No. 2 Mustangs (19-1-1) are hoping they will like the third time.
“That’s the phrase we’re using right now, but it’s a privilege to be back. The girls worked really hard, ”said Plum coach Jamie Stewart. “Mars continues to be the class here in 3A. We’ve played really good football throughout the season. I think it’s going to be a great game.
Mars coach Blair Gerlach said: “I might be a little biased, but I think this is the game everyone wanted to see. You still want to see the 1 (seed) against the 2 , and you still want to see the rematch, in that case it’s revenge versus revenge, so I think it’s a game that people get excited about.
Most thought Mars would regress this season after losing nine players at graduation in the spring. But the Planets, playing their fifth consecutive District Final, are back, looking for their eighth WPIAL Championship this millennium with a new mix of players who have learned a lot from their predecessors.
“We had a really special class that graduated last year,” said Gerlach. “There was fantastic leadership that was passed on to the young players who are now starters. The culture here is one where girls always grow and work hard, never settling down.
“A lot of what I heard during the preseason was that this was the year of the rebuilding of Mars and we would never get over the loss of this class.”
However, Mars arrives in the title match winning 15 straight games, including a first round victory over Laurel Highlands (7-1), a quarter-final victory over Hampton (3-1) and a semi-final victory. final Tuesday against South Fayette (2-0). Plum, meanwhile, suffered his only loss of the season a month ago and advanced to the playoffs by knocking out Penn Hills (7-0), Oakland Catholic (6-0) and Montour (1- 0) in the semi-finals, also on Tuesday. .
These Mustang shutouts are a product of the system taught by Stewart and his staff.
“We preach defense. Our full back and midfielder are doing a very good job in collective defense, ”said Stewart. “It’s always the whole collective unit playing in defense that allows us to keep the goals off the scoreboard, and we get some great goalkeepers.”
Defense is also key for Mars, as the Planets have allowed just two goals this season. The Planets’ backline helped in the shutouts, but that doesn’t mean the goalkeepers didn’t do a great job. Senior Megan Boddy and sophomore Kate McEnroe have a split time in goal.
“We haven’t missed out on a lot of opportunities this year so a lot of times they can’t show how well they can play,” said Gerlach. “A lot of coaches who play against us say they don’t know if they’re good or not. It’s difficult because these two goalies did a good job.
As for the key to the game, it is basically the same for both coaches.
“Stay calm and don’t get frustrated with the situation,” Gerlach said. “Follow the plan and don’t give up ship too soon. “
Stewart said, “Understand the game and react to situations as they arise. We did it pretty well against them last year. We’ve reacted pretty well to some of the things that happened there. “
The teams have seven players between them who made the All-WPIAL team and 12 on the All-Section teams. Piper Coffield, Aly Cooper, Leana Cuzzocrea and Gwen Howell for Mars, and Kaitlyn Killinger, Marissa Liberto and Kaley Simqu for Plum have landed in the district team.
Tags: March, Plum