Mars captures 7th WPIAL girls soccer title

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Saturday, November 7, 2020 | 3:44 PM


The Mars girls soccer team is golden again.

The Fightin’ Planets won the seventh WPIAL title in program history and their second in as many seasons with a 1-0 victory over Plum in the Class 3A final Saturday at North Allegheny.

“I think if anyone tells you it gets old, they’re lying,” veteran Mars coach Blair Gerlach said.

“Winning is fantastic. It’s always with a different group of kids, and that’s what makes it special. I am going to look at my phone after the game, and I am going to have text messages from kids from 2010 saying, ‘I remember that day!’ Those are the memories you cherish.”

Mars senior Erin Rodgers scored the winner with a header off a corner kick from fellow senior Ellie Coffield with 26 minutes left in the first half, and the Planets defense and senior goalkeeper Courtney Lisman made that one score stand up.

The goal was Rodgers’ first of the season.

“It was really awesome to be able to step up,” Rodgers said.

“Usually, we have a couple of people going to the back post (on corner kicks), a couple in the front and a couple at the penalty spot. We really just try to get a touch on it and keep the ball in the box, keep it in play and try to get anything on it to get it in.”

Saturday’s contest, played under sunny skies with temperatures in the low 70s, was a rematch of last year’s Class 3A championship game won by Mars, 4-0, at Highmark Stadium.

The teams came in on somewhat of a collision course as both were undefeated through the regular season and three playoff games. Mars outscored Laurel Highlands, Oakland Catholic and Montour by a combined 25-0. Plum beat Gateway, Thomas Jefferson and West Allegheny to the tune of an 11-0 differential.

“To be honest, knowing the quality of players from both teams, I didn’t think (the one goal) was going to be enough,” Gerlach said.

“I think I made a comment to someone before the game that this is either going to be a 1-0 game or 6-5. It depends on who decides to open up and the style of the teams and how they want to play. We talked at halftime about having that lead but not being comfortable.”

Mars (16-0) now prepares to defend its 2019 PIAA title. The Planets open state tournament play in the quarterfinals next Saturday against the District 10 champion, either Warren or Bradford, at a site and time to be determined.

The Planets defeated Warren in last year’s first-round matchup 6-1.

It was a WPIAL Class 3A sweep for the Planets as the Mars boys were crowned champs Thursday at North Allegheny with an overtime triumph against Franklin Regional.

Plum, which came into the game with a streak of eight straight shutouts dating to Oct. 3, caps its season at 16-1.

“Mars plays very well in the back and very strong in the midfield,” Mustangs coach Jamie Stewart said.

“The second half, we just couldn’t get the ball out of our end, through the midfield and up to the top. When we did, they were sitting back with their three defenders, and we couldn’t get to the ball.”

Mars tallied seven corner kicks in the first half and 12 for the game.

“The film we got to watch on Mars, they are really good on corner kicks,” Stewart said. “They’re really good in the air. Unfortunately, that’s what bit us today.”

Mars finished with a 10-2 shot advantage. Plum’s first shot came on a direct kick two and a half minutes into the second half. Senior Gina Proviano’s shot from 22 yards angled in on goal but was hauled in by Lisman.

The Planets had a few additional chances to add to their lead. In the second half, a kick from sophomore Piper Coffield was turned away on a nifty save by Plum senior keeper Erica Taylor.

Senior Caroline Wroblewski and junior Londynn Gonzalez both hit the crossbar with shots in the final 15 minutes.

Plum made a late push and generated a corner kick with 1:15 left. But the Mars defense turned away the attempt.

Michael Love is a Tribune-Review Staff Writer. You can contact Michael by email at mlove@triblive.com or via Twitter .

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