Mars cruises by Plum to capture 1st WPIAL girls soccer title since ’15
Saturday, November 2, 2019 | 2:12 PM
The Mars girls soccer team advanced to the WPIAL Class AAA championship the past two seasons but came up short in both attempts.
On Saturday at Highmark Stadium, the Fightin’ Planets made sure the third time was a charm.
Top-seeded Mars scored four goals in the first half and never looked back en route to a 4-0 victory over second-seeded Plum to capture its first WPIAL title since 2015.
“This season has been something to remember. Everyone has worked so hard, and it’s just been very special,” Mars’ Taylor Hamlett said.
Hamlett put Mars in position to succeed early, netting two goals in the first 16 minutes. Both scores came in similar ways.
The first came when Hamlett got behind the Plum defense and delivered a ball to the left side of Mustangs goal keeper Erica Taylor, who got a finger on the ball but couldn’t quite push it wide enough.
The second came seven minutes later when Hamlett beat Taylor to a ball that was sent over the top of the Plum defense, and the senior forward tapped it in to extend the early lead.
“Those goals definitely gave us momentum going into the half, and that was just what we needed,” Hamlett said. “Our best games are when we get started early, so we knew what we needed to do.”
The Fightin’ Planets added two more goals before the half when they converted on two corner kicks less than 5 minutes apart to take their four-goal lead into half.
First, Ellie Coffield netted a corner kick into the back post, then Gracie Dunaway finished another one with a header amidst a group of Plum defenders. Mars coach Blair Gerlach said set pieces have been a strength for his team this year.
“We do pretty well on set pieces. We have some very good athletes. We always call it the ‘boys syndrome,’ ” Gerlach said. “We have a couple girls who can judge a ball in the air, which is usually a weakness in girls soccer. But I feel like we’ve been dangerous on set pieces.”
After the break, the Fightin’ Planets controlled a majority of the play, and the Mustangs couldn’t get anything going offensively. But the Mustangs were able to keep Mars off the board, and Plum coach James Stewart took that as a positive.
“I was very proud of their performance in the second half,” Stewart said. “We talked at half about getting back to a 0-0 game and playing our game the way we know how. We did that in the second half, keeping them off the board, even though we didn’t put one in.”
The Fightin’ Planets captured their sixth championship in program history.
Greg Macafee is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Greg by email at [email protected] or via Twitter .