Mars scores plenty in WPIAL semifinal win vs. Latrobe

Tuesday, November 1, 2022 | 9:28 PM

Strobe lights flash at Gateway when teams score goals.

As if Mars wasn’t flashy enough.

The top-seeded Fightin’ Planets made it 80 straight games without a loss via a 4-1 victory over No. 5 Latrobe in a WPIAL Class 3A semifinal Tuesday night in Monroeville.

Now they will continue their drive toward a fourth straight WPIAL title and, maybe, a fourth PIAA title in a row.

The lights continue to brighten, but this team is used to it.

Mars (17-0) advances to play No. 2 Moon (19-0) at 1:15 p.m. Saturday in the championship at Highmark Stadium.

Latrobe (12-3-2), playing in its first semifinal, will face Plum in the third-place consolation game at 8 p.m. Thursday at a site to be announced.

The No. 5-ranked team in the nation by United Soccer Coaches, Mars took control early, with its man-marking defense locked in and its offense creating offense on long shots downfield.

Unlike the last two playoff wins where Mars faced a wall of eight or nine defenders, Latrobe tried to play with the Planets.

Mars stretched its legs — and the field — and got back to a shape it liked.

“It was nice to play against a team that opened it up a little bit,” Mars coach Blair Gerlach said. “We took advantage of a good start.”

Ainsley Ray got behind the back line on a break, took a through ball and finished just five minutes into the game. Gwen Howell was credited with the assist.

“It was good to get that one in early,” Gerlach said. “You get one behind that keeper and all of the sudden, you’re not afraid to get some balls on goal.”

At 26:04, Mars attempted a free kick from 20 yards. The ball bounced around in front of the net, and Piper Coffield bumped in the redirect to make it 2-0.

“Mars is a great team,” Latrobe coach Jamie Morrison said. “They are clinical, and they punish you when you make a mistake. We had our share of chances but could not finish.”

Morrison said she had no regrets in playing Mars straight up, without getting gimmicky.

Mars didn’t get this good without nurturing superior talent. Coffield and Howell will play in the High School All-American Game in December.

Eight minutes later, the Fightin’ Planets took a 3-0 lead. Rosie Pellegrino sent a header on frame and Wildcats goalkeeper Sofia DeCerb tipped it. But Lily Wolf alertly sent the ricochet into the net.

Latrobe finally scored at 29:43 of the second half on a rip by Annalyse Bauer to cut it to 3-1.

It was just the fourth goal Mars has allowed all season.

“It was hard to go into the half down 3-0,” Morrison said. “Our girls showed so much heart and resilience. They kept fighting and never stopped.”

Mars instantly responded on a goal by Eden Gerlach less than a minute later.

Coach Gerlach thinks Latrobe is capable of making a run in its first state playoff appearance.

“They’re a young team, and they are built to make a run going forward,” Gerlach said. “They’re still in the hunt. We wouldn’t be surprised to see them again.”

Bill Beckner Jr. is a Tribune-Review Staff Writer. You can contact Bill by email at or via Twitter .

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