Moon fends off Mars again to return to state championship game

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Wednesday, November 16, 2022 | 10:12 PM


Just 11 days ago, Mars and Moon met for the WPIAL Class 3A girls soccer championship. The Tigers bested the Planets by a goal that day to capture their fifth title.

The high stakes rematch tonight took place Wednesday night at North Allegheny with a spot in the PIAA championship game on the line.

Moon again got the better of Mars, winning 2-0 and earning a chance to claim back-to-back state titles.

“You have two really good teams, and it could have gone either way,” Moon coach Bill Pfeifer said. “We ended up finding the net a couple of times, and that was the difference.”

The Tigers scored the winning goal in the game’s 34th minute off an extended corner kick sequence, their fourth of the half.

Mars defended the set piece but was unable to clear the ball completely, and sophomore Lilly Snyder sent a pass back towards the box that found Hailey Longwell. The senior chipped the ball into the net to put Moon in front 1-0.

Pfeifer said the Tigers are usually prepared for set piece opportunities.

“Lilly played a good ball in,” Pfeifer said. “I think she was more worried about keeping the ball in so they couldn’t counterattack. Hailey was just in the right place at the right time.”

Mars initially though the play was offside, which Longwell alluded to.

“The whole play kind of just stopped,” she said. “But we held the line well and got in behind and took advantage of it to put the ball in the back of the net.”

Considering that the Tigers have allowed only two goals all season, the game’s first marker was all important.

The game’s next goal came in the 68th minute.

Moon freshman Kendall Dydek caught up to a through ball near the right goal line and sent a shot towards the net, bit it was stopped by Kate McEnroe. The rebound popped out in front and again it was Longwell who pounced, netting her second goal of the game and 35th of the season to up the Tigers’ lead to 2-0.

Longwell, a Duquesne recruit and a finalist for the Moe Rosensteel Player of the Year Award, has scored five goals in the last two wins for Moon.

“She is a phenomenal player. She finishes, she had chances, and she put the ball away,” Pfeifer said.

Longwell deflected the praise towards her colleagues.

“I wouldn’t be here and (the goals) wouldn’t have happened without my teammates,” she said.

Mars did have some opportunities to dent the scoreboard but was denied by Moon. Tigers junior goalkeeper Serayah Leech finished with 13 saves and posted her 21st clean sheet of the year.

Pfeifer had high praise for his keeper but said the stingy Tigers defense is a team effort.

“Serayah Leech is amazing,” he said. “She works hard and athletically, there is no question about what she can do. But it’s not just one person. It’s a team concept. We always talk about if you don’t give up a goal, you can’t lose. You can tie, of course. It’s been like that the whole year.”

The loss ends a great stretch for the WPIAL runner-up Mars, whose season ends at 19-2. Dating to November of 2018, Mars has a record of 80-2-2 with the only losses coming to Moon in a two-week span. Wednesday’s loss also ended a streak of four straight state title game appearances for Mars, which had won three straight Class 3A state championships.

Moon (23-0) is also on a great four-year run, as the victory was the 95th for the Tigers in that span and it also extended its winning streak to 36 straight.

“I’m happy for the kids,” Pfeifer said. “It’s a different team than last year. It’s good for the younger kids, and it’s good for the seniors to continue playing.”

Moon won the Class 4A championship last season before moving to 3A this year. The Tigers will try to win their fifth overall state championship at 4 p.m. Friday when they travel to Mechanicsburg to take on Upper Perkiomen. The Indians (23-0-1), the champions from District 1, defeated Greencastle-Antrim, 3-0, to clinch a spot in the state championship game for the first time in program history.

The opportunity to win another state championship and finish her career with a state title has been the goal all along, according to Longwell.

“(The opportunity) is so cool,” she said. “We’ve been talking about this since even last year right after that state championship. Coming back and ending our careers with another state title would be great.”

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