Moon scores in final minutes to slip past Mars in PIAA battle of WPIAL girls soccer titans

Tuesday, November 14, 2023 | 11:08 PM

On a night where, not surprisingly, a tight defensive battle raged on, Sydney Felton found her moment to make an impact.

And it gave Moon a chance at a state three-peat.

Felton scored on a shot off a cross by Marina Mollica with 1 minute, 19 seconds remaining in regulation for the lone goal as Moon defeated Mars, 1-0, in the PIAA Class 3A girls soccer state semifinals Tuesday night at North Allegheny.

“When I saw Marina kick it, I knew that I had the opportunity to finish it, because I knew no one was around me and the goal was wide open,” Felton said. “I just had a tap-in. We didn’t have much space all night, but it opened up and I was able to finish it.”

The two-time defending champion Tigers will face District 2 champion Abington Heights for the PIAA Class 3A championship at 4 p.m. Saturday at Eagle View Stadium in Mechanicsburg.

“I’m so glad we could make it with this team,” Felton said. “We work so hard in the offseason and throughout the season. We really pushed together. It’s a crazy feeling to get back there.”

With the clock ticking down in regulation, Mollica made a fantastic run down the left side and curled in a cross to the middle of the box that Felton was waiting for.

“I saw the clock was counting down, and I knew we needed a goal, so I just went for it,” Mollica said. “When I saw Sydney was in the box, I knew she was going to put it in.”

Moon coach Bill Pfeifer was impressed with Mollica’s run and relieved the Tigers could pull it out in regulation.

“I was a little worried when she started down the left and then started coming back, because I wanted her to go down the flank and at least try to get a corner out of it,” Pfeifer said. “Then she came back in and got a good service in and Sydney was able to get on the other end of it.”

Prior to the goal, chances were sparse, which was expected in a battle of two of the premier girls soccer teams in Western Pennsylvania and a rematch of last year’s state semifinal, which Moon also won.

Moon won state championships in 2016, 2017, 2021 and 2022 while Mars won in 2019, 2020 and 2021. The Tigers won in 4A in 2021, while Mars won in 3A.

Coming into Tuesday’s semifinal, Mars (19-2) had yielded two goals all season and Moon (18-2-2) had only conceded three.

“I’m surprised it didn’t go to penalties,” Mars coach Blair Gerlach said. “I think everybody thought it was going to be a 110-minute game with penalties. It was a good game, back and forth, and it came down to one bounce.”

Prior to Felton’s winner, there were a couple chances for a goal.

Moon’s Sydney Felton put a low, hard shot on net in the 29th minute, but Mars keeper Kate McEnroe tracked it well.

Mars’ best opportunity came in the 35th minute when Ainsley Ray put a good cross on goal and Brynn Ramsey got a piece of it, but Moon keeper Sereyah Leech was there to cover.

After Felton’s goal, Brynn Ramsey put a cross on goal in the final 40 seconds, but it was cut off by Leech, preserving Moon’s 20th clean sheet of the season.

Jerin Steele is a freelance writer

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