Taylor Hamlett’s hat trick carries Mars into state championship game
Tuesday, November 12, 2019 | 8:03 PM
If being able to score a big goal in a big game is the mark of a clutch soccer player, what does that make Mars’ Taylor Hamlett?
She always scores more than one.
Hamlett scored multiple goals for the fourth consecutive playoff game, netting a hat trick to help Mars to a 5-1 victory over Archbishop Wood in the PIAA Class AAA girls soccer semifinals Tuesday night at Bald Eagle Area High School.
Mars (21-0-1) will play in the state championship game for the first time since 2011 when it meets Villa Joseph Marie (21-2-1) at 4 p.m. Saturday at Hersheypark Stadium. In 2011, Mars defeated Villa Joseph Marie 1-0 in the PIAA finals.
Hamlett, who scored twice in Mars’ victory over Plum in the WPIAL championship game, had a hat trick in a first-round PIAA win over Warren and two goals in a quarterfinal victory over West Allegheny.
Mars coach Blair Gerlach said he wasn’t surprised Hamlett and her teammates were playing some of their best soccer against tough competition. The regular season, he said, prepared them for it.
“We’re playing teams from all these different areas, but I feel like our section, with Kiski and Hampton, was going to be our prep for the postseason,” he said. “I feel like those teams were better than some of these teams.”
Even after poor road conditions caused the bus trip to Bald Eagle Area to take about four hours, Mars took a 2-0 lead before the game was 12 minutes old on a pair of goals by Hamlett. The Planets were in the now-familiar position of playing with a lead.
“I think we haven’t made the mistakes that we’ve made in the past,” Gerlach said. “I feel like we’ve always made one silly error that’s caused us to give up a goal, maybe early in a game, and we’ve had to chase the game the rest of the time. I feel like we’ve been able to have good, consistent, solid starts to games and been able to set the tone that way.”
Aly Cooper tacked on a second-half goal to give Mars a 3-0 advantage, but Archbishop Wood made it 3-1 only 30 seconds later when Paige Hoeger converted a penalty kick.
If Archbishop Wood thought a comeback might be in the works, Hamlett completed her hat trick less than two minutes later to give Mars a 4-1 advantage. Gracie Dunaway scored to make it 5-1.
“When that game goes 3-1, I think you’ve got to remind everyone you’re still playing with a lead and it’s still a two-goal lead, so relax and calm things down,” Gerlach said. “And you know that when a team scores a goal like that to get quote-unquote back in the game, they’re going to have to send players to get that second goal to make it more interesting. They’re going to leave themselves exposed somewhere, right? It took two minutes until we got the next one.”
Mars will now prepare to face a powerful opponent in Villa Joseph Marie, which is making its fifth straight trip to the state finals and has won 11 PIAA titles since 1993.
“The juggernaut of Villa Marie? The team that has won (11) state titles and we’ve been there once?” Gerlach said. “I know that they are very well coached. I know they have a super-high talent level. I know they are big, strong and fast, but they’re very technical as well, which is a tough mix to play against. We’re just excited to have the opportunity to compete and see which way this thing turns.”
Jonathan Bombulie is a Tribune-Review Assistant Sports Editor. You can contact Jonathan by email at email@example.com or via Twitter .
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