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PIAA soccer playoffs offer shot at redemption or continued success

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Chaz Palla | Trib Total Media
Peters Township's Kelson Marisa (12) and Sean Harrison (18) celebrate with Nicco Mastrangelo after Mastrangelo's second goal against Upper St. Clair during the WPIAL Class AAA soccer championship Friday, Oct. 31, 2014, at Highmark Stadium.
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Chaz Palla | Trib Total Media
Peters Township's Nicco Mastrangelo celebrates his second goal of the first half against Upper St. Clair during the WPIAL Class AAA boys soccer championship Friday, Oct. 31, 2014 at Highmark Stadium.
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Chaz Palla | Trib Total Media
Peters Township's Matthew Massucci defends on Upper St. Clair's Robbie Mertz during the WPIAL Class AAA boys soccer championship Friday, Oct. 31, 2014 at Highmark Stadium.
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Chaz Palla | Trib Total Media
Peters Township's Rex Heuler (rt) defends on Upper St. Clair's Stefano Paolina during the WPIAL Class AAA boys soccer championship Friday, Oct. 31, 2014 at Highmark Stadium.
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Christopher Horner | Trib Total Media
Greensburg Central Catholic's Bailey Cartwright moves the ball past Freedom's Tina Davis during the WPIAL Class A girls championship game Saturday, Nov. 1, 2014, at Highmark Stadium. GCC won, 9-1.
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Christopher Horner | Trib Total Media
Greensburg Central Catholic's Bailey Cartwright (left) celebrates with Keli Rosensteel after she scored during the WPIAL Class A championship game against Freedom on Saturday, Nov. 1, 2014, at Highmark Stadium. GCC won 9-1.
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Christopher Horner | Trib Total Media
Greensburg Central Catholic's Keli Rosensteel battles Freedom's Tina Davis for the ball during the WPIAL Class A girls championship game Saturday, Nov. 1, 2014, at Highmark Stadium. GCC won, 9-1.

Peters Township boys soccer coach Bob Dyer savored his team’s 5-1 win over Upper St. Clair in the WPIAL Class AAA finals Friday just like his players, but the one goal allowed by the Indians bugged him a bit.

That goal surrendered snapped a streak for Peters Township, which managed shutouts during its previous 16 wins.

And it hinted that the Indians slipped, if only for a few seconds.

With the PIAA soccer playoffs for boys and girls in all three classifications set to begin Tuesday, Peters Township is focused on delivering flawless performances. For a second straight season, the Indians topped the rival Panthers in the WPIAL finals. But Upper St. Clair had the last laugh a season ago, as it defeated the Indians in the PIAA quarterfinals and then won its second straight state title.

Peters Township wants to leave no doubt about its playoff supremacy this time.

“Last year, I thought they were the better team, and we just beat them in that (WPIAL title) game,” Dyer said. “But this year, it’s different.

“I think we’re unhappy with giving up that goal. We just got rattled for a little bit, and then we settled back in. But I think we’ve really started to play good soccer and our style of soccer through the second half of the season and into the playoffs.”

While Peters Township’s boys seek their first PIAA championship, Upper St. Clair’s boys and Greensburg Central Catholic’s girls are in the hunt for three in a row. And Sewickley Academy’s boys are in pursuit of a third consecutive PIAA finals appearance — they won the state title in 2013.

“It’s tough to get to the state finals three years in a row, but they’re willing to put the work in to do what it takes to get back there,” Sewickley Academy coach James Boone said.

Like Upper St. Clair, Sewickley Academy enters the PIAA tournament as a WPIAL runner-up; the Panthers lost to Winchester Thurston in a shootout Saturday.

West Allegheny’s boys, who want to return to the PIAA finals after an appearance in 2013, also begin the state portion of this postseason as WPIAL silver medalists. They lost 1-0 to South Park in the Class AA final.

“We’re still dealing with 15- to 18-year-old student-athletes,” Boone said of initiating rebound runs. “It might be different on the collegiate or even pro level where they bounce back faster, because it’s been there, done that.”

South Park was the only top-seeded boys team to win a WPIAL title.

On the girls side, Seneca Valley in Class AAA and Greensburg Central Catholic in Class A both lived up to their status as favorites.

Montour, meanwhile, emerged as the most compelling of several Cinderella stories by winning the Class AA championship. The Spartans had never won a playoff game prior to this season.

Canon-McMillan and Freedom also put together surprising playoff runs, as they reached the WPIAL finals in Class AAA and Class A after earning the No. 10 and No. 11 seeds, respectively.

Lady Macs coach David Derrico chuckled Friday at Highmark Stadium as he listened to questions about how his team might recover from its 1-0 loss.

“I didn’t expect to be standing here, so I am elated just to be here,” Derrico said. “Am I disappointed with the (finals) result? Yes. But the fact that we’re here in this game at this venue, I’m over the moon about it.

“We’ll get them back up (for the PIAA first round), and they’ll be fine. We could see Seneca again in the state playoffs, and it’ll be a different game.”

Bill West is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at [email protected] or via Twitter @BWest_Trib.Gary Horvath contributed.

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