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PIAA volleyball tournament reverts to pool-play format

Flashback to 1999. The Y2k computer scare had western civilization in a tizzy. Actor/rapper Will Smith released the hit album “Willennium” and the best-forgotten movie “Wild Wild West.”

And the first round of the PIAA girls volleyball tournament used a pool-play format for the final time.

One of these things is coming back this weekend — and, no, computer calendars don’t need any extra digits.

This Saturday, after a decade of using a single-elimination, best-of-five match format, the state girls volleyball tournament will return to the pool-play format for the first round.

Each of the three classifications will have four pools of four teams. Each team will play three matches, and the top two will advance to the quarterfinals in York next Friday. The quarterfinals, as always, also are pool play.

“The changes were made as a result of a recommendation from the volleyball steering committee to the board of directors to try this regional pool-play approach,” PIAA executive director Brad Cashman said. “The rationale behind, which is the rationale used years and years ago, is when you have pool play, you’re guaranteed the best two teams will advance.”

This change also extends to the boys state tournament in the spring. Cashman said the new format will be used this season and next, and if it doesn’t work to the effect that the steering committee hopes, the format from the past decade will return.

Emily Walker, coach of WPIAL Class AAA champion Pine-Richland, has mixed feelings about the return of the old first-round format.

“There are pros and cons,” she said. “The girls will know what to expect if we move on to Friday’s quarterfinals, but it wears you down.”

A lot of Latsko

With two more goals during the Peters Township girls soccer team’s 2-0 PIAA first-round victory over Hampton on Tuesday, freshman striker Veronica Latsko now has six in her past three games and 31 this fall.

“Anybody that runs that hard and that fast the entire game is tough to handle,” said coach Pat Vereb, whose Indians (20-2) will play Pine-Richland on Saturday. “And most of all, she wants to score goals.”

Against Hampton, oddly, Latsko’s best effort went for naught.

Alone on a run, Latsko’s initial shot was knocked away by Hampton keeper Haley McDonald. But after gaining the rebound, Latsko broke away, turned and fired an off-balance attempt that barely missed wide left.

Mars attacks … and defends

Looking at the season stats for the unbeaten Mars girls soccer team, one big number stands out: 163 — total goals scored this remarkable fall.

But the Planets’ overwhelming offense might overshadow one of the state’s best scoring defenses. For the season, the WPIAL Class AA champ has yielded just seven goals and posted shutouts in its past 11 games. The last team to score on Mars (23-0) was Valley in a 15-1 loss Sept. 29.

In the first round of the state playoffs Tuesday, the Planets faced a Villa Maria Academy team that put up a strong attack — posting eight shots, three on net — but the young Mars defense and senior keeper Meghan Kelly held fast again.

“It was a good experience to play against a team that sent a lot of players into the attack,” Mars coach Blair Gerlach said. “I think that might be the most shots we’ve let up all year, but still (we were) very sound. They were not particularly great chances.”


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