Even as his team wore the tag of defending PIAA girls soccer champions last season, Peters Township coach Pat Vereb continued to downplay the expectations for the 2011 season because his team had to replace seven starters.
After Peters Township made it back-to-back PIAA championships last season and with seven starters returning -- not graduating -- this time around, you will hear no talk of Vereb this year trying to downplay expectations.
"Last year's group was a bit younger and they were following a class that had a lot of success," Vereb said. "A lot of people didn't expect much; we sort of shocked some people. This year's group is a lot more experienced. With that comes a lot of expectations."
The Indians have done nothing on the field to lower those expectations. They are 9-0 on the season and 6-0 in Section 5-AAA and have outscored opponents, 64-3.
They blanked Penn-Trafford and State College, 5-0, each in the South Hills Classic to open the season. They made easy work of playoff contenders such as Mt. Lebanon, 6-0; Canon-McMillan, 7-0; and Chartiers Valley, 7-1.
Their most recent victim was Laurel Highlands, whom they pounded, 12-1, on Wednesday.
On Monday, Peters Township made its biggest statement yet and exacted a bit of revenge in the process. The Indians jumped on defending WPIAL Class AAA champion Upper St. Clair with three first-half goals on their way to a 3-0 win.
Upper St. Clair defeated Peters Township, 3-2, in the WPIAL final last year. Peters hasn't lost a game since then.
The Indians regrouped to record four consecutive shutouts in the PIAA playoffs to win the state crown. The only teams to defeat Peters Township last season were Upper St. Clair, Mt. Lebanon and State College; the Indians already defeated all three this year by a combined margin of 14-0.
The Upper St. Clair game, already one of the most anticipated in the WPIAL, carried more weight this year with the Panthers and Indians competing in Section 5-AAA this season after WPIAL realignment.
"It is a big game every year," Vereb said. "It doesn't matter what happened the year before. Upper St. Clair is one of the best programs in Western Pennsylvania and they are also our neighbor. It was a good test for us.
"The first half [against Upper St. Clair] was probably our best half of soccer this whole year. The girls came out pretty hard and put the game away pretty early."
The defense faced one of its biggest tests of the year and it passed with flying colors as it was able to shut down Upper St. Clair forward Carley Bogan, one of top goal-scorers in the WPIAL.
The defense is led by senior captains Abbie LaVigna and Morgan Creehan, both three-year starters. Former defender Carly Johns, a sophomore, has been converted to goalkeeper to take over for junior Megan Parker, who is out for the year after offseason knee surgery
"Carly Johns is basically unselfishly manning that position for us," Vereb said. "She has never played goalie before but she is sort of a good fit, just a good athlete."
Sophomore Laurel Carpenter leads the midfield. She has started every game in her two years and Vereb calls her one of the best sophomores in the WPIAL.
The offensive firepower is something that separates the Indians from most teams in the state.
Senior forward Olivia Roberson and junior forwards Veronica Latsko and Emily Franty are capable of filling up the net. Latsko is the reigning Pennsylvania Gatorade Female Soccer Player of the Year and has already committed to an NCAA Division I program, the University of Virginia.
Roberson leads the team with 20 goals and Latsko has 17.
"All three forwards have been a part of success, which is nice. It doesn't allow the opponent to focus on one girl," Vereb said.
This Saturday comes an interesting matchup for the Indians when they play host to Cumberland Valley at 4 p.m.
The game is a "unification bout" of sorts. Cumberland Valley out of District 3 is a reigning PIAA Class AAA champion. Cumberland Valley had played spring soccer in the past, this is the first year that all programs in the state are playing fall soccer.
"We're playing the other state champion," Vereb said. "This is the first time we'll ever play them."
Cumberland Valley is undefeated and ranked No. 5 in the country by the National Soccer Coaches Association of America. Peters Township is ranked No. 16.