After more than 109 minutes of action Saturday, forward Veronica Latsko used her head as top-seeded Peters Township prevailed, 2-1, against No. 2 Seneca Valley (19-2) in double overtime to win the WPIAL Class AAA girls soccer title at Elizabeth Forward.
Latsko found the net on a header set up by a Rachel Troscinski corner kick with 27 seconds left in the second sudden-death, 15-minute period.
"I had confidence in our team because we know how to persevere and get through challenges like this," Latsko said. "We're there for each other. ... It's a team effort. I was just so happy Rachel played that amazing [corner kick]. I didn't have to do anything [to score] except stick my head out in front of it."
Peters Township made its fifth consecutive WPIAL final but was 1-3 going into Saturday's contest.
After winning the past two state championships, Peters Township was expected to steamroll the competition this year.
The Indians averaged better than six goals per game in the regular season but trailed Seneca Valley, 1-0, at halftime on a well-placed free kick by Morgan Williams with 10:02 left before intermission.
Peters Township dominated play after Williams' goal but did not score for almost 69 minutes because of the goalkeeping of Seneca Valley's Jessica Neill.
The Indians tied the score at 1-1 when Madison Santo scored from close range off a rebound on a shot taken by Olivia Roberson with 12:38 left in regulation.
"[Seneca Valley] came out with a good plan and got the first goal which gave them a lot of momentum," Peters Township coach Pat Vereb said. "We really struggled to get the game back into our grips and finally when we tied it. ... We relaxed a little bit and played a better brand of soccer."
Peters Township took firm control in overtime, reflected in its 7-0 advantage in corner kicks.
"Our team played well enough to win, but she's a difference maker," Vereb said. "She [came through] in typical Veronica fashion. ... It's like watching Gretzky or Lemieux, you just sort of hold your breath."
The tension mounted with each passing minute and reached its climax when Mars goalkeeper Sarah Dailey opened the door for a Mars victory by making the first and only save in the sixth round of a shootout. Karli Paracca then drove home the winning goal to give the Planets a 2-1 win and their third consecutive WPIAL title in dramatic fashion.
"My goalie coach always says 'just pick a way before you go,'" Dailey said. "I was thrilled. It's the first PK I've ever saved."
The save was redeeming for Dailey, who surrendered the first goal of the game when she let a seemingly innocuous free kick by Moon's Christine Barthen from 40 yards out slip through her hands in the sixth minute to give the Tigers (20-2) an early lead.
Mars (19-1-1) responded well, though, and controlled the ball for the most of the remaining time in the first half, which led to its first goal off the foot of Paracca in the 25th minute. Paracca controlled a cross into the box from Sabrina Edwards and swiftly pushed a low shot past Moon goalkeeper Nicole Falcione.
Both teams will begin the PIAA playoffs Tuesday, and Mars coach Blair Gerlach said that such an intense and physical match helped make his team even more battle-tested.
"I think this is one more drop in the bucket of experience," Gerlach said. "It ups your confidence."
Junior midfielder Frannie Crouse scored two goals to lead top-seeded Greensburg Central Catholic (19-1) to the Class A championship with a 2-0 victory against Sewickley Academy (20-1-1).
Crouse scored both goals within a 1:09 span in the second half, snapping a scoreless tie with 29 minutes left in the second half with a shot from the right side of the net that followed a Centurions' free kick. Then, with 27:51 left in regulation, Crouse beat three defenders and fired a shot into the left side of the net to give the Centurions a 2-0 lead.
"We just did a quick throw-in," Crouse said of the first goal. "I wasn't [being covered], so we took a chance."