Upper St. Clair takes state soccer title again

CLASS AAA BOYS

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HERSHEY, Pa. -- Winning a state championship, even a second consecutive title, should be a struggle.

In theory.

But Upper St. Clair had no time for loose postulations Saturday night at Hersheypark Stadium. The Panthers easily tackled District 3 champion Conestoga Valley, 4-0, to win their second consecutive PIAA Class AAA boys soccer championship.

The decision merely reaffirmed what a tremendous playoff team Upper St. Clair (22-2-1) is, even after -- or possibly because of -- its upset loss to Peters Township in the WPIAL championship game two weeks ago.

"Maybe that was the spark we needed," said Upper St. Clair coach Uwe Schneider of his team's 1-0 loss to PetersTownship. "But tonight, I thought we played fabulous."

No one in the crowd of nearly 5,000 -- Conestoga Valley (23-3-2) is about a half-hour from Hershey -- could possibly argue the point.

The Panthers flourish on a wide field, and Hershey's Olympic-sized pitch is perfectly suited to Upper St. Clair's style, evinced by the Panthers' success in Hershey over the years. USC is 4-1 in state championship games at Hersheypark Stadium.

Nor did Conestoga Valley's outstanding forward, Nathan Delgado, get many chances to work his magic. Delgado also likes working a big field and had some opportunities in the first 10 minutes, but he never got past the Panthers defensive backs.

In fact, Conestoga Valley had just one shot on goal, an air-mail in the first half, so dominant was USC on offense and defense.

Despite some terrific early stops by Conestoga Valley keeper Zach Rider, Upper St. Clair eventually penetrated, getting goals from four players: Dom Caruso, Troye Kiernan, Joel Hart and Doug Hapeman.

"We knew that [Delgado] was a dangerous player, but we kept going to the ball," Hart said. "We wanted to come out strong and we did."

"I was a little worried because we have a very relaxed team," Schneider said. "But they were ready tonight."

After finally breaking Rider with two first-half goals and Hart's goal just 2:08 into the second half, it was apparent Upper St. Clair was en route to a repeat.

In fact, Upper St. Clair became the first Class AAA boys team to win back-to-back titles since, well, Upper St. Clair.

The Panthers doubled up in 2003 and 2004. Their fourth title bumped them up to fourth on the all-time PIAA boys soccer championship list behind Quaker Valley (6), ELCO and Strath Haven (5 each) and tied with Christopher Dock Mennonite.


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