South Xtra: Peters battled past adversity

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Talking to his team after a PIAA quarterfinal loss on Saturday, Peters Township coach Pat Vereb listed the accomplishments his players have achieved over the years and the harsh reality of team sports.

"The reality is that when you play a team sport, it is not always going to end with a gold medal," Vereb said.

That seems obvious, but maybe it was not so obvious to the seniors on the current team.

Every season since the current seniors arrived at Peters Township had ended the same way, with gold medals being draped around their necks at Hersheypark Stadium.

There would be no trip to Hershey this season.

The Peters Township season came to an end with a 2-0 loss to Seneca Valley in the PIAA quarterfinals Saturday at Chartiers Valley. It was the first of eight postseason tournaments played by the team in four years that did not result in either a silver or gold medal.

It was hardly a fitting end for a senior class that won three PIAA championships, two WPIAL championships and four section titles included among a list that also had many individual accolades.

The team had established a blueprint of how to win and win big from 2010 to 2012.

But the Indians would mostly have to abandon that blueprint after the departure of a large and talented senior class that constituted more than half of the starting lineup last year and the loss of Veronica Latsko, a two-time Gatorade Pennsylvania Player of the Year.

Latsko, a University of Virginia recruit, was lost for her senior season after sustaining a torn anterior cruciate ligament in her right knee during cup soccer last summer.

The graduations and the injury had some district soccer observers prematurely writing off the three-time defending PIAA champions.

Although the Indians (17-6-1) would lose a few non-section games here and there -- something almost unheard of in recent seasons -- at the end of the regular season they were once again section champions and heading into the WPIAL playoffs as the No. 2 seed.

Vereb said his team found new ways to win this year.

"We were more blue collar in our approach," Vereb said. "Everything that they achieved, they really, really had to work for it as a group defensively."

Although the Indians still wore the target of defending WPIAL and PIAA champions on their backs, the reality is there were 14 players contributing who had little to no postseason experience.

Peters Township still forged ahead, defeating Greater Latrobe, Pine-Richland and Bethel Park to reach the WPIAL finals. In a rematch of the 2012 WPIAL title match, Peters Township would lose, 1-0, to Seneca Valley. The Indians bounced back and four days later in the PIAA tournament defeated District 6 champion State College, 2-0, to set up a rematch with Seneca Valley.

The 2-0 score in the loss to Seneca Valley was no indication, but Peters Township played a much stronger game than it did eight days earlier in the WPIAL final.

"We knew whether we were going to play Seneca or Bethel in states, it was going to be a tough, physical match," Vereb said. "We thought we played much, much better in the second game and probably deserved a better fate."

By reaching the WPIAL final, it afforded Latsko one last chance to be announced as a starter. While not cleared to play Latsko still took the field and was recognized in a fitting moment for one of the top players in state history.

"It is something I thought she deserved," Vereb said. "Certainly I don't know if there are too many players in the history of girls soccer who have been more recognizable or have done more for the sport in our area."

Along with Latsko, Peters Township will graduate three senior starters, Megan Parker, Emily Franty and Riley Partyka.

"It is sad that we didn't get back to Hershey," Franty said. "But we still achieved some of our goals of winning section and making it to the WPIAL final. I am so lucky to be part of a program and to have had such a great experience.

"There is definitely a lot of pressure playing for Peters Township but you just have to play every game as hard as you can and go into every play and every tackle and do it for yourself and do it for your teammates and not worry about what everyone else says."

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