The WPIAL soccer championships will move to a new home this year at Highmark Stadium in Pittsburgh's Station Square. While the venue changes, there are still plenty of constants among the three girls championship games to be played Friday and Saturday.
In Class AAA Seneca Valley will meet Peters Township. The two programs have accounted for four of the past six WPIAL Class AAA titles.
In Class A Greensburg Central Catholic meets Shady Side Academy. Since the WPIAL formed a Class A in 2010, the two programs have accounted for all three titles.
"This year, it is even more exciting because it is at Highmark Stadium," Central Valley coach Mark Perry said. "Football has Heinz Field, basketball has the Palumbo Center, now soccer has its own venue. It will be great being a part of that."
Perry will be coaching in the Class AA game.
The top two seeds in Class AAA will meet in a rematch of the 2012 WPIAL final. No. 1 Seneca Valley (17-2-1) will face No. 2 Peters Township (16-4-1) at 6 tonight at Highmark Stadium.
Peters Township is the three-time defending PIAA Class AAA champion and reigning WPIAL Class AAA champion thanks to a 2-1 win against Seneca Valley in the WPIAL final last year.
"Of the 22 kids who started in that game, 15 are in college or hurt," Peters Township coach Pat Vereb said, downplaying the significance of the rematch.
Peters Township will be playing in its sixth consecutive WPIAL final. This will be the fourth WPIAL championship meeting between the two schools since 2008 with Seneca Valley winning in 2008 and '09 and Peters Township winning last year.
"I am not surprised it is Seneca Valley," Vereb said. "There is a reason why some of these programs are consistently there."
The Raiders are the top seed, have not conceded a goal in the postseason and won, 3-0, at Peters Township Sept. 28. Peters Township has not lost a postseason game since the 2011 WPIAL final against Upper St. Clair, but the Indians have six new starters this year and needed shootouts in both the WPIAL quarterfinals and semifinals to reach the title game.
Only two teams in the six-team Class AA Section 3 finished above .500 this season. but those two teams will meet at 3:30 p.m. Saturday in the WPIAL Class AA final. No. 2 Central Valley (18-0) will meet section rival, No. 8 Hopewell (15-4) in what amounts to the first WPIAL championship game for both programs.
The matchup may come as a surprise to some outside of the section who anticipated a rematch of the 2012 final between Mars and Moon. Hopewell surprised the top-seed and three-time defending WPIAL champion Planets in the WPIAL quarterfinals and held off South Park in the semifinals. Central Valley knocked off defending PIAA champion, No. 3 seed Moon in the semifinals.
After tying both regular-season meetings last season and sharing the section title, Central Valley swept the season series this year against Hopewell winning, 4-3 and 2-1.
"It is great for our section and great for Beaver County that the two finalists are from this area," Central Valley coach Mark Perry said.
Central Valley is 6-1-2 against Hopewell in the history of the two programs but the loss came in the 2010 WPIAL quarterfinals.
No Hopewell soccer team, boys or girls, has reached a WPIAL final before. Central Valley, formed from the Monaca/Center merger after the 2009-10 school year, has never played in a WPIAL final, but Center won the WPIAL Class AA girls title in 1998.
Although the matchup of section rivals in Class AA might be a surprise, nobody should be surprised about the WPIAL Class A showdown between Section 4 rivals Greensburg Central Catholic and Shady Side Academy at 11 a.m. Saturday.
The top-seeded Centurions (17-1) are two-time defending WPIAL Class A champions and reigning PIAA champions. They have outscored their three WPIAL playoff opponents 27-4. They have won 17 in a row, including a season sweep of Shady Side Academy by a combined score of 15-5. Greensburg Central Catholic boasts two of the top goal-scorers in the state in seniors Frannie Crouse and Malea Fabean.
"We certainly know each other's strengths and weaknesses," Shady Side Academy coach Mary Bushnell said.
No. 3 seed Shady Side Academy (17-3) has yielded just 20 goals this season, but 15 have come against the Centurions. The Indians have lost nine matches in a row to Greensburg Central Catholic. But if anybody is capable of knocking off the heavily favored Centurions, it is Shady Side Academy. The team features senior forward Maggie Scott, a striker capable of matching the firepower of Greensburg Central Catholic.