There will be a few interesting storylines behind this afternoon's WPIAL Class AA softball championship.
Besides featuring two undefeated teams in Beaver Area and Deer Lakes, it also is the second consecutive season -- and third time in 17 years -- when two teams carried perfect records into the title game. Carmichaels and Sto-Rox were both undefeated in 1998 as were Deer Lakes and Riverside last year.
Although Deer Lakes finished as the WPIAL runner-up to Riverside last season, the Lancers are making their third consecutive trip to the district championship game. And while Deer Lakes won a WPIAL crown in 2012, this is Beaver's first appearance in the WPIAL final.
"We've played solid, fundamentally all season," Deer Lakes coach Craig Taliani said. "We're excited about another opportunity to play for a WPIAL title. The girls appreciate another opportunity.
"We all know how fortunate and blessed we are for this opportunity."
Beaver (15-0) is the No. 1 seed and will face No. 2 Deer Lakes (18-0) at 2 p.m. today at California University of Pennsylvania's Lilley Field. This also is a rematch of last year's thrilling semifinal that saw Deer Lakes rebound from a 7-0 deficit to win, 11-7.
"Deer Lakes is a very good team," Beaver coach Butch Rousseau said. "This is going to be a good game with two good teams. We're ready for them."
Beaver is coming off a 2-1 semifinal win against Keystone Oaks. Freshman catcher Tayven Rousseau, who is a granddaughter of the coach, supplied two hits for the Bobcats, including a crucial triple in the ninth inning. She also scored the game-deciding run by stealing home with two outs in the ninth. Jada Justice drove in Beaver's other run.
"We're peaking at the right time, hitting-wise," Rousseau said. "We're still progressing. Our recent close games have really been good for the team. Those games showed the team they can play in those games.
"Last year, we had a young team. We made a lot of mistakes and those errors and mistakes take a toll on the team. This year, we've grown up and matured. We've learned from those mistakes."
Beaver's star pitcher, Casey Farkasovsky, picked up another win and struck out 10 against Keystone Oaks. Farkasovsky, a sophomore, finished the regular season 13-0 with 102 strikeouts. She also led the team with eight home runs.
"They bring all facets of the game," Taliani said. "They're well-coached, they have good batters, pitch well and play the field well. They're an all-around good softball team.
"You never look past anyone at this point in the season. We fully expect them to come and play."
Deer Lakes earned its trip back to the title game following a 10-1 semifinal win against Seton-LaSalle. Junior shortstop Katie Gozzard drove in three runs and senior first baseman Siera Sarver played a key role offensively by going 3 for 4 with a pair of doubles.
Junior pitcher Tiffany Edwards, who owned a 13-0 record with 84 strikeouts during the regular season, allowed just five hits against the Rebels.
"I haven't had to say anything to these girls to get them focused or fire them up," Taliani said.
"You can see it in their eyes that they're ready for the challenge. They understand what's ahead of them and how good of a team they'll be playing against in Beaver."
Beaver earned a first-round bye and has allowed just one run in two playoff games.
"I've been telling the girls that in these big games every little detail is going to be important," Rousseau said. "When it comes to bunting, you have to properly put the bunt down in the right place and not drop it right in front of someone.
"We have to play consistently, put the ball in play and take care of the ball on defense."
Deer Lakes has surrendered only two runs in its past three games. The Lancers also have shut out their opponents six times this season.
"You have to try to limit your mistakes," Taliani said. "If you make a mistake, you have to stop the bleeding and minimize the damage. The team that makes the fewest mistakes usually comes out on top.
"Pitching and defense win a lot of games. We still have to score the runs, too, so timely hitting and taking advantage of our opportunities also will be important."