South Xtra: Peters perseveres, pulls out title-game win
Peters Township's Veronica Latsko hurdles Seneca Valley's Misha Demchuk to gain possession of the ball during title game.
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Perennial powerhouse Peters Township threw everything in its arsenal at Seneca Valley, yet had a difficult time trying to sink the underdog Raiders during the WPIAL Class AAA girls' soccer title game Saturday at Elizabeth Forward's Warrior Stadium.
Finally, all-state forward Veronica Latsko took matters into her own hands -- well, make that feet -- as the top-seeded Indians prevailed, 2-1, against No. 2 Seneca Valley (19-2) in double-overtime. 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," said Latsko, the 2011 Post-Gazette Player of the Year who has more than 100 career goals, including 31 this season.
Latsko is a highly regarded Division I prospect who has made a verbal commitment to play at the University of Virginia although only a junior.
She downplayed the importance of her leadership, noting the WPIAL championship was a team effort.
Latsko is regarded as one of the best players in WPIAL soccer history. Peters Township has a wealth of talent, however, evidenced by its 64-6-1 record during her three-year career as a varsity starter.
Peters Township (21-1) began defense of its PIAA title on Tuesday when it edged Bethel Park, 3-2, in the first round of the state playoffs. The Indians defeated the Black Hawks, 4-0, in a non-section game during the regular season on Oct. 13.
"We have so many talented players on this team who are capable of scoring," she said. "One person just doesn't lead this team. We all lead each other."
Peters Township has been to the WPIAL finals for five consecutive seasons, yet was 1-3 in district title games going into its contest against Seneca Valley. This included a 3-2 loss to Upper St. Clair last year. Peters Township won the 2010 WPIAL title when Latsko was a freshman.
With an experienced lineup as the reigning two-time PIAA state champion, Peters Township was expected to dominate the WPIAL and it did by scoring 102 more goals than it gave up in the regular season. Peters Township then reached the district finals by defeating Hampton, 1-0, and Gateway, 3-0.
The Indians trailed Seneca Valley, 1-0, at halftime after a free kick by Morgan Williams found the mark with 10:02 left before intermission.
Peters also trailed because of great goalkeeping by the Raiders' Jessica Neill who made several brilliant stops to deny Latsko and her teammates Olivia Roberson, a 35-goal scorer, and Morgan Creehan.
Peters Township dominated play after the Williams' goal, but only knotted the score at one-apiece when Madison Santo scored at close range from a rebound off the goal frame 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.
"[Seneca Valley] gave us everything we could handle. We had to work, literally, to the last second to win it.
"Through our resiliency and [offensive] pressure, we were able to get a goal and turn the game around. When we got to overtime, we thought we had the better of the play and we wanted to win it before we got to penalty kicks when anything can happen.
"Believe it or not, the WPIAL is our No. 1 goal and we're just trying to soak it in right now,"