West Xtra: Defense plays major role in Moon's impressive run
Hat tricks were few and far between in Moon Area girls' soccer games this season.
The Moon defense allowed a total of six goals for the entire regular season, and no opponents' hat tricks. That had everything to do with a stout defense. Despite scoring 134 total goals this season, Moon only had two hat tricks of its own all season and that also had a lot to do with the Moon defense.
With a high-powered offense and a stifling defense, many of Moon's games were over shortly after they began and because of that, veteran coach Bill Pfeifer would bench his top goal-scorers so as to not run up the score.
You could say the Moon defense was so effective, it kept down scoring on both ends of the field.
Outside marking backs, senior Katie Valach and junior Sydney Schipani, and central defenders senior Christine Barthen and senior Kelsey Schoeneweis started in front of senior goalie Nicole Falcione to form one of the top defensive units in the WPIAL.
Schoeneweis is a returning all-section player and Post-Gazette West Xtra All Star. She was tasked with keeping the defense organized. Falcione started all but two games in goal this season. Meanwhile, Barthen was a threat to score out of the back, she actually netted one of Moon's two hat tricks this season.
"Kelsey organized the back, Sidney came out of the back and scored some goals, Christine was real composed on the ball and Katie has had a really good senior year, coming into her own and playing well," Pfeifer said.
Forget allowing hat tricks, the starting defensive unit only allowed three goals all year. Half of the six goals allowed by Moon came in late-game situations of blowout games without the starting defensive foursome and Falcione on the field.
The defense was a big reason Moon lived up to the expectations and hype this year, finishing 17-1 overall and 14-0 in Section 5-AA with a No. 1 or No. 2 seed likely in their future when the WPIAL playoff pairings are announced.
After a 14-6 2011 campaign that featured a trip to the WPIAL quarterfinals, the Tigers moved down to Class AA this season.
In Class AAA Moon routinely won section titles.
Also, the Tigers reached the WPIAL and PIAA Class AAA finals in 2004 and '06, winning WPIAL gold in '04 and PIAA gold in '06.
Considering that track record, Moon was instantly pegged as a favorite in Class AA. The defense shined in big games shutting out Class AAA opponent North Hills, holding defending WPIAL Class AAA champion Upper St. Clair to one goal and blanking playoff-bound Beaver Area, not to mention shutting out 11 of 14 section opponents.
"The defense played together as a group," Pfeifer said. "They played off each other real well. If someone needed a rest, we could afford to let them rest knowing the other three can pick up the slack."
Moon was only involved in two games decided by two or fewer goals all season.
"The girls are excited to see some competition and to pick up their level of play," Pfeifer said. "They want to see some different teams, I think they are excited."
The competition will undoubtedly pick up in the postseason and reach a fever pitch if the top two seeds meet in the WPIAL final.
The Moon defense appears to be on a collision course with the Mars offense. The Planets are the reigning WPIAL and PIAA Class AA champion. Mars scored 10 or more goals in more than half of its 17 games.
"Mars is strong and athletic," Pfeifer said. "They have three kids up top who can run, put the ball in the back of the net. They are a lot like us, they play defense and their goalie is strong. I know they are not ready to give up what they got last year."
First Published October 18, 2012 12:00 am