West Xtra: Moon players get good lesson
Moon Area's Michaela Guttierrez tries to maneuver around Yough's Mikayla Mance during a WPIAL quarterfinal match.
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With 39 total players on the roster, the Moon Area girls' soccer team is one of the biggest in the WPIAL.
Coach Bill Pfeifer wanted to make sure all 39 players and their families got to experience a higher level of girls' soccer.
With the No. 2-seed Tigers set to take on No. 1 Mars in a highly anticipated clash of soccer powerhouses, Pfeifer dressed all 39 of his players and had them travel together to Chartiers Valley for the WPIAL Class AA final on Saturday.
"These kids had never been there before," said Pfeifer who has coached the Tigers to two WPIAL championship games and two PIAA championship games since 2004. "I brought the whole team, every player was there. We do everything as a team."
Many of the families of the younger players who play mostly on the ninth grade and junior varsity team were wondering why their kids had to go to a game they were likely not going to play in.
They soon found out why.
Moon and Mars battled as many expected from the top two Class AA teams in the area. In a fast-paced, back-and-forth game, Moon took an early lead, Mars tied things up late in the game and the teams played to a tie in regulation. Then it went to overtime and a second overtime and then a shootout and then overtime of the shootout.
Finally, Mars prevailed, winning its third consecutive WPIAL Class AA final, 2-1, on a 6-5 advantage in penalty kicks.
"Some of the parents had never seen a game like that before, that fast, two very good teams with 22 very good players and very good players coming off the bench," Pfeifer said. "They saw the game at a different level, different speed, the athleticism of the kids, how they run, how well they play.
"At first they couldn't understand why their kids had to come to the game. After the game, it opened their eyes up. It was the next step, the next level of soccer."
Moon went 17-1 in the regular season. In the playoffs it earned the No. 2 seed and it shut out No. 15 Beaver, 7-0, and No. 7 Yough, 4-0. In the WPIAL semifinals it got past No. 3 Central Valley, 2-1, to set up the showdown with Mars (19-1-1).
"I figured we would be the number two seed, Mars was still the WPIAL and state champion," Pfeifer said. "We were expected to get to the finals, but you can't skip anybody. All 39 players got WPIAL medals. There are a lot of great players who have been through the WPIAL who have never won a medal and these kids have one."
Moon (21-2) rebounded from its tough title game loss to defeat District 6 champion Forest Hills, 3-0, Tuesday in the first round of the PIAA playoffs.
This was Moon's first year playing in Class AA after moving down from the WPIAL's highest classification. The Tigers had an easy go at things in Class AA, rarely being challenged during section games.
Pfeifer was more impressed with his team's attitude rather than its performance during the blowout wins.
His starters were often times benched with plenty of time remaining in the first half. Nobody was aiming to get a hat trick, the team only had one in the regular season and one in the playoffs.
There were games where nine different players scored goals. Overall this season nine players topped 10 goals and only one, senior forward Antonia Grese, topped 20, leading the team with 25.
"I think they played outstanding," Pfeifer said. "They showed a lot of class. They didn't go out to embarrass anyone. They didn't complain when they had to come off the field, they accepted it very well.
"Some of these kids could have been 40- or 50-goal scorers. It may have hurt their statistics, but for being high school players, they were very professional."
Moon certainly has the ability to make a run in the PIAA playoffs and with 29 players on the roster returning next season, the Tigers appear to be a contender in Class AA for years to come.
"The kids trained hard all year," Pfeifer said. "They knew what they wanted to do was not score 20 goals during the regular season, but get to that next level in the WPIAL final. They see the bigger picture."