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WPIAL Soccer Championship Takeaways (2015): Four Golden OT winners highlight title games

It was an exciting weekend of WPIAL (PA District 7) soccer at Highmark Stadium on Friday night and Saturday, as four of the six games were won on “Golden Goals” in overtime periods.

The crowds were strong — especially on Friday night — providing a fun atmopshere as twelve teams played six thrilling games that decided this year’s High School soccer champions in our region.

Here are Finals recaps (along with links to the game stories in the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review) from a weekend along with my takeaways, key performers and favorite quotes from each game.

All of the teams will move on to play in the PIAA playoffs beginning Tuesday, but here’s one more look back at a memorable weekend of soccer here in Pittsburgh:

Friday Night:
(games in order that they were played)

Class AAA Girls Norwin 3 Upper St. Clair 0


It was a dominant performance by the lone team in all WPIAL classifications to finish unbeaten and untied. Norwin (22-0) rolled to another shutout victory in a season which its only surrendered four goals.

Key Performer: Lexie Kolano.

It’s not always the goal scorer that stand out. On Friday night,Kolano was the playmaker for the Knights. In the first half, she made a perfectly timed and pinpoint cross from the right side that Emily Harrigan headed for the first score, then in the early stages of the second half, she made some nifty moves getting into the box and was fouled in the box to set up the penalty kick by Alyssa Victor that gave the Knights a commanding 2-0 lead. Honorable mention to goalie Sam Wexell who made a few big saves near the end of the 1st half that kept the clean sheet.

“The players have had a saying, that ‘We believe.’ They were going all out for an undefeated season, and they went out and did it. They won’t stop until they get what they want.” Norwin coach Lauren Czapor.

Class AAA Boys
Canon McMillan 2 Fox Chapel 1 (OT)


For 78 minutes Fox Chapel controlled most of the tempo and possession, in a match of teams with contrasting styles, but couldn’t shake a resilient Canon-Mac team that kept pressing and countering to eventually draw a foul in the box with less than two minutes remaining. Nick Sodini, who drew the foul, buried the penalty kick to level the match before a lively, packed crowd. Eight minutes into the extra period Brendan Byers seized the moment, scoring the game winner to give the Big Macs and head coach Larry Fingers its second title in four years. (and heartbreak for Fox Chapel).

Key Performer: Nick Sodini.
Byers had the game winning goal, but Sodini, Canon-Mac’s leading scorer, had the weight of the game riding on his penalty kick, and he delivered his 31st goal of the season with 1:31 left in regulation to send the game to OT. Depending on who you spoke to — was he fouled or did he flop? — the game changed on a play that Sodini did what he had to do to help his team get the result.

“I’ve had that shot so many times during the season, and I knew this was my shot. “I knew I was going to make it.” Brendan Byers said of the game-ending moment.

(games in order that they were played)

*Note — all of the Saturday games were streamed live on MSASportsWPIAL channel on YouTube.  You can rewatch the games — and see three Saturday golden goals at the end of each game.

Class A Girls
Greensburg Central Catholic 1 Charleroi 0 (2OT)

GCC PULLS IT OUT IN 2OT – By Devon Moore

Charleroi almost pulled off the upset. But in the end, even as GCC’s Bailey Cartwright, a junior Notre Dame recruit, was kept in check for more than 105 minutes, until she sent a cross to Sarah Ward who delivered the game winner with a little less than three minutes remaining in OT. The Centurions won the Class A title for the second consecutive year, and the fourth time in the past five years.

Key Performer: Sarah Ward

While Cartwright was the player that GCC were focused on stopping, Ward delivered the big goal — and was the game’s hero.

“I just had to place it right,” Ward said. “We had lots of opportunities throughout the game. … I knew we had it in us to win. We just couldn’t let our nerves get the best of us.”

Class A Boys Seton LaSalle 1 Avonworth 0 (OT)


This wasn’t the prettiest game of the weekend, but it has a spectacular ending. The two section rivals battled to a scoreless 80 minutes of regulation — and then halfway through the first OT, Brendon Benedetti had the ball bounce toward him while facing the goal about 30 yards out. Benedetti bent the ball toward the upper left corner that was perfectly placed to set off a Seton LaSalle title celebration for their fifth WPIAL title in school history.

Key Performer: Brendon Benedetti

Both teams really had a hard time creating quality chances in the attacking third, and if the game was going to be decided in regulation, it would come on either fantastic goal or a defensive mistake. A shot from distance for the game winner — that was brilliant.

“He’s very good at being calm, collected and getting the ball,” Rebels coach Ryan Kelly said about Benedetti and his game winner. “No surprise it was him. He goes a little unnoticed all season, he’s not the leading scorer, but he’s always there and he’s come through with some big goals for us this year.”

Class AA Girls Mars 2 South Park 1


Key Performer: Tori Kopchak

A total team effort by Mars, but this was a team that was dangerous in open spaces and on the counter attack. Kopchak created numerous scoring opportunities, and delivered first goal in a tight contest that shifted in Mars’ favor after the goal.

“I’ve been doing this long enough, to let you know that no lead is safe,” Gerlach said. “When you play a team that is as good and as well coached as South Park, a 2-0 lead is like 0-0. So you never know what could happen. Credit to our players, they did it.”

Class AA Boys South Fayette 3 Mars 2 (OT)


Key Performer: Jordan Smith

The senior forward was the Lions most dangerous player and was involved in every goal — and finished off the weekend’s action with an absolute blast from distance that looked something like one of Pittsburgh Riverhounds leading goal scorer, Rob Vincent’s goals from the same spot numerous times earlier this year. It’s not exactly “the beautiful game” at times in High School level soccer, but an honorable mention should go out to Matt McMahon, who had two long throw-ins in the second half that led to goals that brought Mars back.

They Said It: “I got a pass from our left back Jeremy (Zura), got into space, and saw the shot opportunity,” Smith said. “I lined it up and got it right where I wanted it.

PIAA State Playoffs – Opening Round – Tuesday, November 10

Brackets — times, locations and opponents for PIAA playoffs have been announced.  Pittsburgh Soccer Report will have more details later today and Monday on State Playoff games.  

John Krysinsky has covered soccer and other sports for many years for various publications and media outlets. He is also author of 'Miracle on the Mon' -- a book about the Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC, which chronicles the club, particularly the early years of Highmark Stadium with the narrative leading up to and centered around a remarkable match that helped provide a spark for the franchise. John has covered sports for Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, DK Pittsburgh Sports, Pittsburgh Sports Report, has served as color commentator on Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC broadcasts, and worked with OPTA Stats and broadcast teams for US Open Cup and International Champions Cup matches held in the US. Krysinsky also served as the Head Men’s Soccer Coach at his alma mater, Point Park University, where he led the Pioneers to the first-ever winning seasons and playoff berths (1996-98); head coach of North Catholic boys (2007-08), associate head coach of Shady Side Academy boys (2009-2014).

Riverhounds MF Danny Griffin

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