WPIAL GIRLS 3A FINAL
MOON 3, MARS 2
LONG HONG PHOTO GALLERY
Moon’s girls soccer program has rolled through the regular season undefeated — and were rarely tested this season.
That changed in the WPIAL Girls 3A final on Friday at Highmark Stadium — as the Tigers pulled out a thrilling 3-2 win over a young, resilient Mars squad to earn back-to-back district titles on the strength of three goals that began on corner kicks.
“These kids have been here before. There was no panic. They kept playing — played our game,” Bill Pfeifer said. “It wasn’t going to be a cakewalk. Tonight, they exposed us a little bit.”
Indeed, each time Moon took the lead, Mars responded in a see-saw match.
Still, Moon remained steadfast — and with the game deadlocked at 2-2, in the 76th minute, the Tigers finally took the lead for good as they capitalized on a corner kick for the second time in the game.
Emily Orr‘s service into the box connected with sophomore Kylee Evans — who managed to get a header on the ball among a scrum — sending the ball under the cross bar, then bouncing behind Mars keeper Claire Valentine.
“That last one was really good — we’ve been very confident in our corner kicks,” Pfeifer said. “We’ve been running them a lot and it really paid off for us tonight.”
The way things started — it seemed as if Moon would cruise to another title without much of a challenge.
After its first corner kick opportunity in the 5th minute, also played in by Orr — Moon’s senior leading scorer, and Miami (OH) commit Delaney Snyder was quick to pounce on loose ball in the center of the box for her 45th goal of the season.
Things weren’t going Mars’ way early.
“I thought the game could goes two ways. Either it would be very interesting as it was — or it would ugly early,” Blair Gerlach, Mars head coach said. “When you play team like that — they score goals in bunches. If you don’t weather the storm for the first 10 minutes — and an emotional roller coaster takes over. Before you know it, it’s 2-0.”
Instead, the Planets started pressing forward, taking advantage of its speed on the flanks.
Then Caroline Wroblewski took matters into her own in the 10th minute.
The freshman midfielder exploded into the left side — getting past Moon’s outside back and placed a perfect shot into tight opening inside the left post for the equalizer.
“It was nice that our goal scorers were freshman and sophomores today,” Gerlach said. “It great that they can have an impact in the game — especially at the girls level — you’ll see that.”
For the rest of the first half, playing abound with confidence, Mars continued to go up and down trading advances into the final third against the defending champs.
“When you are playing against a team like Moon, you have to make them defend. We were able to do that today,” Gerlach said. “We made them a little bit nervous a few times.”
The Planets did everything they could to frustrate and slow down Moon’s attack — particularly focused on marking Snyder. Every time the senior touched the ball, she was surrounded by two or three navy blue shirts.
“Defensively we gave them too much. They were creating problems on the width, and Delaney was under pressure throughout,” Peifer said. “We had to make some adjustments. But she didn’t complain, she knew what she had to do.”
With Snyder drawing more defensive attention, she started to work the ball deeper down the end line — resulting in more corner kick chances.
In the 60th minute, Pfeifer brought Abbi McEnroe back into the match after a short break as the Tigers were lining up to take a corner.
Orr delivered another accurate ball to the near post — and this time, the ball never touched ground — as Lauren Baumgartner got to the ball first, redirecting the header to McEnroe who headed it into the back of the net to give the Tigers a 2-1 lead.
The lead would be short-lived.
The Planets would take advantage of an uncharacteristic and inexplicable mistake by Moon — as a ball attempted to be played back to keeper Madison Sleva, bounced weakly into to top of the box area. Mars’ sophomore forward Taylor Hamlett made a dash for the loose ball, beating Sleva to it — toe poking it over the goal line for the equalizing goal in the 65th minute.
It wasn’t enough to rattle Moon.
Snyder with a few defenders on her back in the 74th minute, pegged into the far right corner, managed to play the ball off a Mars defender to set up yet another corner kick.
Orr delivered it again — and this time, in the middle of a massive scrum of players from both teams that went up to win the ball — it was Evans who got enough on it.
“We didn’t play our best game, we made mistakes, but we kept our poise, and never panicked,” Pfeifer said. “I am so proud of this group, now we’ll take a look at the video — see where we can improve and try to go win States again.”
While Mars fell short of winning its fifth WPIAL title this decade, with a roster with only three seniors, they made a statement that they will be a force to be reckoned with in the coming years.
“I’ve been surprised by these guys all year — for how young they are,” Gerlach said. “Their ability to come back twice shows me how resilient they are — and how lucky I am to have this group of kids to work with,”
PLAYER OF THE MATCH: DELANEY SNYDER
There were a lot of heroes for Moon on Friday, but it starts and ends for the Tigers with its leader – Snyder. Here’s what Pfeifer said about her:
“A Great kid. Not just for wins, but for program in general. She feeds us all year. She’s tireless. Tonight it was tough – -she had one person marking her the whole time, and four people chasing her every time she touched the ball. Then being able to find someone else — and competing at a high level. She never complains and knows what she has to do for the team.”