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Mars shakes off pesky Belle Vernon to reach WPIAL final

File photo by David Hague

Mars girls soccer team came into the WPIAL Girls Class 3A as the top seed and heavy favorite — but  needed some patience to shake off a pesky challenge from underdog Belle Vernon. 

The Fighting Planets dominated much of the match, winning 2-0 by converting Ellie Coffield and Taylor Hamlett shots, despite being turned away nearly two dozen times by Belle Vernon’s goalkeeper Grace Henderson. 


Belle Vernon has been wearing a little bit of a glass slipper with the 3 goal comeback over Ambridge and a narrow, one-goal win over the defending 3A champs, Oakland Catholic. 

Out of the gate, Mars would start putting relentless pressure on Belle Vernon’s defenders. Creating chances around the edge of the 18-yard box for much of the first half.

Ellie Coffield would finally get Mars on the board.

Coffield, the Pitt commit, caught Belle Vernon’s keeper, Grace Henderson, leaning and put the shot past her. Taylor Hamlett picked up the assist on the goal.

Mars would continue to get shots off but Belle Vernon hung in there — blocking shots and when numerous attempts got through –Henderson made big save after big save.

The biggest coming as time was expiring in the first half, as Coffield volley that would take a slight deflection, forcing Henderson to make a quick-reaction, diving save to her left to push the ball wide.

The half would come to an end with Mars leading 1-0.

Mars’ attitude at the start of the second half essentially was — no shot is a bad shot. They continued to create quality shots from outside and inside the 18 — many on frame.

Each time, Henderson was up to the task, finishing the match with close to a couple dozen saves.  

Mars persistence finally resulted in its second goal as a corner kick from Anna Kurpakus’ corner would find Taylor Hamlett in the 60th minute to double the lead. 

Mars continue to apply pressure after the second goal but could not get another on the night.

Belle Vernon would gets few shots towards goal but could get nothing on net. 

Mars will now take on Plum who defeated West Allegheny 1-0, as it will be a battle of the top two seed in WPIAL Class 3A.

Glory on the Grass

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