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Seneca Valley boys capture first-ever PIAA title

Photo courtesy Seneca Valley Boys Soccer Twitter

Seneca Valley boys capture first-ever PIAA title

PIAA Class 4A Boys Soccer Final

FINAL: Seneca Valley 2, Neshaminy 1

Match Summary

Once again, Seneca Valley showed no panic when trailing early in a match.

Zach LaValle scored 36 seconds into the second overtime to give the Raiders a 2-1 win over Neshaminy on Saturday night in the PIAA Class 4A boys soccer final at Hersheypark Stadium.

This was the first-ever PIAA title win for George Williams and the Seneca Valley soccer program — where he’s won 305 games.

Luke Simpson assisted on the game-winning goal, which came off a throw-in from the left touchline roughly 10 yards from goal. LaValle headed the ball inside the left post past Neshaminy keeper Logan Gildea.

The Raiders (17-1-1) just like they did in the WPIAL championship game two weeks ago — roared from behind.

Jose Rivera’s goal early in the first half gave Neshaminy a 1-0 lead.

Neshaminy (13-2-2), the District I champion, suffered a major loss with 10 seconds left in the half when starting keeper Trevor Rush left the game with a hip injury. He did not return. Rush made five saves before making his exit.

His backup, Logan Gildea, turned in a solid effort and could not be faulted on either Raiders goal.

The Raiders got the equalizer in the 50th minute when Nathan Eastgate — after receiving a ball from LaValle.

Eastgate top-shelf strike leveled the match and set in motion a hard-fought, intense battle for the rest of the match which carried into the second overtime.

And that’s when LaValle’s shot found its way into the back of the net.

“As an educator, as a coach, you get into this wanting to help students learn and get better,” Willams told Pittsburgh Tribune-Review after the match. “A lot of the satisfaction is just that. Seeing a team at the beginning of the season. Starting with them and working on things, and just seeing them get better and better and better and better.

“Being able to see them, especially a great group of guys like this, experience this kind of success, and being able to know that hopefully I helped in some small way is the most satisfying thing. It really is.”

Gameday Updates 

93′ – Big chance for SV. Good passing play sets Nathan Eastgate up for a shot. He tried to curl it but hit it flat so it went wide.

89′ – Jose Rivera called offsides. He wasn’t though..

80′ – Alright, first OT has begun. 1 more goal left this season, who gets it? Or we go to PK’s…

74′ – Mason Baldwin on SV gets a yellow card.

62′ – Gavin Rowan now given a yellow card for shoving a player in the back into the goalie.

59′ – Foul called on Gavin Rowan. The player he beat almost kicked him in the head. Not really sure what the ref was calling there.

50′ – SENECA VALLEY TIES IT!! Zack Lavalle down the left side crosses it in and Nathan Eastgate with the finish! Eastgate’s 15th goal of the season and Lavalle’s 8th assist.

47′ – Seneca Valley with some of their best passing right there so far this game. Winning 50/50 balls too.

41′ – Sounds like the Neshaminy goalie, Trevor Rush is out now. Might have a hip injury.

40′ – Second half underway. Last soccer game here in Hershey, PA. Last game of the year…

38′ – Lou Salmi with a big tackle. Stopped Seneca Valley from having a 2-on-1.

35′ – Seneca Valley with 7 fouls so far. At least 6 from my memory happening in their own zone. Can’t give up that many set pieces.

25′ – Trevor Rush the goalie for Neshaminy drop kicks the ball when he punts. Rarely see high school players do that. Takes a lot of practice to do that consistently well.

15′ – Seneca Valley making quite a few subs. They have a deep bench. Neshaminy is keeping the pressure on.

8′ – GOAL FOR NESHAMINY!! Manny Weagba going down the right side passed it into Jose Rivera. Rivera took a shut that took a lucky bounce off a defender and got in. He scored in the semi final as well. Only a freshman.

Gameday Updates 

Check back here for updates on the game once it kicks off.

Match Preview 

George Williams has won many big games in his coaching career. In fact, this year he reached an impressive milestone of 300 wins as Seneca Valley’s coach. But the one win that has eluded him is bringing home a PIAA title win from Hershey.

For the second time in five years, Williams leads Seneca Valley into the state finals  Five years ago, the Raiders lost to Central Bucks East.

Seneca Valley’s mojo through this season is its strength in numbers — as Williams regularly rotates 20 players in and out of the lineup.

When watching Seneca Valley, opposing coaches have noted that when they sub in and out with four or five players at a time, there’s been little drop off.

A perfect example of how SV’s bench can make a difference, early in its WPIAL semifinal match against Section 3 champion Norwin, they were trailing 1-0 early after a penalty kick goal.

This wasn’t an issue for Seneca Valley. They brought on a wave of subs that helped flip a shift in momentum to the match.

Just like that, within 10 minutes, Seneca scored twice.  Luke Simpson’s strike leveled the match, then Nathan Prex’s technical finish from the edge of the goal box gave them the lead in the 23rd minute. Ben Marquardt contributed assists on both goals scored by players coming off the bench.

Eventually they would score three more in the second half, wearing down Norwin on its way to a convincing 5-1 win.

As the case with most teams that have reached this point, they’re played their best soccer at the right time. Since a stretch of back-to-back Section 1-4A matches: a 1-1 tie with North Allegheny on Sept. 22 and a 2-1 loss to Butler two days later, they have won 13 in a row.

For a team with a great balance of senior leadership and underclassman contributors, it’s been a super sophomore, Beaux Lizewski, who’s produced some of the biggest goals. Lizewski’s hat trick, including game winner in double overtime, lifted Seneca Valley in a WPIAL title game win over Peters Township.

Putting a Beaux on It: Seneca Valley Retakes Boys 4A Title on Sophomore’s OT Strike

Since winning the WPIAL title on November 7, Seneca Valley defeated State College, 6-0, and Cumberland Valley, 1-0 to get to Hershey with contributions from many. Senior Zach LaValle led the way with two goals in the PIAA quarterfinals win over State College, while junior Nathan Prex scored the semifinal match’s only goal in a 1-0 win for the Raiders over Cumberland Valley.

Now, Seneca Valley faces its final challenge against Neshaminy, who defeated Emmaus, 2-1 in overtime in the PIAA semifinal.

This is the first PIAA title match for Neshaminy in 26 years. They tied Bethel Park, 1-1, and were declared co-champions in 1996. This was before the state used penalty kicks to break ties after overtime. Neshaminy has won PIAA title three times (1982, 1984, 1994).

Neshaminy came into the playoffs as the No. 7 seed in the District 1 tournament. However, they got hot at the right time, beating No. 10 Great Valley, No. 15 Pennsbury, No. 6 North Penn and finally, No. 12 Pennridge in the district finals.

Once they arrived in the PIAA’s they had the fortune of getting a bye all the way to the semifinal round.  On Tuesday, Neshaminy edged Emmaus in overtime to advance to the final. Freshman A.J. Rivera tied the game with a little over 15 minutes left in the second half, and junior Connor Steele drilled home the game winner, the first goal of his career.

Neshaminy may have had the extra time off between winning the district final and playing in the PIAA semifinal, but now they’re going to be facing a team that will test their fortitude, especially late in the match. Every opponent thus far that has taken it to Seneca Valley in the postseason, even Peters Twp, who built a 3-1 lead in the WPIAL final, have wilted away after 80 minutes.

Can Seneca Valley outlast one more opponent?

Pittsburgh Division I College Soccer Schedule (Spring 2021)

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