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Rule of Three: Mars girls top Plum yet again to win third straight WPIAL title

WPIAL Girls Soccer Class 3A Final

FINAL: Mars 2, Plum 1

The Mars Fighting Planets girls soccer team further cemented themselves as one of the most dominant and storied programs in the WPIAL soccer history holding off a tough challenge to hold off Plum, 2-1, two win its third straight WPIAL Girls 3A championship.

Piper Coffield scored in the 4th minute, then Brynn Ramsey added another in the 49th minute to lead Mars, while Plum’s Kaitlyn Killinger added a goal in the 57th minute, but the Mustangs couldn ‘t find the equalizer.

With this win, Mars captured its eighth WPIAL girls soccer title.

Seven of those titles have been won with Head Coach Blair Gerlich at the helm, including the last boys or girls team to win three straight WPIAL titles in 2010-12.

“I feel really old doing this for so long,” Gerlich said.

“To do it 3 times in a row it gets me to remember how lucky I am and to have a great community and school district that supports us very well. I’m very blessed to be a part of that.”

Ed Thompson Photo Gallery

Post Match Reaction

How It Happened

The two-time defending WPIAL and PIAA champions, Mars, came out clicking on all cylinders.

The Fighting Planets took an early lead when Piper Coffield headed in a perfectly placed cross from Gwen Howell in the 6th minute.

“I saw Gwen, our center back, running down the line,” Coffield said. “I just tried to run in and get a head on it and it worked out.”

For most of the first half, Mars’ well-organized shape allowed Plum to possess at times through the middle of the field, but continously denied Plum from creating havoc in the final third.

Plum’s keeper, Megan Marston came up with a couple big saves to keep the Mustangs within a goal in the first half.

Early in the second half, Mars continued to bring pressure from the width. In the 49th minute, the Fighting Planets took advantage of a corner kick opportunity.

After a ball was played into the box, then bounced a bit before Mars’ Brynn Ramsey reacted quickly to poke the ball over the goal line to give the Fighting Planets a 2-0 lead.

“I think the second goal is huge, but the issue is it caused a 5 minute lapse,” Gerlich added. “Instead of being in a more confident space we sat back and let them come at us more. We had opportunities to win the tackle and get it done and so you gotta cushion. You can still win a game by giving up a goal but we dug through it.”

With its backs against the wall, Plum continued to methodically work to break down Mars, eventually putting pressure on keeper Megan Boddy.

The Mustangs broke through in the 57th minute as the All-WPIAL/All-State midfielder Kaitlyn Killinger quickly reacted to a loose rebound after Boddy made a double save. Killinger was a step too quick to the ball, and cut the Fighting Planets lead.

The goal would be the first surrendered by Mars in the WPIAL playoffs since 2018.

Sure enough, the Fighting Planets were determined to lock things up from that point.

“We reorganized and tried to do everything perfect out of the back,” Coffield explained. “We didn’t make any silly mistakes in the back.”

Plum brought numbers forward in the late stages, but to no avail.

After three straight finals, the same two teams produced the same results, even as the teams took on different looks.

“Both teams are very different this year from last year. We graduated some talent from last season. We didn’t look at this Plum team like we have before. We welcome all challengers and this group has that mindset. We’re a bit tentative at times but I think this win will help.”

As the seconds ticked off the clock, the Fighting Planets celebrate a remarkable accomplishment

“It’s incredible winning 3 times in a row,” Coffield exclaimed.

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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