WPIAL Girls Class 3A Final: South Fayette 1, Moon 0 (AET)
South Fayette girls soccer team came through with one magic moment when it mattered most, as sophomore forward Mia Deramo’s golden goal in the 109th minute lifted the Lions to its first-ever WPIAL Girls Class 3A soccer championship, defeating two-time defending champions, Moon, 1-0, at Highmark Stadium on Saturday afternoon.
“It’s amazing,” Nicholas Rosser, South Fayette’s third-year Head Coach, said following his team’s triumph. “It’s outstanding, especially since (South Fayette) boys are in it too, it’s an epic situation. It’s been exciting for everyone.”
The Lions, who finished second to Moon in Class 3A, Section 4, by a half game, never let up, despite playing more than 200-plus minutes of playoff soccer without a goal in the run of play.
Meanwhile, Moon’s quest for a third straight district title came to a crashing halt, and in spite of the difficult, hard-fought loss, Head Coach Bill Pfeifer was proud of his team’s effort.
“They put a ball away, we didn’t. It was that simple. For us to get back down here (Highmark Stadium), it was quite an accomplishment,” Pfeifer said. “It’s not the same team as last year. It’s completely different team and I am proud of them. They played hard. They played well, and we had to put one in before they did.”
How It Happened
For over 100 minutes, neither South Fayette or Moon could generate many clear cut scoring opportunities with stifling defense ruling the day, much as it had in the two previous times the two teams met in Section play.
Moon had surrendered just two goals heading into this match, and those two goals came against South Fayette.
Familiarity breeds contempt, and in this instance, the two teams who already battled tooth and nail through two regular season matches, and were both coming off 110 minute marathon semifinal endurance tests on Tuesday, pushed each other to the brink again, with neither side willing to give in.
“The kids know each other. They play together on club teams,” Pfeifer pointed out. “Everyone knows what the other was going to do. We looked at some things, (maybe) play a little higher, but that’s about it.”
For most of the first half, Moon had more of the ball, but playing mostly direct, and trying to break through the lines, they continued to run into a resistance of South Fayette Lions.
The first half, saw both teams battling hard in the midfield, with plenty of physical play but most times, each team had seven or eight players — at least — behind the ball, leaving very little room to get into the box to create scoring chances.
Both keepers, Moon’s Serayah Leech and South Fayette’s Caitlyn Thompson were being tested only by long, free kick attempts in the air, as there were 12 first half fouls alone, both teams opted to slow the game down, and take direct hits at goal from long distances.
The best chance for either side in the first half came in the 31st minute, when Moon’s Sydney Felton nearly squeezed her way between a pair of South Fayette defenders, but as she attempted to get a solid boot on the ball, Thompson came off her line to snuff out the goal scoring chance.
While neither side could really put forth any clear-cut shots on frame in the second half, the match switched in tempo, as South Fayette started to exercise more patience on the ball, extending possessions and working through the spaces that Moon was giving.
“We worked on a lot of this. We are strong defensively, but we needed to have more possession of the ball,” Rosser added that his team needed to be more assertive in its build-up play.
Still, neither side could find that breakthrough moment in the second half. Regulation ended with both teams pushing a bit more to the edges, and sending more crosses — and earning more corner kick, but they would head to the sidelines after 80 minutes looking at goose eggs on the scoreboard.
The pace of the match intensified as extra time began.
A yellow card was issued to South Fayette’s Mia Patel before Moon attempted a corner. In the 97th minute, Moon nearly got the break they needed, following the second of consecutive corner kicks, the ball deflected off numerous feet deep in the box, but the Tigers couldn’t get anyone to get a clean shot attempt.
South Fayette started to push numbers forward when they could as the second extra period started, they brought more urgency to its attack.
“No one wants to go to penalty kicks,” Deramo proclaimed.
After three matches, the Lions reckoned that sending balls directly at Leech, who has posted 52 career clean sheets, wasn’t going to do much.
Having experience with the Riverhounds Academy playing at Highmark Stadium, Deramo felt right at home, and ready to step up when the moment called.
“No, this is my home field,” Deramo said. “I’m used to the width. I play for the Hounds. I’m used to the size of the field. We went over the dimensions of the field. We watched film on this field. We wanted it a lot.”
Moon did what they could to slow down the South Fayette push, but the Lions kept coming and were determined to finish off Moon one more time this season.
“They’re a little more athletic than we are,” Pfeifer added, then quipped. “I believe we had eight corners, if we put one of those in, we have our revenge.”
With the clock running down, South Fayette was running out of time, but they had a corner kick.
On their eighth attempt, and first of the second extra time period, chaos ensued in the box.
“There was a lot happening. Multiple forwards are taking shots. The goalie comes out. Defenders are trying to kick it out,” Deramo said. “The ball comes rebounded out, I took a touch and I knew I had to shoot it. And I just shot it.”
— John Krysinsky (@JohnKrysinsky) November 4, 2023
As soon as the ball ripped into the net, a joyous celebration ensued.
"She's really stepped it up. She's grown a lot this year, but she also has room to grow. All the girls, they bring it, but Mia's an exceptional player," Rosser said. With the defeat of Moon, South Fayette completed an impressive WPIAL campaign in which they were the only team to score against their section rivals this season. The Tigers and Leech allowed just three goals all season in the run of play. All three goals came against South Fayette. That is a remarkable statistic, almost as rare as a Lunar eclipse. This early November afternoon, South Fayette completed their own eclipse of the mighty Moon soccer team which has dominated so many opponents in recent years. It's a win that they'll remember for many moons.
Post Match Interviews