HERSHEY — Taylor Hamlett's first 40 goals this season aided Mars' girls soccer team in reaching Saturday's state championship game.
Her 41st helped the Planets bring home the desired hardware.
The senior forward scored in the 34th minute, accounting for the only goal in a 1-0 victory over Villa Joseph Marie at Hersheypark Stadium.
Hamlett scored 16 of the Planets' 36 postseason goals.
“I'll remember that goal for a long time,” said an emotional Hamlett of her score Saturday. “It's the best feeling of my life.
“When you accomplish something of this caliber with your best friends, it makes it that much better.”
The tally was the only goal allowed by the Jems (21-3-1) in seven postseason games this season.
“We felt we'd be able to win balls in the middle of the field and play them to the outside,” said Mars coach Blair Gerlach. “Villa's defense is tough to score on. They play a spread-out system with a 4-4-2, but at any time, we can get behind a defense.”
And that is just what the Planets did in the game's most crucial sequence.
Junior forward Caroline Wroblewski played a ball into Hamlett, who took possession 30 yards from the Jems' net in the middle of the field. She charged toward Jems' goalkeeper Morgan Murphy and maintained control with a defender on her tail before letting the decisive shot go from within 10 yards.
“It was a good soccer game,” said Villa coach Rich Finneyfrock. “We had one breakdown on defense and that was the difference. If we played each other 10 times, they'd win five and we'd win five.”
Mars' defense played very well in front of goalkeeper Courtney Lisman, though the Jems, who did not earn a corner kick until the 57th minute, managed a consistent rush late in the game.
Mars (22-0-1) successfully defended a series of free kicks to stay ahead on the scoreboard.
“The defense made me feel comfortable and they seemed to always be in the right position tonight,” said Lisman. “I was nervous at the start, but just tried to treat it like another game.”
Lisman, a first-year starter, made several plays on the ball early to keep the game scoreless.
She made a diving save on an uncontested shot from 20 yards off the foot of Katie Sullivan in the 12th minute.
Six minutes later, Lisman thwarted a crossing pass from the right of the net by Ciara Rago.
Lisman finished the game with five saves.
The Planets had opportunities to score before Hamlett's goal. The most notable came in the 21st minute.
Ellie Coffield took a free kick to the right of Murphy and Londynn Gonzalez's ensuing shot from 15 yards hit the crossbar.
Hamlett connected with Wroblewski on a centering pass in the 27th minute, but the latter's attempt sailed wide.
But Hamlett's goal came just under eight minutes later.
“I believed one goal would be enough,” said Hamlett. “Our defense gave up just nine goals all season.”
Murphy made three saves for the Jems.
The state title is the second in the history of Mars girls soccer. The Planets also won it all in 2011 when, ironically, they defeated Villa Joseph Marie by a 1-0 decision.
“When you add how close this game was, the importance of this game and the atmosphere, this is when leaders step up,” said Gerlach. “Our leaders did that tonight. At some point, I need to stop being surprised at what these girls can do.”