Mars soccer stays unbeaten with 2-1 victory, scoring in final minute of regulation, OT

October 12, 2020 Cranberry Local Sports

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Mars senior Nabil Lahlou (7) fends off Mt. Lebanon defender Duncan Auer (21) during the Planets' 4-1 soccer victory Saturday night at the Mars Athletic Complex. Lahlou had a goal and assist in the game.

ADAMS TWP — Unbreakable.

That is the motto for the Mars boys soccer team this season. Saturday night, it showed why.

The Planets (11-0, 9-0) had not allowed a goal all season entering their non-section game against Mt. Lebanon at the Mars Athletic Complex. But they found themselves locked in a scoreless battle against the Blue Devils late in the second half.

They lost that scoreless streak.

They did not lose the game.

Senior midfielder Nabil Lahlou scored the tying goal with 19.2 seconds left in regulation and senior forward Dane Beller netted the game-winner with 11.6 seconds left in the first overtime as Mars escaped with a 2-1 victory.

“I was never worried about that streak,” Mars coach Chris Knauff said. “We didn't come into this season with the idea of not allowing any goals.

“We preach resiliency. Be unbreakable. Our kids played hard right to the final seconds and that's why we won this game.”

Mars has outscored its opponents 69-1 this season.

The Planets controlled play for roughly 30 minutes in the first half. Their best scoring opportunity was a header by Zac Campagna — off a pass from Gabe Singh — that deflected off the left goal post with 11:45 left in the half.

Mt. Lebanon (3-6) was held to one shot on net and one corner kick in the first half. But it was the Blue Devils who eventually struck first.

A corner kick bounced around in the box before junior midfielder Zac D'Alesandro slipped it past Planet goalkeeper Jacob Gareis with 4:55 left in regulation.

“It was tough to give one up,” Mars captain and senior defender Trent Wick said. “But we all work together all of the time. We weren't going to give up.

“Most of us have been playing club soccer together for years. Our team has a lot of experience and that helps in games like this one.”

With time running out, Beller won a battle for the ball and slid it over to Lahlou, who stood alone in the middle of the field, 20 yards in front of the Mt. Lebanon net.

He drilled a shot into the middle of the net, just under the crossbar and over the outstretched arms of goalkeeper Steven Vines.

“I go to that spot when Dane is battling for possession and he knows I'll be there,” Lahlou said. “He made a tremendous effort to get the ball to me.

“I had to bury that shot. I couldn't let my teammates down.”

Lahlou has 11 goals and 17 assists on the year. He is two assists shy of the Planets' single-season record of 19, set by Austin Rocke, who is now playing soccer at Marshall University.

In overtime, Lahlou returned the favor and set up Beller for the game-winner.

“I got control of the ball and a defender came up on me (in the attacking zone),” Lahlou said. “Dane was in front of me and I sifted the ball through to him.

“He made no mistake.”

And the Planets are still perfect.

Beller notched his 24th goal of the year as he deftly booted the ball into the middle of the net.

Mars had won each of its previous 10 games by margins of no fewer than three goals.

“This is just the type of game we needed to get us ready for the playoffs,” Beller said. “It was physical and tight — a highly competitive soccer game.”

It was also a typical Mt. Lebanon game. The Blue Devils have scored 10 goals and allowed only 11 on the season.

“This is a hard one to take, especially two goals with less than a minute left,” Blue Devils' coach Aaron Panczyk said. “This is our third loss in overtime this season.

“We lost 2-1 in overtime to Peters Township and a lot of people believe they're the best team in Quad-A. That shows me we can play with anyone.”

Mars had 12 shots on net to Mt. Lebanon's six Saturday night.

“I just love the way we battled,” Knauff said.

The Planets travel to Knoch Monday night.

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John Enrietto

John Enrietto

I graduated with a Journalism degree from Ohio University in 1979. I started at the Eagle on August 24, 1997. My awards include 2nd place in feature writing from Ohio Associated Press (while working for the Steubenville Herald-Star), media award from Lernerville Speedway and 3rd place in a Pennsylvania AP contest for story feature.