Golden Goal

LaValle's overtime tally hands Seneca Valley PIAA Class 4A boys soccer championship

November 23, 2020 Cranberry Local Sports

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Members of the Seneca Valley boys soccer team pose with the PIAA 4A championship trophy — as well as a giant Hershey chocolate candy bar — after winning the state title, 2-1, over Neshaminy in double overtime Saturday night at Hersheypark Stadium. It's the Raiders' first boys soccer state championship and concluded a 17-1-1 season.

HERSHEY — It was a long time in coming for Seneca Valley.

So what was another 20-plus minutes?

When Zack LaValle headed in a goal just 36 seconds into double overtime Saturday night, it earned for the Raiders their first-ever PIAA boys soccer title.

SV players mobbed LaValle, who had ended the Class 4A championship game, a 2-1 victory over Neshaminy at Hersheypark Stadium.

Seneca Valley's Mason Baldwin soars above a Neshaminy defender to make a play during the Raiders' 2-1 PIAA Class 4A boys soccer championship win Saturday night in Hershey.

The senior forward had received a crossing pass from teammate Luke Simpson to the right of Neshaminy's net.

“I thought, 'We just won the state championship,'” LaValle said of watching the ball sail past Neshaminy goalkeeper Logan Gildea.

The score came after the teams had battled into the 101st minute.

“I was running mostly on adrenaline, but we conditioned well all year, so we were prepared for it,” said LaValle. “We did it as a team.”

The Raiders (17-1-1) fell behind 1-0 in the ninth minute when Jose Rivera's shot from 12 yards deflected off an SV defender and goalkeeper Adam Davies was unable to adjust in time to make the save.

The Redskins (13-2-2) had several other scoring chances in the first 40 minutes, but settled for the 1-0 lead at the half.

“Clearly, there were some nerves for us early in the game,” said Raiders' coach George Williams. “A couple of mistakes resulted in their goal, but our guys collected themselves.

“We've had a lot of dramatics this season, but this was the most exciting game. This was the biggest game our team could possibly play in ... and we beat a really good team that has defeated a lot of other really good teams.”

LaValle had a hand in the Raiders tying the game in the 50th minute. His crossing pass from the left of the net set up Nathan Eastgate's tally against Gildea.

Zack Lavalle (16) of Seneca Valley tries maneuvering past a pair of Neshaminy defenders duriong the Raiders' PIAA Class 4A boys soccer title win. LaValle scored the winning goal early in the second overtime period.

The score came after Neshaminy starting goalkeeper Trevor Rush had frustrated the Raiders in the first half, making four saves and correctly coming off his line to halt several other scoring threats.

“In the second half, we knew it was our last chance,” said SV senior defender Sam DeFabbo. “We had scoring chances in the first, but became more clinical. I thought after our first goal, it was all us after that.”

Not that the Redskins didn't make the Raiders sweat a few more times. Gavin Rowan and Manny Weagba both had multiple chances fizzle thanks to DeFabbo and his friends on the back line.

Davies made three saves in the second half and two more in the first overtime to finish the game with eight.

In between SV's two goals, Gildea stopped 10 shots.

“We could see them getting tired,” Williams said of Neshaminy's players. “We've got so much depth and I think that was the difference tonight.”

Neshaminy coach Tom Foley refused to point out his team's faults. Rather, he credited the Raiders for coming out on top.

“You can always play what if,” he said. “But soccer is a game of inches. Sometimes, you take advantage of opportunities and sometimes you don't.

“Seneca Valley is the best team we played this season. They are so technical and patient with the ball. They beat us by scoring two fabulous goals.”

Williams has been SV's coach since 1995. He guided the Raiders to the state final in 2015, but they lost to Central Bucks East.

“I know how hard it is to get here,” he said. “To do well here is so very difficult. What these guys did tonight, it's a great accomplishment.”

“I'm happy we were able to do this for Coach and all the seniors,” DeFabbo said. “I'm honored to be part of it.”

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Derek Pyda

Derek Pyda

- Graduated from Connellsville High School in 1996
- Graduated from Clarion University in 2000 with a Bachelors in Communications
- Have also written for Clarion News (Clarion, PA) and the Herald-Standard (Uniontown, PA)
- Started at the Butler Eagle on April 2, 2002
- Interests include sports, history and geography