Planets off and rolling again

Defending champs win girls soccer playoff debut, 7-0

October 26, 2021 Cranberry Local Sports

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ADAMS TWP — This season, Mars has seldom left any question as to who the stronger team is when it steps on the field.

Monday night was more of the same as the two-time defending WPIAL and PIAA champions decisively downed Penn Hills, 7-0, in the opening round of the WPIAL Class 3A girls soccer tournament at the Mars Athletic Complex.

The easiest way to get upset is to come out of the gate flat, Mars coach Blair Gerlach said, a hypothetical that was a non-issue for his Planets.

Junior Maddie Wolfe struck less than two minutes into the match. After creating a chance with a crosser shortly before, sophomore Addison Girdwood gave it another go in the 7th minute, this time connecting with senior Aly Cooper and helping double the hosts' advantage.

“This is what you want,” Mars coach Blair Gerlach said. “You want your team to start out awake (and) find a way to score an early goal. The last thing you want is to have to chase a game, especially on your home field.”

Penn Hills goalkeeper Faith Petronio did what she could in trying to keep the Indians (9-8-1) in the match. Most impressively, in the 10th minute, she fell to her left in saving a shot and then blocked the rebound while on her stomach.

“The biggest preparation was the mental,” DeVito said. “They knew what they were coming in against. I didn't want them to play scared and timid.”

Junior Piper Coffield scored in the 19th minute, then Girdwood assisted on another Cooper goal in the 26th, this time dishing a lead pass and letting her do the rest. Freshman Brynn Ramsey and senior Leana Cuzzocrea also got on the scoresheet before the first half ended.

“Just considering the depth chart that Mars (13-0-1) has and the overall numbers they have and the years of experience, we don't have that,” DeVito said. “I have kids in my starting lineup that had never played on a soccer team before.”

“They probably felt like when they looked at our bench that we had an army over here, as far as number of players go,” Gerlach said. “They fought the whole game and a lot of that is a testament that their coach believes in them.”

The Indians won nine regular season games this year and made the playoffs for the second straight time.

“I think that we can build excitement around soccer in the community,” DeVito said. “We're getting there.”

On a corner kick a minute into the second frame, Girdwood helped Cuzzocrea find the back of the net again, rounding out the contest's scoring.

Girdwood, freshman Sadie Stewart, sophomores Ainsley Ray and Kayleigh Clark, and junior Olivia Wilson were all among Mars shot-takers in the second half. Penn Hills broke through for three shots in the last 15 minutes.

“We came into the season not knowing what it was going to look like,” Gerlach said. “We knew that we could compete. We weren't sure that we could go through an undefeated season. We weren't sure that we could only let up two goals.

“Everybody wants to get involved. Whether that's on the stat sheet or not, you still want to feel like you did something. This was an opportunity for some players to get some confidence.”

The Planets move on to the quarterfinals to play ninth-seeded Oakland Catholic at home on Thursday night.

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