Peters Township, Bethel Park battle for top spots in girls’ soccer
PT, BP filling gaps in offense
Peters Township and Bethel Park are attempting to duplicate their winning ways under the same guidance of head coaches Pat Vereb and Jon Gentile respectively. However, they do so without the aid of key weapons that produced success in 2012.
The Lady Indians graduated Olivia Roberson (81 goals) while BP graduated AJ Baroffio (75 goals). Their leading scorers are now teammates at Duquesne University.
Plus, Veronica Latsko is still on the road to recovery. The All-American tore her ACL May 19 during a PA West championship game. The senior striker has scored 107 career goals. She had also led the Indians to three straight PIAA championship gold medals and two WPIAL titles.
The Indians and Hawks, however, appear to not have missed a beat. Both were undefeated until their showdown, Sept. 7. In the non-league fray, a rematch of last year’s PIAA first-round playoff game, BP topped PT, 3-2. Although Emily Franty staked PT to a 1-0 advantage six minutes into the action, Tatiana Ruzzini and Halle Hammer powered BP’s comeback.
Ruzzini registered goals with 13:05 to play in the first half and 10:55 to play in the game while Hammer supplied a tally four minutes into the second half as BP opened up a 3-1 lead, which narrowed when Maddie Schwerzler scored for PT with six minutes to play.
Ruzzini registered 12 goals and eight assists last season while Hammer provided 22 tallies and nine dishes when the Lady Hawks recorded one of their best records in school history (20-3). Hence the two are expected to pick up the slack caused by Baroffio’s graduation as well as Alexis Keibler’s matriculation to Malone University.
“We are relying upon them for scoring,” said BP skipper Jon Gentile. “We’ll get our goals up top from them.”
That Ruzzini sabotaged the PT protection did not surprise Gentile. She’s done that to other team’s defenses for four years.
“She’s been invaluable,” he explained. “She’s a hard worker. She never gives up. She creates plays out of nothing.
“With AJ at Duquesne, it’s Tatiana’s time to shine up top. She’s got great pace. Not many have the speed she does. Plus, she’s a great team player. So unselfish. There are only good things to say about her.”
Kudos, also, are the only thing Gentile can give to his defense. The foursome in the back is the same group that helped BP race to an undefeated section championship title last fall and third-place finish in the WPIAL so as to qualify for the PIAA tournament.
Lindsay Boss and Rachel Gaddis anchor the unit at the center back position while Alexis Machi and Jess Horgan return as the outside backers. Nicole Bock, Hayley Hulbert, Megan Barr and Kelsey Tischler also contribute in the back.
“Defense, defense, defense,” Gentile emphasized. “That’s been a key for us. I cannot say enough about those four girls in the back.”
The Lady Hawks, who recorded 11 shutouts last fall, are up to form, too, as they opened defense of their Section 4 title with a 7-0 shutout against Ringgold last week. They opened the 2013 campaign with a 1-0 decision against Penn-Trafford. With the win over Peters, they improved to 3-0 overall heading into this week’s action, which includes a battle at Highmark Stadium at 3 p.m. Sept. 14 against rival Upper St. Clair.
BP is continuing its success because of veteran midfielders such as Lauren Toth, Chelsea Conway and Sarah Buczkowski. Conway and Buczkowski are co-captains. They each contributed five goals last fall. Buczkowski also provided nine assists.
In addition to the aforementioned eight returning starters, BP has relied so far on newcomers like Laura Page in the nets, Tara Nath as a striker to compliment Ruzzini, and Molly Gorges to solidify the midfield.
Alexa Kalogeris is also a goalie while Holly and Taylor Tamburo, Emily Kukan, Sely Patrizio, Karissa Coffield, Mia Wohlgemuth and Maria Winzek add strength to the middle of the field. Alexa Kalogeris also contributes to the club.
While Gentile pointed to the fact that each season is different because of new groups of players with different styles of play, he believes his veterans will take Bethel Park far this season.
“Our senior leadership is unmatched and as a whole we are focused,” he said. “Our goals as always are to win a section, WPIAL and state championship.”
Those, likewise, are the objectives of Peters Township, which has won the last three straight PIAA titles. The Lady Indians also are the defending section and district champions. They posted a 12-0 Section 5 slate on their way to an overall mark of 24-1.
Prior to their loss to the Hawks, PT ran its record to 3-0 after its Section 5 opener, an 8-0 triumph over Brashear.
Against the Bullets, Maddie Santo scored twice. Carly Johns, Laurel Carpenter, Emily Cottril, Madeline LaVigna, Caitlin Pendergast and Riley Partyka supplied single tallies for the Indians.
Carpenter collected two assists. Johns, Lavigna, Kristen Cjzakowski, Franty, Andi McGinnis and Erin Helbig each chipped in one assist.
Megan Parker recorded one save in posting the shutout.
Parker is back in the nets for the Lady Indians after recovering from knee surgery that wiped out her junior year. Parker’s return enabled Johns to move back to defense. Franty and LaVigna join Johns and Parker as the only veteran starters on this year’s club.
The Lady Indians, however, have been bolstered by the play of newcomers on the forward line such as Santo, Cjzakowski, Partyka, Cottril and Nicole Kittleberger as well as defenders such as Mariah Vuchich and Mackenzie Gentile.
While head coach Pat Vereb expected BP to be a tough opponent, he also anticipates section foe, Upper St. Clair, and crosstown rival, Mt. Lebanon, to provide stiff competition for his club.
With that in mind, however, Vereb pointed to the program’s success as a vital strength to carry on PT’s tradition of winning. “The competiveness of the program and commitment to excellence,” he said, is what keeps the Indians on top.
The Peters Township boys started the season on a winning note, with victories against Kiski, 3-1, Mercyhurst Prep, 4-0, and Ambridge, 3-0.
Against the Cavaliers, Mario Mastrangelo racked up two goals. His twin brother, Nicco, supplied the other tally. Dylan Weyers netted an assist.
Joshua Deyarim earned the shutout in the nets against Prep. Troy Eskew had the hat trick. Matt Dekman added the fourth tally. Mario Mastrangelo and Ryan Ponchione had assists.
In the Section 5 opener against the Bridgers, Max O’Hare was in the nets for the shutout. Nicco (2) and Mario (1) Mastrangelo accounted for the goals. They each also had an assist as did Sean Harrison.
The Indians also added a 3-1 win over Ringgold. The Mastrangelos struck again with two goals from Mario and one from Nicco. Eskew and Wes Ward collected assists. Nicco Mastrangelo also garnered an assist.
After battling Canon-McMillan last night in a rematch of last year’s WPIAL championship match, the Upper St. Clair boys will play their third game at Highmark Stadium at Station Square in Pittsburgh. The Panthers battle Bethel Park at 5 p.m. Sept. 14.