USC topples Fox Chapel

Published Oct 23, 2013 at 11:51 pm (Updated Oct 23, 2013 at 11:51 pm)

USC topples Fox Chapel

Must wins. The Upper St. Clair girls’ soccer club is accustomed to them.

Needing positive results in their final section battles to qualify for the playoffs, the Lady Panthers got them.

After tying Peters Township, 0-0, they blanked Chartiers Valley, 2-0, to finish 5-3-2 in Section 5 and clinch the final playoff berth in that division.

To tune up for the postseason, USC defeated Class AA power South Park, 3-1. Then the Panthers upset Section 4 champion, Baldwin, 3-1, in the first round of the playoffs. Next, they toppled Fox Chapel, 2-1, at Chartiers Valley.

The Foxes were undefeated Section 3 champions (11-0-1). They finished the season 17-2-1 overall, their only other defeat, 2-1, to Hampton.

“We’ve already played four playoff games,” explained USC head coach Natasha Dirda. “Every single game we have played this year is what prepared us for this moment.”

With the win, USC advanced to the WPIAL semifinals to be played Monday, Oct. 28. The Panthers will play top-seeded Seneca Valley, a 2-0 winner against Canon-McMillan.

With 15:40 to play in the first half, Olivia Belack scored to lift USC to 1-0 lead. She took a shot from 25 yards out and it slipped through the goaltender’s fingers and into the net.

“Olivia is a great leader. She leads by example,” said Dirda.

Belack is a senior captain along with Sammi Lackner. Both are remnants from USC’s last WPIAL championship club of three seasons ago.

Lackner made the play of the night. Seconds before intermission, the defender cleared a sure Fox Chapel goal from the mouth of the net, preserving USC’s slim advantage.

Of the clear by Lackner, Dirda said that is couldn’t have come at a bigger time or on a bigger stage. She added, “We attack and defend as a team. Not give up on any ball on the field.”

When Emma Hasco stretched USC’s lead to two goals with a quick tally to start the second half, the Foxes did not give up. Within 12 seconds, Deena Debaldo scored for the Foxes, narrowing the gap to one.

With the win, USC improved to 11-5-2 overall. In addition to their playoff wins, the Panthers had victories over Mt. Lebanon and Bethel Park, both of whom were in the playoffs, as well as Mercyhurst Prep.

“We say that we’re peaking in October,” Dirda said.

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