Friday, October 24, 2008

Extra time

Some additional thoughts from the Peters Township girls/boys soccer doubleheader at Chartiers Valley Thursday night (probably mainly from the girls as I was writing during the boys):

**PT's girls roster says Shelli Spamer is just a sophomore. That means she's likely to improve her skills, and that means trouble - well, more trouble - for everyone in the WPIAL and the PIAA. She's an incredible player. She scored both goals for PT Tuesday on rocket shots and she was everywhere on the pitch Thursday. She took throw-ins from deep in the defending territory, deep in the attacking territory, goal kicks, free kicks, corner kicks, you name it. She played the full 110 minutes and scored in the penalty kick shootout, nearly firing the ball through the net. If the goalkeeper got a hand to it, I think she might have broken her wrist.

Coach Pat Vereb called her the premier ball-striker in the WPIAL and after watching some of the strikes she hit Thursday, it's hard to argue with him.

If Seneca Valley mustered any offense aside from one chance, it wouldn't have surprised me to see Spamer on the back line blocking a shot from going in. Oh, and she nearly scored on another free kick from 30 yards out. Instead, a great save by Seneca's Keara Lydon resulted in a corner kick, and Spamer's kick was headed in by Ali Forbrich to tie the match. Spamer nearly won the match in the first overtime when her shot from 45 yards just went a couple feet over the crossbar.

Again, only a sophomore.

**Speaking of offense, the PT girls dominated in terms of possession and shots their second-straight playoff game but managed just the one goal. By my count from Tuesday, PT held a 17-1 shots advantage (9-0 shots on goal) against Franklin Regional and, against Seneca Valley, the defending WPIAL champs, a 22-4 shot edge (11-2 shots on goal).

Despite so much possession and opportunities, PT has scored just three times. Now, most of the shots Thursday were right at the keeper but they had several nice chances. That means either PT's having trouble finishing or they're due for a breakout offensive game. With Spamer taking free and corner kicks, they're dangerous on set pieces.

**If they handed out the award in high school, Spamer probably would have won player of the match Thursday, but if she didn't, defender Hannah Weyrick would've. Weyrick, a senior, made a strong tackle two minutes after Seneca went ahead 1-0 that broke up a two-on-one play and almost surely would've resulted in a 2-0 score. She was hurt on the play and was on the sidelines for over 10 minutes, but didn't miss a beat when she returned.

Less than three minutes into the first overtime, the Raiders countered off a corner kick and got another 2-on-1, this one even more clear-cut. Weyrick blocked the intended pass which would've sent a Seneca player in alone on goalkeeper Megan Junker.

Apart from those two huge plays, Weyrick was part of the backline that held the Raiders to very few quality scoring chances in the match.

"I'm always confident with Hannah back there," Junker said after the game.

**The adage says in a shootout, you need just one save from your goalkeeper. Junker made one save (though a second was called back) and PT won the shootout. She didn't get many chances during the match to show how well she's recovered from her injury, but she read quite a few plays well and was aggressive in cutting off long passes before they could cause trouble.

**Peters Township's defense wasn't just Weyrick. Lauren Ray, Shannon O'Connor, Devon Burkholder, and, at various times, Christine Aaron and Karen Jackson also did excellent jobs (I may be missing one or two.) As did the midfielders (Dani's Hume and Castillo and of course Spamer).

The Raiders had just two offensive chances in the first half. On one, PT caught a break when the referee called for a foul - on PT. That set up a free kick which PT was able to defend easily, otherwise the play could have been a breakaway. The other was the goal PT allowed, which was a fine individual effort by Katie Kelly. Seneca Valley did better in the second half and it was much more even, but PT dominated overtime as well. A little luck helped PT. Apart from the 2-on-1 Weyrick broke up, the Raiders had just one chance in OT, and that was when a cross hit the crossbar.

**As for the boys, Thursday's match was far more to their liking. They were a little lucky against Central Catholic Tuesday to come away with a win, but that is what good teams do - find a way to win when not playing their best.

Coach Bobby Dyer took some of the blame after Tuesday by saying he as a coach failed to prepare the team properly for the game against the Vikings. I think he did an alright job for Thursday.

PT came out and pretty much dominated the entire game. Butler entered with a record of just 9-6-4 but the Golden Tornadoes earned an impressive 2-0 win at fifth-seeded Penn-Trafford. As Dyer said after Thursday's game, anyone can beat anyone, so they couldn't take Butler lightly.

And the Indians didn't. When Christian Brandstetter scored his first goal, you had the sense of, "okay, the floodgates are about to open." And you'd have been right. He scored again 10 minutes later, then capped his natural hat trick two minutes after that. Butler was completely overmatched.

**Goalkeeper Ryan Koepka made an outstanding leaping save to his right eight minutes into the second half when PT was up 4-0. If that ball goes in, then who knows, maybe that gives Butler life and starts a comeback attempt. Instead, Koepka's save kept them off the board. Granted, the Tornadoes scored on a penalty kick three minutes after, but there was hardly a cause for concern from the PT faithful.

"He doesn't see a lot of shots back there, but he has to be focused and he was," said Dyer.

**After that PK goal, however, the Indians responded and didn't give Butler a chance to come back, and the Wilcox boys hooked up for the game's sixth and final goal 10 minutes later. The game had essentially been over before that, but restoring the four-goal lead was a pretty nice response.

**Finally, a congratulations to the girls team for qualifying for the PIAA playoffs. The top five finishers in girls Class AAA advance, so in an ironic twist, Seneca Valley now has to root for PT to win the WPIAL. If the Indians do that, guess who they play in the first round of states? Right, Seneca Valley (who PT beat earlier in the season, 2-1).

As for the boys, the top two finishers in Class AAA advance, so PT needs one more win.


mike_kovak said...

It took me six days to read this. Thanks Kevin.

Kevin Jacobsen said...

That's why I wasn't posting anything for a while. I was saving it for a giant one.