For the third time in four years, North Allegheny captured a WPIAL girls soccer championship, but the title did not come easy for the Tigers. They needed a shootout to dispatch Peters Township, 2-1, in the Class 4A final played Thursday night at Highmark Stadium.
Since 2018, the Lady Indians have come up just short in their championship quests.
They lost in the semifinals by a shootout to Moon, 1-0, last year and they lost in the 2018 WPIAL finals to Seneca Valley. In 2020 and 2019, NA had PT’s number in the semifinals.
“NA’s a powerhouse,” Vereb said, “and I thought we played them pretty even the whole game. Unfortunately, at some point, they have to get a winner. We didn’t perform very well in the shootout, and that’s why we didn’t win.”
After 110 minutes of action, that included two 40-minute halves and two 15-minute overtime periods, the match was tied, 1-1, forcing a shootout, where each team sends five players to the penalty kick line to go one-on-one with the opposing goalkeeper.
NA won the shootout, 3-2. Lucia Wells, Sophia Palermo and Riley Cerqua made shots for the Tigers, while Bella Spergel and Christian Sefer connected for the Indians.
After a scoreless first half, Spergel put PT into the lead, 1-0, at the 47:40 mark. Bliss Plummer picked up an assist on the tally.
NA responded with the equalizer at 47:56. Wells recorded the goal. Anna Bundy earned an assist.
“We never even got the moment to sort of take the momentum,” Vereb said. “We gave it back to them. Maybe it would have been a different game had we got our feet set and played with the lead, but immediately, it’s 1-1.”
The game remained deadlocked, so the outcome was determined by penalty kicks. Sandwiched in between successful shots by NA’s Wells and Palermo, Spergel scored for the Indians. Though PT missed it next attempt, Molly Kubistek kept hopes alive when she made a save to keep it 2-1. Both teams converted shots before both missed their fifth attempts.
Overall, the Indians missed three penalty kicks, one of which hit the crossbar.
“We practice every day for three weeks,” Vereb said of PKs. “But I don’t think you can replicate the moment itself.”
Vereb couldn’t say enough about his team’s courage and perseverance, particularly during an injury-riddled season.
“We battled all year,” he said. ““People who don’t know the program have no idea the adversity and injuries that we’ve had this year. We had three major season-ending injuries to starters, so it’s a big deal.”
The Indians played much of the final without one of its top players. Brooke Opferman saw limited action because of illness.
With the win, NA improved to 20-1-0 overall.
PT, which last won a WPIAL title in 2012, slipped to 14-2-3 overall.
Both are qualified for the PIAA tournament, which commences Nov. 8. PT will face the district 6, 8 or 10 champion.
PT edges Lebo, Butler
The Lady Indians reached the championship match by defeating section rival Mt. Lebanon, 2-1, in the semifinals and Butler, 1-0, in double overtime in the first round of the playoffs.
Spergel had the golden goal against Butler. Sefer assisted on the tally
Spergal found the back of the net in the 23rd minute against Lebo. Opferman followed with a tally 10 minutes later, providing a two-goal buffer at intermission.
Kubistek excelled in the net against the Blue Devils.
With the loss, Lebo finished the season at 16-3-1. The Blue Devils were Section 2 champions with a 12-2 record. Both losses, 4-3 and 4-2, came against the Lady Indians, who were 11-1-2 in the section.
Note: Joe Smeltzer contributed to this article.