The sun came up the morning of Sept. 6 — on Earth and in Mars.
No, the world of WPIAL girls soccer did not end the previous evening, despite a rare occurrence.
Mars lost a regular-season girls soccer game.
The defending WPIAL and PIAA Class AA champion Planets were unbeaten in their previous 44 regular-season contests, having not dropped one since Oct. 3, 2009. They were on a 58-2-1 run before a 4-3 loss to Pine-Richland — a ranked Class AAA team — last week.
“I think all us girls, we took it really well,” senior co-captain Jordyn White said. “It showed us that no matter when we step on the field, there's always the chance we can lose, and in the long run, it will be a positive for us.”
Two-time reigning WPIAL champion Mars won't be able to match last season's feat of an undefeated season (the Planets went 25-0-1) or even the prior campaign's perfect regular season (it went 18-0, won the WPIAL title and advanced to the PIAA semis). But that, of course, doesn't mean it won't be able to achieve its goals.
“I'd like them to be able to finish the section schedule undefeated,” Mars coach Blair Gerlach said. “I'd like them to be able to get back to the WPIAL championship game and get on that stage again, and I'd like to roll the dice with them in the state playoffs, if we can achieve a top-four spot and get into states.
“We'll see what happens. I think on any given day, we can beat anybody.”
Mars took out its frustrations from the rare defeat by pummeling Valley, 15-0, on Saturday and Burrell, 10-0, on Monday to improve to 3-1 overall and 3-0 in section play.
Despite the continued gaudy offensive numbers — the Planets scored 30 goals in their first three games — Gerlach said Mars has adopted a more conservative philosophy this season.
“We're a different-style team than we were last year as far as the way we're going to try to play,” Gerlach said. “But as far as talent and ability and youth and so on and so forth, we're still very competitive.”
The Planets lost three starters from last season's dominant team, returning a host of all-section honoree talent that includes defender White, senior midfielder Bethany Perri, junior forward Karli Paracca and junior midfielder Amber Fichter. Those four serve as Mars' captains.
“As far as our competitive level, we're as good as last year,” Gerlach said. “We just have a different style. ... It's more of a possession style rather than run-and-gun last year.”
As has been customary over his six seasons with the Planets, Gerlach stresses a team approach that downplays the significance of any individuals. To that end, he emphasizes the Planets have a host of players capable of scoring multiple goals during any given game.
A crisp transition game to gain possession in the defensive end and push the ball the other way can lead to an abundance of scoring opportunities for Mars.
“We're trying to possess more going from the baselines all the way up to the forwards, more than just kicking it long and trying to win the ball over the defenders,” White said.
“We feel like we can repeat what we did last year.”
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