Upper St. Clair boys soccer team wins state title
HERSHEY — Upper St. Clair goalkeeper Joe Conlan knew he would have his work cut out for him when he went between the pipes against Wilson-West Lawn.
“That offense was easily the best we've faced all year,” Conlan said. “Their top player (forward Adam Bainbridge) was one of the best players I've seen all season with his size and his ability on the ball. He's just an unbelievable player.”
And yet, it wasn't Bainbridge who had the biggest impact in the match.
Sophomore midfielder Doug Hapeman scored the only goal as Upper St. Clair (22-2-1) defeated Wilson (25-3-1), 1-0, in the PIAA Class AAA championship at Hersheypark Stadium.
On a team filled with offensive standouts, including junior all-state midfielder Troy Kiernan, he might have been one of the unlikeliest players to score the game-winner — and he was the first to admit it.
“I was marking (Bainbridge) and he went in the box to defend, and I just stayed up high. West (Burdette) played a great ball over, I was unmarked and I found a way to get it in the back of the net,” Hapeman said. “We have so many tremendous players on this team and I'm just glad to be a part of it and, no, I didn't think it would be me.”
It was the third state title for Upper St. Clair and the first since winning consecutive championships in 2003-04. The Panthers were also able to erase some of the bitterness of a disappointing 1-0 loss to Conestoga in the 2011 state finals.
“It means everything, because ever since the first time I touched a soccer ball, and this entire class, this is what we've been waiting for,” Conlan said.
“We've wanted to do this ever since we were kids. This is everything to us. When we lost that title last year we said we'd get back here and win the title, and we made it a reality.”
To make it happen, Upper St. Clair completely retooled its defense and gave Wilson a look it had never seen. Despite having several outstanding scoring opportunities in the match, the Bulldogs appeared confused at times on how to attack the Panthers' setup.
“We have not played with that defense all year long,” Upper St. Clair coach Uwe Schneider said. “We put Doug Hapeman in a position he hasn't played all year, but we knew we needed somebody to match up with their big man. Our defense was makeshift with three or four different setups, and what we put on the field in the end really worked.”
Even with the adjustments Wilson had a final flurry in the last minute, but Upper St. Clair calmly shut it down and closed it out.
“That happens every time you're up with a lead. You expect that little shot after shot at the end,” Conlas said. “We've had that all year, we know it's going to come, we knew how to prepare for it and we got out of it fine.”
Keith Barnes is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 412-664-9161 Ext. 1977.