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PIAA playoffs possible for Pine-Richland boys soccer

| Sunday, Oct. 29, 2017, 11:00 p.m.

The Pine-Richland boys soccer team's dramatic postseason run hit an insurmountable hurdle Saturday when the Rams lost to top-seeded Peters Township, 4-1, in a WPIAL Class AAAA semifinal at West Allegheny.

The Indians put Pine-Richland down early, gaining a 2-0 lead by halftime. From there, the Rams' play improved, said coach Jon Conner, but it was too little, too late.

“I think, initially, when we went into the game, we were probably a little overwhelmed by the atmosphere and the quality of the opponent,” Conner said. “Peters Township is a good team. Hats off to those guys. They scored an outstanding first goal. We doubled the player, (Luke) Kelly, and he just rose up above and dropped it in the back of the net.

“To give up another one before halftime and go down 2-0, you just can't do that against a team like that. We regrouped at halftime, and I thought we were actually the better side in that second half but it was too much to overcome.”

After knocking off No. 4 seed Central Catholic, 2-1, in overtime in the first round of the WPIAL playoffs and No. 5 seed Seneca Valley, 2-1, on penalty kicks, the anticlimactic loss to the Indians put a damper on the positive momentum Pine-Richland built in the first two rounds.

But the season isn't over for the Rams.

The team will play in the WPIAL consolation match at 8 p.m. on Wednesday against Canon-McMillan at a location that is yet to be determined.

The winner will qualify for the PIAA playoffs.

That opportunity presents a shot at redemption for Pine-Richland.

“We've been to the semifinals six times. We've never made it to the finals. I think we're going to use that result from Saturday in the build-up to the game. Plus, we have a chance to make the second tournament,” Conner said.

“Everyone goes into the PIAA tournament with a 0-0 record. It's a clean slate for everyone. That's the motivation we'll use. We set goals at the beginning of the year, and one of them was to be in this position. Our ultimate goal may have been to play in the championship on Saturday instead of the consolation on Wednesday but this is our opportunity, so let's take it.”

Kevin Lohman is a freelance writer.

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