Peters Township girls set out for PIAA championship 3-peat
Why does the Peters Township girls soccer team win so much?
Simple. The Indians can't stand losing.
Peters Township has built arguably the premier girls soccer program in the WPIAL. The Indians are the two-time defending PIAA Class AAA champions. And get this: Their coach believes that, in some ways, they can be even better this season.
Veronica Latsko scored the PIAA title game's only goal against Pennridge on Nov. 19 in Hershey. But it's not that gold-medal game Peters Township's star remembers most. Ask Latsko what game from last season had the greatest impact, and it's the 3-2 loss to Upper St. Clair in the WPIAL finals two weeks earlier.
“Losing in the WPIAL championship game, that made us decide we were going to dedicate ourselves to working and doing everything we possibly can to make sure it never happens again,” she said. “We wanted to win so bad, and when we didn't, that was what gave us the drive that won us the state championship.”
Latsko earlier this month made a verbal commitment to the University of Virginia, a powerhouse NCAA women's soccer program.
She had 45 goals as a sophomore last season, including nine in seven postseason games and five in four PIAA tournament contests. A 5-foot-8 forward, Latsko also plays for Century United in club travel soccer and for the U.S. Youth Soccer Olympic Development Program team that has played tournaments in Russia and Brazil with her on the roster.
“She just wants to succeed at everything she does, and her work rate is just unparalleled once the game starts,” Peters Township coach Pat Vereb said. “She's very much a team player.
“It doesn't really matter what team she's on — whether she's playing on a regional team in Russia or whether she's playing for Peters — she wants to lead her team to victory.”
It's a trait that has rubbed off on her Peters Township teammates — although to hear Latsko tell it, she suggests it's just as much the other way around.
“We are so competitive,” she said. “We hate losing. Losing is probably the most upsetting thing for us. We strive to be undefeated.”
An unachievable goal? On face value, perhaps. But the Indians have come close in recent seasons. Twice since 2006, Peters Township had perfect regular seasons, and two years ago, they had a perfect postseason (winning the WPIAL and PIAA titles).
The Indians hate losing so much, they make sure they rarely do it. The program is 143-17-7 since 2005, winning two WPIAL and two PIAA championships.
“The slogan ‘Commitment to excellence' fits,” Vereb said. “We have a very, very grueling and tough preseason. We prepare ourselves to win, and the girls take it very, very seriously. There's good chemistry, and basically we're going to shoot for the stars every year.”
That was the case last season, when Peters Township successfully defended its PIAA title despite needing to replace seven seniors.
Heading into this season, the situation is reversed. At least nine players with significant starting experience dot the roster, including forwards Latsko and Olivia Roberson, midfielder Nicole Hume and defender Abbie LaVigna.
Roberson is coming off a 30-goal season and will play at Duquesne University. LaVigna made a verbal commitment to Kent State.
Junior forward Emily Franty, senior midfielder Rachel Troscinski, senior defender Morgan Creehan and sophomore midfielder Laurel Carpenter also were starters on last season's 20-3-1 team.
Junior goalkeeper Megan Parker is out for the season with a knee injury, but Carly Johns is moving into that role. A standout defender as a freshman last season, Johns also is coming off injury.
Alex Alavi (injury) and Caitlin Carey are two more “virtual” returning starters for Peters Township. Carey started as a freshman and sophomore but concentrated on lacrosse last year. She will play lacrosse at Duke.
Latsko and her teammates “know we're the team to beat this year.”
“I have fun playing soccer, but I want to win really bad,” Latsko said. “Do you really have fun when you're losing?”
Chris Adamski is a freelance writer.