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Senior captain scores to send USC boys to WPIAL finals

Christopher Horner | Tribune-Review - Upper St. Clair's Robbie Mertz (center) celebrates his goal with Garrett Blake and West Burdette during the first half of their WPIAL Class AAA semifinal against Pine-Richland Wednesday Oct. 31. 2012 at Chartiers Valley High School.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>  Christopher Horner | Tribune-Review</em></div>Upper St. Clair's Robbie Mertz (center) celebrates his goal with Garrett Blake and West Burdette during the first half of their WPIAL Class AAA semifinal against Pine-Richland Wednesday Oct. 31. 2012 at Chartiers Valley High School.
Christopher Horner | Tribune-Review - Upper St. Clair's Robbie Mertz (22) celebrates his goal past Pine-Richland's Michael Jones during the first half of their WPIAL Class AAA semifinal Wednesday Oct. 31. 2012 at Chartiers Valley High School.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>  Christopher Horner | Tribune-Review</em></div>Upper St. Clair's Robbie Mertz (22) celebrates his goal past Pine-Richland's Michael Jones during the first half of their WPIAL Class AAA semifinal Wednesday Oct. 31. 2012 at Chartiers Valley High School.
Christopher Horner | Tribune-Review - Pine-Richland's Patrick Sullivan battles Upper St. Clair's Anthony Pezzone for the ball during their WPIAL Class AAA semifinal Wednesday Oct. 31. 2012 at Chartiers Valley High School.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>  Christopher Horner | Tribune-Review</em></div>Pine-Richland's Patrick Sullivan battles Upper St. Clair's Anthony Pezzone for the ball during their WPIAL Class AAA semifinal Wednesday Oct. 31. 2012 at Chartiers Valley High School.
Christopher Horner | Tribune-Review - Pine-Richland's Victor Orsio celebrates the Rams' goal during the first half of a WPIAL Class AAA semifinal against Upper St. Clair Wednesday Oct. 31. 2012 at Chartiers Valley High School.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>  Christopher Horner | Tribune-Review</em></div>Pine-Richland's Victor Orsio celebrates the Rams' goal during the first half of a WPIAL Class AAA semifinal against Upper St. Clair Wednesday Oct. 31. 2012 at Chartiers Valley High School.
Christopher Horner | Tribune-Review - Pine-Richland's Michael Jones moves the ball past Upper St. Clair's Hayden Bernhardt during their WPIAL Class AAA semifinal Wednesday Oct. 31. 2012 at Chartiers Valley High School.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>  Christopher Horner | Tribune-Review</em></div>Pine-Richland's Michael Jones moves the ball past Upper St. Clair's Hayden Bernhardt during their WPIAL Class AAA semifinal Wednesday Oct. 31. 2012 at Chartiers Valley High School.
Christopher Horner | Tribune-Review - Upper St. Clair's Troy Kiernan battles Pine-Richland's Michael Jones for the ball during their WPIAL Class AAA semifinal Wednesday Oct. 31. 2012 at Chartiers Valley High School.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>  Christopher Horner | Tribune-Review</em></div>Upper St. Clair's Troy Kiernan battles Pine-Richland's Michael Jones for the ball during their WPIAL Class AAA semifinal Wednesday Oct. 31. 2012 at Chartiers Valley High School.

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Wednesday, Oct. 31, 2012, 10:34 p.m.
 

Ethan Dysert couldn't have picked a better time to break out of a scoring slump.

The senior captain of defending WPIAL Class AAA boys soccer champion Upper St. Clair, Dysert had the go-ahead goal in the 73rd minute to give the Panthers a 2-1 win against Pine-Richland in a WPIAL semifinal Wednesday night at Chartiers Valley.

“He's been struggling for a long time to put the ball in the net,” Upper St. Clair coach Uwe Schneider said. “Then, scoring a goal like this, it's huge. Just unbelievable. He's got all the talent — he just hadn't been finishing lately. But to step up and finish in a game like this?”

With less than eight minutes to go in a tied contest, Dysert ran across the penalty box off a throw-in from Garrett Blake.

Blake, a sophomore, expertly tossed the ball from deep near the left-wing corner to just in front of the left side of the net. Dysert deftly headed the ball into the far corner past Pine-Richland goalie Grant Goldberg.

“An incredible feeling. Nothing like it,” Dysert said. “Last year, we had (Mike) Worthy as our captain; he was the one that was out here leading us. Now, I got to fill in that space, and I feel good about it. I feel confident leading this team.”

Upper St. Clair will play section rival Canon-McMillan in the WPIAL title game Saturday.

The Panthers and Rams each gave up their first goal of the playoffs during the first half.

Upper St. Clair scored first when Robbie Mertz converted a nifty set-up from Troy Kiernan, who was streaking down the right side in the 12th minute.

Fifteen minutes later, the Rams' Victor Osio tied it with a low shot from high in the left-wing side of the penalty box off an assist from Michael Jones.

Unofficially, that was Pine-Richland's only shot in the first half.

Upper St. Clair, meanwhile, had an abundance of chances. Joel Hart hit the crossbar twice in the span of a minute late in the half.

The Panthers generally continued to control the play throughout the second half but could not beat Goldberg, who made a leaping stop on a Mertz shot with 18 minutes left.

Pine-Richland was hindered when it lost midfielder Patrick Sullivan to a head injury midway through the second half.

“He's a big, strong kid in the middle,” Rams coach Jon Conner said. “The score off the header, I think he probably would have won that ball. That's the way it goes.”

Pine-Richland will play Peters Township in the WPIAL consolation game Saturday. The winner earns the third PIAA tournament berth from the WPIAL.

Chris Adamski is a freelance writer.

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