Breaking down the WPIAL soccer playoffs

| Thursday, Oct. 17, 2013, 10:24 p.m.

Class AAA boys

Defending champion: Canon-McMillan

Top seeds: 1. Upper St. Clair (17-0-1), 2. Seneca Valley (14-2-1), 3. Fox Chapel (15-1), 4. Central Catholic (13-3-1)

Outlook: At least one Section 5-AAA team has reached the finals for 13 consecutive years, winning six times. The injury bug bit No. 11 Canon-McMillan — hence the seed — but the Big Macs are healthy. No. 9 Butler and No. 15 Allderdice take the place of Plum and Pine-Richland, but the other 13 teams are the same as 2012. Section 5 had the best nonsection record at 16-1-1. Top-seeded Upper St. Clair, led by scorers Joel Hart and Troye Kiernan, won Section 5 with an 11-0-1 record. Section 1 was the worst in nonsection play at 5-9-1. No. 2 Seneca Valley, the Section 2 champion, never has won a WPIAL title. Other section champions include No. 6 Norwin (1-AAA), No. 3 Fox Chapel (3-AAA) and No. 5 Bethel Park (4-AAA).

Schedule: First round, Monday; quarterfinals, Thursday

Dark horse: Canon-McMillan

Finals prediction: Upper St. Clair over Peters Township

Class AA boys

Defending champion: Quaker Valley

Top seeds: 1. West Allegheny (14-0-3), 2. South Park (17-0-1), 3. South Fayette (14-2-2), 4. Shady Side Academy (12-3)

Outlook: The top-seeded Indians beat Class AAA No. 2 Seneca Valley and Class A No. 1 Sewickley Academy. They've allowed five goals, mostly because of the play of all-state defender Zach Graziani. No. 2 South Park, the Section 3 champion, was the top seed last year but was upset in the quarterfinals by South Fayette on penalty kicks. Senior Alex Gedrys gets about 75 percent of the work and junior Andrew Pine 25 in goal. The Lions didn't allow a goal until their 13th match. No. 10 Quaker Valley's title last season was its seventh in Class AA. Yough and Mt. Pleasant meet in a preliminary game; the winner gets West Allegheny. No. 9 Deer Lakes and No. 13 Freedom are non-repeat entrants.

Schedule: Preliminary games, Saturday; first round, Monday; quarterfinals, Thursday

Dark horse: Quaker Valley

Finals prediction: West Allegheny over South Fayette

Class A boys

Defending champion: Riverside

Top seeds: 1. Sewickley Academy (14-3), 2. Seton-La Salle (14-2-1), 3. Vincentian (13-2-3), 4. Serra Catholic (12-3-1)

Outlook: None of Sewickley Academy's losses came against Class A teams, and the Panthers, led by senior midfielder Steve Munn, are riding a seven-game winning streak. No. 2 Seton-La Salle, which won Section 3-A, has played in the championship game in three of the past five years, winning three titles. No. 6 Beaver County Christian, No. 8 Monessen, No. 11 Avonworth and No. 13 Aquinas Academy are all new from last year. Keep an eye on No. 12 OLSH. The Chargers open against Beth-Center, a team that has no above-average wins, and could face No. 4 Serra Catholic, whom they beat, 2-1, on Oct. 5. Seton-La Salle has gotten some surprise contributions from Levi Masua, a standout basketball player who went out for the soccer team this fall.

Schedule: First round, Monday; quarterfinals, Thursday

Dark horse: Our Lady of the Sacred Heart

Finals prediction: Sewickley Academy over Seton-La Salle

Class AAA girls

Defending champion: Peters Township

Top seeds: 1. Seneca Valley (15-2-1), 2. Peters Township (13-4-1), 3. North Allegheny (15-2-1), 4. Fox Chapel (16-1-1)

Outlook: Those making the brackets clearly weren't impressed by No. 8 Norwin, which has wins over No. 2 Peters Township, No. 5 Baldwin and No. 7 Penn-Trafford. But the Knights also lost to No. 3 North Allegheny and the Section 1 champion Warriors. The Knights have bowed out in the quarterfinals each of the past two years after reaching the championship game in 2010. Norwin hasn't won it all since 1997. No. 10 Pine-Richland and No. 15 Latrobe are new. No. 2 Peters Township has won two of the past three WPIAL Class AAA titles and three consecutive PIAA championships. Without the WPIAL's best player, Veronica Latsko (torn ACL), the Indians went 3-3-1 against teams in this bracket. Three of the top five seeds went one-and-done in 2012, with North Allegheny, No. 4 Fox Chapel and No. 5 Baldwin making early exits.

Schedule: First round, Saturday; quarterfinals, Wednesday

Dark horse: Upper St. Clair

Finals prediction: Peters Township over Seneca Valley

Class AA girls

Defending champion: Mars

Top seeds: 1. Mars (15-1-2), 2. Central Valley (15-0), 3. Moon (17-1), 4. Quaker Valley (17-1)

Outlook: Top-seeded Mars has won the past three WPIAL Class AA titles. Combined score in 11 playoff games during that run: 39-3. Central Valley's best nonsection victories came against Class AAA No. 12 Upper St. Clair and Class AAA No. 14 Gateway. Moon avenged an overtime loss to Mars in the 2012 championship game and won the PIAA Class AA title. Amanda Kachaylo, Sydney Schipani and Kallie Conte have carried a young Tigers team. Moon's lone loss was a 2-1 defeat at Quaker Valley on Sept. 18. No. 10 South Fayette, No. 13 Greensburg Salem and No. 15 Freeport are new from the 2012 field. No. 5 South Park has reached the semifinals in 12 of the past 16 years, though Central Valley topped the Eagles, 1-0, in the quarterfinals on penalty kicks last season. Mars is the top seed for the third consecutive year.

Schedule: First round, Saturday; quarterfinals, Wednesday

Dark horse: South Fayette

Finals prediction: Mars over Moon

Class A girls

Defending champion: Greensburg Central Catholic

Top seeds: 1. Greensburg Central Catholic (14-1), 2. Bishop Canevin (15-2-1), 3. Shady Side Academy (14-3), 4. Neshannock (11-2-3)

Outlook: Few teams have been able to play with GCC, which won its 12 Section 4-A games by a combined score of 107-9. Malea Fabean (Pitt) and Fran Crouse (Penn State) have put up eye-popping numbers. The Centurions have won the past two WPIAL titles and snagged the 2012 PIAA title as well. Five teams are new from the 2012 field: No. 10 Vincentian, No. 12 New Brighton, No. 13 Carlynton, No. 14 Serra Catholic and No. 15 OLSH. Sewickley Academy reached the finals in 2010 and 2012, losing to Shady Side and GCC, respectively. Goalkeeper Caroline Clarke has 14 shutouts for No. 2 Bishop Canevin, which is 6-1-1 against Class A playoff teams and is riding a seven-game winning streak.

Schedule: First round, Saturday; quarterfinals, Wednesday

Dark horse: Sewickley Academy

Finals prediction: Greensburg CC over Shady Side Academy

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