Upper St. Clair girls upset No. 4 Fox Chapel
Fox Chapel cleared a significant hurdle in the girls soccer playoffs by winning a WPIAL Class AAA first-round game, something the Foxes failed to do each of the past five years.
But in beating Mt. Lebanon and advancing to the quarterfinals, the Foxes encountered a new bump in the road: defeating a team from Section 5-AAA, routinely considered the WPIAL's most brutal.
Upper St. Clair showed what playing against Peters Township, Canon-McMillan and Chartiers Valley all season will get you as the Panthers, seeded 12th, weren't intimidated during a 2-1 upset of No. 4 Fox Chapel in a WPIAL Class AAA quarterfinal Wednesday at Chartiers Valley.
“Nothing's more helpful for us than to play competitive teams like that,” senior forward Olivia Belack said. “It has prepared us so much for the playoffs.”
Belack and sophomore Emma Hasco scored for Upper St. Clair (11-6-2), junior Sami Lackner made a fantastic defensive play, and the Panthers advanced to a semifinal Monday against No. 1 Seneca Valley/No. 9 Canon-McMillan at a time and site to be determined.
Fox Chapel (17-2-1) got a goal from freshman Deena Debaldo, but the Foxes were unable to generate pressure and didn't get a corner kick.
“That's how we score a lot of goals,” Foxes coach Erik Duffy said. “Hats off to them. They did a good job of keeping us in front of them and keeping the ball in front of them.”
Belack gave the Panthers a 1-0 lead in the 25th minute with a shot from about 25 yards that Fox Chapel goalkeeper Vanessa Blazer had slip through her fingers.
It was only the ninth goal Fox Chapel allowed this season.
A strong defensive play from Lackner allowed Upper St. Clair, the 2011 WPIAL champion, to carry a 1-0 lead into halftime.
After a ball hit the crossbar and bounced out to Fox Chapel's strikers, a header appeared destined toward the empty goal.
But Lackner alertly knocked the ball away, tumbling into the back of the goal.
“I saw the ball and saw that I was close to it, so I just kept running,” Lackner said. “I thought it was in the net, but thankfully, it wasn't.”
Hasco finished a through ball from inside the 18-yard box in the 41st minute to give Upper St. Clair a 2-0 lead.
Fox Chapel cut that in half 14 seconds later when Debaldo headed a cross.
But Upper St. Clair, which has wins this season over Mt. Lebanon, Bethel Park, Chartiers Valley, South Park and Mercyhurst Prep, held strong the rest of the way.
“That is what has prepared us for the postseason — the strong nonsection games that we scheduled and the teams that we have in our section,” said Panthers coach Natasha Dirda, whose team upset No. 5 Baldwin in the first round. “Every game is a battle.”