Goalkeeper shines, as Peters Township outlasts Bethel Park, reaches WPIAL final
Megan Parker doesn't know what it feels like to sit at home for the WPIAL soccer finals.
Two diving saves when Monday's match went to penalty kicks — the second time these playoffs Parker has owned the shootout — ensured that would not happen for the Peters Township girls soccer team's senior goalkeeper.
Parker stopped No. 6 Bethel Park's first two attempts, while Laurel Carpenter, Carly Johns and Riley Partyka scored to produce a 2-1 shootout victory for the second-seeded Indians in a WPIAL Class AAA semifinal at Chartiers Valley.
Peters Township, which has won the past three PIAA Class AAA titles, will advance to the WPIAL final for the sixth consecutive year.
“I've been in the WPIAL finals every year that I've been in high school,” Parker said. “The thought of not being in one was unimaginable. I would do whatever I could to get this team there.”
Last night, that involved stretching to her left to bat away an attempt from Halle Hammer, then lunging the other way to stop Lauren Toth and put the Black Hawks (17-3-1) in an early 2-0 hole.
“She's one of the most athletic keepers we've seen all year,” Bethel Park coach Jon Gentile said. “She really kept that team in there.”
Especially when considering that Peters Township was without striker Emily Franty, who was ejected after receiving a second card late in regulation. That forced Peters Township (16-4-1) to play short-handed for close to 40 minutes.
Franty must sit out the WPIAL final against top-seeded Seneca Valley.
“We played a man down for 38 minutes,” Peters Township coach Pat Vereb said. “At that point, each minute that you're playing down you're probably playing for a shootout because it's just unrealistic to think that you can compete a man down for that long.”
Peters Township took a 1-0 lead in the 38th minute when Bethel Park defender Jessica Horgan played a ball back to goalkeeper Tara Nath.
The problem came when Nath also tried to play the ball, and it wound up as an own goal.
A beautiful shot from Hammer in the 51st minute tied the score. Off a free kick, Hammer turned and fired from about 25 yards, her shot eluding Parker toward the far post.
Bethel Park, which beat Peters Township, 3-2, on Sept. 7, had a chance to pull ahead with a Rachel Gaddis header off a corner kick in the 60th minute, but Peters Township's Johns kicked the ball away during a scrum for the rebound.
Bethel Park's Tatiana Ruzzini used her speed while making a run down the left flank in the 71st minute. Despite being smothered by Johns, she got enough on a shot, though it rolled wide right of the goal.
Without Franty, Peters Township kept it together, knowing it had an advantage if the game reached penalty kicks. In the quarterfinals, Parker made a pair of sparkling saves to help turn back Pine-Richland.
In two games, Peters Township's shooters are perfect on seven attempts, with Carpenter, Johns and Partyka all scoring twice.
“She wants the moment,” Vereb said of Parker. “When you look at the shootout, she was the keeper who wanted it. She wanted to be in the moment. She wanted to be behind her team and do something for her team.”