Central Valley wins school's 1st WPIAL soccer title
A close match was expected when Central Valley took on Hopewell for the WPIAL Class AA girls soccer championship Saturday at Highmark Stadium.
After all, the Section 3 rivals had met twice before, each time separated by just one goal. Saturday's match followed suit, as Central Valley claimed the title with a 2-1 victory.
But the way those goals were scored surprised just about everyone watching.
After a scoreless first half, the Warriors' Ashley Mutkus took a short pass from Olivia Pritt at midfield and launched a looping shot toward the goal. Vikings freshman goalie Emilie Hovanec misplayed the shot and the ball bounced in for the score just 10 seconds into the half.
“It was a great momentum boost after halftime,” Central Valley coach Mark Perry said.
According to Mutkus, it was a planned play. She did, however, lament she was surprised the ball actually found the back of the net.
“Moments before kickoff, (Perry) yelled out to me and told me to shoot it on goal,” Mutkus said. “I just tried to kick it as far as I could and at least get it on frame. I hoped for the best and the best happened.”
Central Valley (19-0) tacked on another goal with 24 minutes left when Samantha Fields centered a ball from deep in the right corner that freshman Carolina Lucci tapped in through traffic. It was another bouncing-ball play that worked out for Central Valley.
The victory is the first WPIAL championship for Central Valley, now in its fourth season. Hopewell (15-5) had never before played in a WPIAL championship match.
“We're just happy to put Central Valley on the map,” Perry said.
Hopewell came out aggressively in the first half, but was shut out. After settling in, opportunities were scarce and the Vikings were unable to maintain a consistent attack.
“We wanted to come out like we were shot out of a cannon,” Hopewell coach Martin Byrnes said. “Hats off to them for weathering our storm.”
As the match calmed, the Warriors were able to control play until the final two minutes. It was then that Hopewell finally got on the board when Abby Losco sent a header past keeper Lauren Hamilton.
The Vikings pressed the action for what little time was left, but were held off.
Saturday marked the third time the Warriors beat the rival Vikings this year, also winning Sept. 23 (4-3) and Oct. 7 (2-1).
Both teams play again Tuesday in the PIAA playoffs. Central Valley takes on District 5 champion Somerset, while Hopewell gets Clearfield, the top finisher in District 9. Both games will be played at a site and time yet to be determined.
Ed Phillipps is a freelance writer.