PIAA soccer playoff preview: Soccer teams focus on 2nd shot
Troye Kiernan might not play basketball, but the Upper St. Clair boys soccer team's talented midfielder knows a thing or two about rebounding.
After an upset loss to Canon-McMillan in the 2012 WPIAL Class AAA final, the Panthers quickly regrouped and wound up winning a PIAA championship.
That 180-degree turn, as difficult as it was at the time, has been a pleasant reminder for Kiernan and his teammates as they try to avenge Friday's WPIAL final loss to Peters Township when the PIAA playoffs begin Tuesday.
“I definitely think it's a wakeup call,” Kiernan said. “It's going to put an emphasis on how much we need to work to get to our ultimate goal of winning a state title.”
Pat Vereb has coached the Peters Township girls to the past three PIAA Class AAA titles, parlaying a loss to Upper St. Clair in the 2011 WPIAL final into the middle one of those.
“Sometimes you may get more out of a team that loses WPIALs,” Vereb said. “Believe me, I'd much rather have a gold medal. But I think you get a little more focus out of the kids.”
Beaver County Christian coach Steve Warden talked about how resilient high school kids can be, which is imperative given the lack of time off this time of year.
“High school kids tend to get angry early, but they tend to forget early, too,” said Warden, whose team appeared in a WPIAL final for the first time. “They can be ticked, then the next thing you know, they're all at a restaurant, laughing, eating and joking.”
After losing to Mars in a shootout in the Class AA championship in 2012, the Moon girls blew through the PIAA bracket, outscoring four opponents 12-1.
Amanda Kachaylo insisted this year's team is different — she's right; there are only three holdovers — but having bounced back so swiftly does serve as a positive reminder.
“You have to take that feeling of losing and use it as fuel to get your second chance,” said Kachaylo, whose Tigers open the playoffs as the WPIAL's No. 3 seed in Class AA.
Sometimes a strong state showing doesn't require a loss in the WPIAL final.
In 2012, Sewickley Academy bounced back from a semifinal loss and reached the PIAA championship.
Is there more confidence for the Panthers this time around, fresh off their sixth WPIAL crown?
“There definitely is after last year's performance,” senior midfielder Steve Munn said. “We feel like we can do it again.”
Despite scoring 15 goals in a pair of blowout regular-season wins over Shady Side Academy, the Greensburg Central Catholic girls were upset in the WPIAL Class A final. Fran Crouse, who had 16 goals in her previous three playoff games, was held scoreless.
Plenty peeved after the Shady Side loss, Centurions coach Ashley Shasko downplayed the idea that beating a team three times in one season became too much.
“Three times? Try 10,” Shasko said. “We were 9-0 against them in our last nine meetings. Statistically, your chances go down every time you play somebody. We had nine wins against them the last nine times we met.
“It happens. Hope we see them again.”
That would be in the PIAA semifinals, a spot the Centurions, the defending PIAA Class A champs, now have even more motivation to reach.