ADAMS TWP — The shot came out of nowhere.
But it will forever have a home in Matt Saluga's memory bank.
The Seneca Valley freshman midfielder rifled home a high shot over the outstretched arms of goalkeeper Joe Kelly with 1:20 remaining Saturday night. The shot gave the Raiders a 1-0 boys soccer victory over Section 2-AA champion Mars at the Mars Athletic Complex.
The goal was the first varsity tally for the 5-foot-2, 125-pound Saluga.
“That's one he'll never forget,” Seneca Valley coach George Williams said.
“No doubt,” Saluga said. “I still can't believe it went in.”
The teams were seemingly headed for overtime when Saluga found a loose ball bouncing toward his feet. He was about 25 yards from the net when he turned and let loose with his shot.
“I was just trying to get it on net, get it near the goal,” Saluga said. “I was surprised it had enough to sail in high like that.”
Kelly saw the shot all the way and leaped to make the save. But his fully extended arms could not reach the ball, which deftly hooked just under the crossbar into the left corner of the net.
The goal was only the eighth allowed in 18 games this season by Mars (15-2-1), which was shut out for the first time this year. The game marked the Planets' regular season finale.
“It doesn't take much sometimes to get a good chance,” Mars coach Chris Knauff said of Saluga's goal. “That was a nice shot.
“We play Seneca Valley late in the season like this because they are always a quality Triple-A team and we know we'll get a good test from them. If we can play well against a strong Triple-A team, we should be ready for the Double-A playoffs.”
The Planets controlled play in the first half, getting seven shots on net to the Raiders' one. Mars also had the only two corner kicks during the first 40 minutes.
Spencer Posey, who leads the Planets with 27 goals, was robbed on a sliding save by SV goalkeeper Colton Smith with 13:52 left in the first half. Posey then dribbled through four defenders before drilling a shot off the right post with 9:41 left in the half.
Mars junior Jesse Perfett got off a clean shot from 25 yards out that Smith made a lunging save on with 5:10 left in the half.
“Colton makes two or three big saves like that every game we play,” Williams said. “You need that type of big save from your goalkeeper if you're going to beat a quality opponent.
“We've had a great rivalry with Mars for a few years now. They're a great team and they're nearby. We should definitely play each other because it helps both teams.”
The Raiders finished second to Pine-Richland in Section 2-AAA this season.
Seneca Valley enjoyed the territorial edge in the second half. The Raiders had four shots on net to Mars' one in the latter 40 minutes. SV took five corner kicks to none for the Planets.
Prior to Saluga's goal, the Raiders' best scoring chance occurred when Dylan Hoffman feathered a pass ahead to Brandon White, who chipped a shot past Kelly that bounced just wide of the far-left post midway through the second half.
“They were definitely more offensive in the second half,” Knauff said. “A mistake in the defensive end can sometimes cost you possession for two minutes or so. I thought that happened to us a couple of times.”
Notes: The WPIAL playoff pairings will be determined today. ... Anthony Crivelli leads the Raiders with 13 goals and seven assists. Ryan Vilella, the team's second-leading scorer with 11 goals, did not play Saturday. ... Mars has scored 74 goals this year, allowing eight. ... Planet seniors Posey, Kelly, Mike Derouin, Adam Golden, Dave Jackson, Nick Martinelli, Ryan McMahon, Chris Page, Logan Yeo and Ed Brand were honored on the field with their parents before the game.