JACKSON TWP — If you are looking for a soccer player with the right mindset before taking a penalty kick, then Brandon White is your man.
Seneca Valley's senior midfielder put his right leg into one in the third minute of overtime Monday night against visiting Mt. Lebanon. The ball sailed past Blue Devil goalkeeper Chris Maher and tucked itself in the left corner of the net, giving the Raiders a dramatic 2-1 win in a WPIAL Class AAA first-round playoff.
It was White's second goal on a penalty kick this season.
“I try not to think about (the pressure),” said White. “When I'm putting the ball on that line, I look at it as like a kick in practice, which I've taken a thousand times. I just focus on putting the ball in the back of the net.”
The Raiders (14-4-1) will travel to Peters Township (13-1-2) for a district quarterfinal game Thursday at a time to be determined.
The penalty kick came about after a collision in front of Mt. Lebanon's net involving Maher and several players from both teams.
The Raiders were on the verge of getting a shot off when Maher came charging forward in an attempt to thwart the chance.
Four players ended up on NexTier Stadium's turf, including two Raiders, who were then awarded the penalty kick.
“Because we pressed, it forced Mt. Lebanon into making a bad decision,” said SV coach George Williams. “We got the penalty kick and that was it.”
Blue Devil coach Ron Wilcher had a different opinion of the sequence.
“Our goalie got crushed,” he said. “We felt the call should have went our way. Usually, every effort is made to protect the goalkeepers.”
It was Mt. Lebanon that first gained the upper hand with a goal 91 seconds into the second half.
Christian Lewandowski's corner kick was first headed by Seneca's Ryan Vilella, but the ball dropped to John Wieczorek, whose header proved too tall for Raider goalkeeper Colton Smith.
For the Blue Devils, who had lost to the Raiders 5-1 at the same venue back in September, Wieczorek's goal was big for the team's confidence. The Raiders had the better of the play in Monday's first half — five corner kicks to one for the Blue Devils — despite the scoreless tie at the break.
“We knew we'd have to survive tonight,” said Wilcher. “We just needed to get our legs under us. We dodged some shots from Seneca in the first half.”
With Mt. Lebanon leading 1-0, time seemed to be winding down on the Raiders' season, as they were unable to take advantage of several scoring opportunities.
Then, in the 54th minute of play, Vilella took control of a throw-in to the left of the Blue Devil goal. With his back to the net, he made a quick move to his right, dribbled along the end line and got a shot off in the midst of several defenders that bounced past Maher. It was Vilella's 11th goal of the season and tied the game at 1-1, setting the stage for White's overtime tally.
“We never gave up and just kept pushing,” said White. “We beat this team earlier in the season and knew we could do it again.”
“Mt. Lebanon is a very talented team and they know what it takes to advance in the playoffs,” said Williams. “They threw everything at us tonight.”
Smith made five saves for the Raiders, while Maher stopped 10 shots for the Blue Devils (11-7-1).
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