IMPERIAL — Morgan Williams’ right ankle is fine, and so are the Seneca Valley girls soccer team’s WPIAL title hopes.
Entering Wednesday’s Class AAA quarterfinal playoff against Upper St. Clair, Williams had missed the previous five games with a right ankle sprain.
But with the score tied at one and time winding down in regulation at West Allegheny High’s DeMichela Stadium, the senior forward took a centering pass from Rachel Leake and beat Panthers’ goalkeeper Jocelyn Alfera in the left corner of the net.
The goal, the 18th of the season from Williams, came with 13:18 left on the clock and SV withstood a late rush from Upper St. Clair in a 2-1 victory.
The Panthers (11-6-2) had a pair of throw-ins deep in SV’s end in the final 45 seconds, but both were handled by the Raiders.
The Raiders (18-1) will face Bethel Park, a 1-0 victor over Norwin, in the semifinals Tuesday at a site and time to be determined.
Williams was cleared to play on Tuesday.
“My goal all along was to come back,” she said. “Even if there was a little pain, I knew I could play through it.”
Leake, a senior midfielder, also set up SV’s first goal of the night.
Less than two minutes after the Panthers had scored to take a 1-0 lead, Leake had possession to the right of the Panthers’ goal. She shook loose from a defender long enough to get a solid centering pass off to teammate Kayli Kumanchik, who scored the equalizer.
The sequence was almost identical to the play Leake turned in seven minutes later that helped her team take the lead for good.
“Rachel got off to a slow start tonight,” said SV coach Dave Sylvester. “I think it was just playoff jitters, but we took her out for a bit and gave her a break. I told her, “It’s just another soccer game.”
“We put her back in and boom! She’s been a spark plug all year for us.”
For Upper St. Clair coach Dave Gray, the final 21 minutes were tough to watch after his team fought hard for its brief 1-0 lead.
“Our goal is possession and I thought we created more scoring chances tonight,” he said. “We just broke down late in the game.”
Seneca Valley had more scoring chances in the first half, tallying four corner kicks to the Panthers’ one. At intermission, however, Sylvester and the Raiders were in a scoreless stalemate.
And when Upper St. Clair’s Brianna Erdman headed a corner kick from teammate Julia de la Para past SV goalkeeper Jessica Neill with 22:45 left to play, the Panthers had momentum and the lead on their side — just not for long.
“That’s soccer,” said Sylvester. “You can have the better of the play and several scoring chances, but not score. Then the other team gets a shot to go in and all of a sudden you’re down.
“Our girls responded really well, though,” he added.
Both Neill and Alfera stopped five shots.