COLLIER TWP — Karli Paracca may not be a fan of penalty kicks, but she will never forget the one she took Saturday night.
In the second round of penalty kicks, Mars’ junior forward put a shot past Moon goalkeeper Nicole Falcione, causing the Planets’ bench to erupt in celebration as the team prevailed 2-1 in the WPIAL Class AA title game at Chartiers Valley Stadium.
It is the program’s third consecutive WPIAL crown.
“We have players on this team, like Jordyn White, who are really good at making penalty kicks,” said Paracca, holding her team’s district championship trophy following the game. “They know exactly where to put them. I don’t usually take them.”
The game was tied at 1-1 following 110 minutes of play, including two 15-minute overtime periods. The first round of penalty kicks settled nothing as neither Falcione nor Mars goalkeeper Sarah Dailey was able to stop any of the five shots they faced. Christine Barthen, Katie Valach, Marissa Clough, Michaela Gutierrez and Sydney Schipani all scored for the Tigers while White, Beth Perri, Erica Schwab, Amber Fichter and Sabrina Edwards did so for the Planets.
Moon’s only shot in the second round, which features alternating attempts until a winner is determined, was taken by Taylor Dornin. Her shot was stopped by Dailey when the latter made a diving save to her left. Paracca then stepped into the spotlight.
“I don’t choose who takes penalty kicks for us, the team does,” said Mars coach Blair Gerlach. “I don’t feel I should place that kind of pressure on a kid if they are not ready. I just let the girls know that, if it does come to penalty kicks, we have to know who we are sending out there.
“We practiced them all year, but this was the first time one of our games has reached that point.”
Just before the second round began, several teammates approached Paracca.
“They told me, ‘You’re up,’” she said. “For my teammates to have confidence in me, that means a lot. I couldn’t have done it without them. This is totally incredible.”
It was the second time Paracca found the net Saturday. In the 25th minute of play, she took a centering pass from Edwards and scored to tie the game.
The first overtime saw the Planets tally the only two shots on goal in the extra period. In double overtime, Dailey stopped all three of Moon’s shots on goal.
“I think there were 10-minute stretches where we were definitely the better team, but then Moon came at us for stretches too,” said Gerlach. “This was the fastest game we played all year and it was definitely the game with the most talent on the field.”
The Tigers drew first blood with Barthen’s goal on a free kick from 30 yards out in the sixth minute of play.