BRIDGEVILLE — There are your point-blank shots, then there's your point-blank shots.
In Saturday's PIAA Class AAA girls soccer quarterfinal playoff, Peters Township's Veronica Latsko scored on an indirect free kick from 5 yards in front of the net with 25:15 left in the first half that stood in a 1-0 victory at Chartiers Valley High School.
A Raider defender tapped the ball back to Seneca Valley goalie Jessica Neill, who scooped up it up. By rule, if the official believed the tap back was intended, Neill would have to kick the ball away.
By using her hands, the Indians were awarded an indirect free kick, but the close proximity to the goal was a bit surprising.
“It's his opinion,” Seneca Valley coach Dave Sylvester said. “He thought we played the ball back and when you do, (the goalie) has to use her feet. That's his opinion.”
With the Raiders (20-3) lined up along the goal line in hopes to defend the shot, Latsko took a tap from teammate Olivia Roberson and buried the shot high into the left side of the net.
“You'll take the goal,” said Indians coach Pat Vereb, “but it's a tough way to let it happen. An indirect kick goes when its inside the penalty area. We work on that where one steps on it and one rips it.”
Facing a 1-0 deficit against the two-time defending state champions sounds formidable, but Sylvester knew his team would not use the tough break as an excuse.
“I don't have to refocus them,” Sylvester said. “We were all over (Peters Township). A bounce here or there is all it takes. I don't have to get them focused. They're competitive.”
The Raiders came inches away to scoring the equalizer when Misha Demchuk lofted a shot about from 40 yards away. The ball took a high hop, forcing Indians goalie Carly Johns to leap just before the goal line to make the catch.
Her foot landed behind the line, but the ball was still outside the goal line.
“She's not ever been a goalie,” Vereb said of Johns. “Our regular keeper, Megan Parker, tore her ACL and Carly's played all season. That's a lot of pressure on a kid that has not played the position.”
The Indians (22-1) almost added another score when Latsko worked past a pair of Seneca Valley defenders and rifled off a shot cutting toward the net with 9:50 before intermission, but it struck the top of the crossbar.
Neither team mounted another serious threat until the Raiders, with two minutes remaining in regulation, had a corner kick.
Morgan Williams fired a perfectly-placed shot that grazed a Raider in front, but Johns emerged from the scrum with the ball.
“(Peters Township) did nothing remotely as scary as when we faced them in the WPIAL finals (a 2-1 double-overtime loss the previous Saturday),” Sylvester said. “I thought they were scared of us.”
“This was a different game than the WPIAL finals,” Vereb said. “I thought that was a better game than this one. This was a battle, a lot of contact, a lot of free kicks, big-girl soccer. They played really hard.”
The Raiders will say goodbye to their six seniors — Demchuk, Williams, Mallory Accamando, Alex Bilka, Rachel Leake and Melissa Lynskey.
“We always find a way to get younger girls in the mix,” Sylvester said. “That always proves to be valuable. These seniors got this far as freshmen and you hope that continues in the future.”
Notes: Leake collided with Latsko as both players attempted to head the ball and suffered a gash near her eye with 10:43 left in the first half. Leake was bleeding and left the field in the first half but would later return and continued to play. ... Neill finished with five saves while Johns made six stops.