COLLIER TWP — The game wasn't over before it started.
Shortly afterward, it was.
Taylor Hamlett headed in a corner kick a minute and 39 seconds into the contest and Ellie Coffield scored on a penalty kick less than five minutes in. The two early goals sparked Mars to a 4-0 PIAA Class 3A girls soccer quarterfinal win over West Allegheny Saturday at Chartiers Valley High School.
“You still want to play aggressive, but when you score early like that, you can afford to do some things,” Mars coach Blair Gerlach said.
“We were able to slide a couple of extra players back and play more of a control type of game.”
The Planets (20-0-1) stayed in control of this game most of the way. They advanced to the semifinal round of the state tournament for the first time since 2011. Mars went on to win the state championship that year.
“This happened to be the round that's given us trouble,” Gerlach admitted of the quarterfinals. “That's coincidence more than anything. We didn't talk about it. I didn't even mention it to the girls before the game. I didn't want them thinking about it.
“I did bring it up after the game.”
Hamlett had two goals and an assist on the day. Her first goal was the header off the corner kick by Anna Kurpakus to put the Planets in front.
Just 4:24 into the game, Mars forward Caroline Wroblewski was knocked to the turf in the box, setting up a penalty kick.
Coffield drilled the kick into the left corner of the net — her 29th goal of the year — and Mars had a 2-0 lead.
“I'll take the contact, being knocked down if we get a scoring chance like that,” Wroblewski said.
“We missed a mark on that first goal, then we hand them a penalty kick,” West Allegheny coach Dave Tissue said. “You can't make mistakes like that against a good team.
“Once we settled down, I thought we played right with them. But it was too late.”
The Indians (17-4) entered the game having won eight of their last nine, but did not register a shot on goal in the first half.
Wroblewski scored her 20th goal of the campaign for the Planets with 17:19 left in the half. Hamlett drilled a shot from 20 yards out that the West Allegheny goalkeeper made a sprawling save on.
As the keeper laid helplessly on the turf, the rebound came to Wroblewski on the left side of the net and she scored easily.
Hamlett scored her second goal — and team-leading 37th of the year — with 2:03 left in the game. She dribbled the ball along the left sideline, cut across the middle, found open space and deftly put the ball in the net from 15 yards out.
“We never stop attacking or quit trying to score,” Hamlett said. “As long as there's time on the clock, you never know what might happen. You can't get complacent.”
West Allegheny managed three shots on net in the second half, but Planet goalkeeper Courtney Lisman easily made the saves. None of the shots were from near the net.
“We take a lot of pride in our defense,” junior defender Gracie Dunaway said. “It's a lot easier to win if you don't give up anything.”
Mars has allowed only nine goals all season. The Planets take on Archbishop Wood in the semifinals at 6 p.m. Tuesday at Bald Eagle High School.
West Allegheny's best chance to score came with 1:36 to play. But 15-goal scorer Mackenzie Taranto skimmed a penalty kick off the crossbar. Freshman midfielder Delaney Evers led the Indians with 18 goals this year.
West Allegheny had only one senior in its starting lineup.
“The competition gets tougher as you go,” Gerlach said. “West Allegheny has four or five girls who can bring the ball down the field. That concerned us coming in.
“They're a very good team. Scoring those two early goals really helped today.”