WEXFORD — Erin Rodgers picked the right time to score her first goal.
Her teammates made sure it was a memorable one.
The Mars senior headed in a corner kick from Ellie Coffield in the 14th minute Saturday at North Allegheny's Newman Stadium, the lone goal of the day as the Planets (17-0) successfully defended their WPIAL Class 3A girls soccer title with a 1-0 victory over Plum.
Both teams entered the game undefeated. Plum (16-1) had not been scored upon since Oct. 3, a span of eight games. The Mustangs dropped a 4-0 decision to Mars in last year's title game.
“The fact we gave the goal up on a corner kick is really disappointing,” Plum coach Jamie Stewart said. “I hated to see that happen. We know how good they (Planets) are on corner kicks and we wanted to avoid those.”
They couldn't avoid them on this day.
Mars took 12 corner kicks on the day. Caroline Wroblewski and Londynn Gonzalez headed shots off the crossbar off corner kicks during the second half.
Rodgers made no mistake.
“I saw the ball coming. It was a perfect kick by Ellie,” she said. All I was thinking was, just deflect it. It was coming right at me.”
Coffield knew her kicks provided solid scoring chances.
“I know when it comes off my foot,” she said. “Its so gratifying when you see the ball go in, especially in a game as big as this.”
The Planets dominated the game in terms of possession. Plum rarely crossed midfield.
But with just over a minute to play, the Mustangs had a corner kick.
“You get that feeling in the pit of your stomach,” Mars coach Blair Gerlach said. “We don't let them across midfield almost the whole half and we give them a corner kick.
“We scored our goal on a corner kick. When you have a 1-0 lead, you are one mistake away from a tie, two mistakes away from losing.”
But the Planets made no mistake. The corner kick —only Plum's second of the game — was knocked away from the net.
The Mustangs managed only two shots on net all day. Senior goalkeeper Courtney Lisman's toughest save was stopping a free kick by Ava Weleski from 25 yards out in the 43rd minute.
“We weren't exactly smooth today on our execution of plays,” Gerlach said. “But when a girl did make a mistake, someone else was there to cover it up right away.”
While Lisman didn't face much traffic near the net, she was aware of the type of game it would be. Both teams entered the contest having allowed only five goals all season.
“The nerves are always there,” the goalkeeper admitted. “Our team usually does control play, but I know I have to be ready.
“It can be difficult facing a shot when you haven't had one (come your way) in a while. But I'm used to that and our entire team helps out defensively.”
In a matchup of stingy defenses, “scoring the first goal is everything,” Stewart said. “We just couldn't get any penetration.”
Gerlach said the Planets have a number of plays designed for corner kicks. Different players take them. Mars' best scorng chances Saturday came off Coffield's corner kicks.
“Different players offer different types of kicks,” Gerlach said. “There are bending kicks, driving kicks, floaters ... We use whatever works best in a given situation.
“Winning is fantastic. It never gets old ... any coach who tells you that it does is lying.”
Mars has won three WPIAL titles in the past five years. Plum fell short in trying to win the first in program history.
The Planets are unbeaten in 40 games (39-0-1) over the past two seasons. Mars became the first WPIAL 3A school to win the boys and girls soccer titles in the same season since Peters Township in 2010.
“That's a tribute to our school district, athletic department and (athletic director) Scott Heinauer,” Gerlach said. “They give us the opportunities and the tools to succeed.”
Mars will play District 10 champion Warren in the PIAA tournament Saturday.