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Mars standout Coffield chooses Indiana

Mars forward Piper Coffield gets off a shot in front of a Monitor defender last November at North Allegheny. Coffield committed to play in the Big Ten at Indiana University. EAGLE FILE PHOTO

Just as she had while the Mars girls soccer team marched toward its third straight state title in 2021, Piper Coffield will look to make magic as a forward this fall.

She’ll appreciate the opportunity to once again demonstrate her attacking capabilities before returning to her roots to play on the back line at Indiana University, where she committed to this past weekend.

Coffield netted 12 goals and dished out a dozen assists a season ago.

“A lot of the coaches that I talked to had only really seen me in a defensive role,” Coffield said of her recruitment. “But having that offensive mindset, I think that definitely worked in my favor and helped me become the defender that I am.”

She cited the pull of what coach Erwin van Bennekom and his staff are building in Bloomington as the main factor in her choice. The Hoosiers went 9-5-4 last season, which was their best overall record since 2013.

“Piper has just continued to grow every year,” Mars coach Blair Gerlach said. “Her role certainly became more prominent year-by-year to where, last year, she was certainly a force to deal with.”

As a Planet freshman, she saw limited time as an outside back. On a team chock full of talent, Coffield was a regular starter at the same position her sophomore year.

Mars blanked 29 opponents over those two seasons. Maybe most impressively, the defense didn’t allow any opponent to score in the postseason in 2020.

Coffield’s courting process opened up after that run. She attracted interest from programs such as Virginia and Michigan State, who were also in consideration before she opted for the Hoosiers.

Before last campaign, Gerlach decided to get Coffield more of a taste on the offensive end. She tackled the challenge with an understanding that her team needed someone to take charge and produce.

“I think sometimes, you sit there and go, ‘I wonder if I can do that,’” Gerlach said. “And she was able to step up and do it at a very high level for us last year.”

Coffield was tasked with keeping the ball on her foot and generating scores rather than sending passes through the midfield or connecting with her teammates over the top.

Gerlach’s training sessions added to Coffield’s comfort in attacking space and working toward the net, as well. Playing on the wing, she developed more of an aggressive frame of mind.

“She has a downhill mentality,” Gerlach said. “She loves to run at people ... When she tries to impose herself on people, it’s a challenge for the best of defenders, for sure.”

With the Hoosiers, Coffield expects to take on the responsibilities of a center back. Gerlach has seen firsthand that she can fit in wherever she’s needed. Her versatility and coachable nature should allow her to get familiar with a variety of different formations at the collegiate level.

“It’s hard to teach athleticism, size, and speed,” Gerlach said. “And she’s got those things, so those are always going to go with her and always be an asset. It’s always going to allow her to compete from day one, no matter what environment she’s in.”

Coffield will be able to focus solely on grabbing her high school team’s fourth state crown in a row now that she’ll head into the go-round knowing where her next home will be.

Including Moon, last season’s Class 4A WPIAL and PIAA champions, a number of teams are slated to move down, making Mars’ playing field more strenuous this fall. The Planets are 61-0-2 since Coffield joined the team.

“I think it’s going to be tough, but I’m really looking forward to next season and the challenge,” Coffield said. “We have a little bit of a target on our backs ... Our road will definitely be difficult, but we’ve faced some difficulties before.”

Coffield’s older sister, Ellie, is a midfielder at Pittsburgh. Gracie Dunaway, who went to Purdue, and Caroline Wroblewski, now at Kent State, are some of the other Planets to continue on to the Division I level in recent years.