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Streak Ends

Mars’ Ainsley Ray (32) works against a Moon player during the WPIAL Class 3A girls soccer championship game at Highmark Stadium Saturday afternoon. Moon topped the Planets, 1-0. Seb Foltz/Special to the Eagle
Mars girls soccer suffers 1st loss in 81 games

PITTSBURGH — Something had to give in Saturday’s WPIAL Class 3A girls soccer championship game between Mars and Moon.

Both teams entered the showdown unbeaten and untied. In fact, the Planets had not been beaten in 80 straight games, a run that included three straight district and state titles.

Moon’s prowess includes winning WPIAL and PIAA Class 4A titles a year ago before dropping down to 3A.

“I thought this game could go one of two ways,” said Mars coach Blair Gerlach. “Either one team would jump out early and pile it on, win by three goals, or it would be nip and tuck the whole way. It turned out to be the latter.”

And unfortunately for the Planets, for the first time since losing to Blue Mountain in the state quarterfinals in 2018, they ended a game on the short end of the score as Moon raised the championship trophy following a 1-0 victory at Highmark Stadium.

The goal came early, in the 13th minute, when Tessa Romah beat Mars’ Kate McEnroe with a shot from the left side of the goal face.

It was Romah’s ninth goal of the season.

“She has a lot of assists, but was in the right place at the right time today,” said Moon coach Bill Pfeiffer.

McEnroe stopped an initial shot from Romah, but the ball bounced right back to the senior midfielder, who put in the rebound.

Mars put two shots on Moon’s Serayah Leech in the first half, then picked up its pace moving forward after halftime.

In the 49th minute, Ainsley Ray appeared to tie the game, but Moon defender Ayva Wiech retrieved the ball just before it crossed the line.

Mars (17-1) earned two corner kicks and a number of free kicks in the second half.

“A lot of them were taken from dangerous areas on the field, but we didn’t execute well,” said Gerlach. “I don’t know how many we got to, but Moon got to more than we did. They did a great job in the air.”

Another chance that was missed occurred in the 63rd minute. Planet forward Addison Girdwood sent a crossing pass in from the left of the net, but Leech jumped and snagged the ball out of the air amid a crowd of players.

Play became very physical as a total of five yellow cards were issued (three on Mars and two on Moon), the last going against the Tigers (20-0) with just 32 seconds left in the game.

Maddie Wolf took the free kick, but the sequence ended with a goal kick being awarded to the Tigers.

“Mars started to press and became more aggressive in the second half, but we stayed disciplined on defense,” said Pfeiffer. “This was a matchup between two quality teams and a lot of the girls know each other. It was a great game.”

McEnroe had four saves while Leech stopped six shots.

The Tigers have now outscored their opponents this season 88-1. They posted their 17th straight shutout Saturday.

Mars has 13 shutouts this season and though the Planets played well defensively against a potent Moon squad, they were unable to achieve a clean sheet.

Planet senior defender and captain Gwen Howell had to watch the action from the bench due to injury.

“I thought our defense did everything it could to take away scoring chances,” she said. “Unfortunately, we allowed one goal and that was the difference.”

Mars will begin play in the state playoffs at 6 p.m. Tuesday at District 9 champion Bradford at a time to be determined.

“We win as a team and we lose as a team,” said Howell. “I know we can come back from this.”

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