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Overcoming adversity

Mars girls outlast Montour, 2-1, in OT of PIAA 3A soccer quarterfinal
Mars players storm the field to celebrate a 2-1 overtime win in their PIAA Class 3A girls soccer playoff game against Montour on Saturday at North Allegheny's Newman Stadium. Shane Potter/Butler Eagle 11/11/23

WEXFORD — Saturday's PIAA girls soccer quarterfinal against Montour was as mentally taxing as it was physically demanding for Mars.

The Planets were on the wrong end of three yellow cards and a red card in the second half and had to play the final 14-plus minutes of the contest with just 10 players to Montour's 11.

Mars' Kayleigh Clark heads the ball in for the first goal of the game against Montour on Saturday at North Allegheny's Newman Stadium. Shane Potter/Butler Eagle 11/11/23

So when Mars senior midfielder Ainsley Ray settled matters with a goal in the 85th minute, the Planets had to feel a good bit of relief along with their sense of accomplishment as they celebrated a 2-1 overtime win at North Allegheny's Newman Stadium.

"This was a one-game season for both teams. It was tough to focus in an environment where there was so much emotion from the players to the fans in the stands," said Planets coach Blair Gerlach of the four cards issued to his team. "I'm proud of our girls for working through that and finding a way to come out on top."

Mars will face Moon, a 1-0 winner over Northern York on Saturday, in a Class 3A semifinal Tuesday at a site and time to be determined.

Ray's winning boot was the first shot on goal by either team in overtime. Brynn Ramsey had played the ball in from the right of Montour goalie Allison Armitage, who was guarding the right post.

"I was right in front of the net," said Ray. "The ball got past the goalie and a defender before it got to me. Seeing that ball go in, it was unbelievable. I wouldn't want to do this with any other group of girls."

Of the second half penalties, Ray said: "We just kept telling each other, 'No more stupid fouls!' We had to focus on winning the game."

Mars (19-1) took an initial lead immediately after its second corner kick of the game. In the 14th minute, Kayleigh Clark began the sequence by playing the ball in from the left of the net. Armitage appeared ready to make a save on a header, but a Mars player was unable to make contact with the shot, which sailed back toward the far side of the net and in for the first goal of the game.

Mars goalkeeper Kate McEnroe had given up just one goal all season in regulation and overtime, but she was unable to stop a shot from Caitlyn Sill in the 31st minute. The opportunity came when the Planets could not clear a free kick from the Spartans (15-4-1) from 40 yards out.

Mars had earned third place in the WPIAL with a 2-0 win over Montour in the district's consolation game Nov. 2.

"They tried to throw a few extra players in the midfield today to match up with our center-backs," said Gerlach. "That left us open to counter to the outside, but we didn't really take advantage of it."

McEnroe stopped six shots and Armitage had three saves.

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