Chartiers Valley entered the WPIAL 3A soccer playoffs on a hot streak and completed the quest for its first district title in 15 years by winning its 12th straight game, defeating Mars, 1-0, at Highmark Stadium on Saturday night.
Five minutes into the second half, Chartiers Valley (17-4-0) broke a scoreless tie on an unlikely goal from distance that caught the Planets off guard. Jimmy Boyle‘s low shot from 40 yards slid through the Mars (16-4-1) back line, freezing Mars goalkeeper Emin Diren in the center of the goal box as the ball rolled into the right side of the goal to give the Colts the 1-0 lead that would hold up.
“We battled so hard all year, to see our kids lift that trophy, there’s nothing like it,” said Garrett McKenzie, who helped lead the Colts to WPIAL title in 2001 as a player when they had a similar 1-0 win over Fox Chapel. “It was an identical goal as 15 years ago. From more than 30 yards out. At first your saying, ‘why are you shooting it?’ And then it goes in, and everyone is jumping up and down.”
For Mars, it was a tough pill to swallow.
“It was a breakdown in communication,” said Chris Knauff, Mars Head Coach “The keeper thought the defense had it, and the defense thought he had it. Emin kept us in the game all night long, and that happened to be an unfortunate play for us.”
Indeed, Diren did everything he could to keep the Planets in a game that saw Chartiers Valley’s attack create quality scoring chances for the better part of 80 minutes.
“They’re fast, athletic and have great skill,” said Knauff. “They have a really good team and put a lot of pressure on our defense all game.”
Diren came up with a few big saves along with some help from his back line mates to keep the game scoreless.
In the 18th minute, Colts midfielder Sean Tinney shot over Diren, but three defenders scrambled to keep a multiple-deflected ball out of the goal.
Then, in the 37th minute, Diren had to make two saves in the same sequence that began with a Tinney free kick. Diven saved a solid header by Nate Wood, then a quick rebound shot attempt.
Mars had a few decent chances to find the equalizer in the second half, as Caleb Brake’s shot from 22 yards was stopped by Colts keeper Caleb Zajicek.
The Planets drew a foul just outside the right side of the box and had a dangerous free kick opportunity in the 68th minute, but Zane Mundy’s ball toward the near post was headed away by Josh Dimatteo.
Chartiers Valley kept pushing forward, limiting Mars opportunities to mount a comeback in the late stages, as the Colts hung on for the shutout win.
This was Chartiers Valley’s fifth overall WPIAL title, while Mars fell in the final for the second consecutive year as they were trying to win their first district crown since 2009.
“Our defense doesn’t get enough credit. Lot of credit to our defenders, they played hard and shut out a really good team.” said McKenzie. “To get on a run like we have, and to finish with 12 wins in a row. What a time to do that. It’s awesome.”