Top-Seeded Panthers Edge Tigers In WPIAL Quarterfinals

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by Dave Floyd

Despite an early lead and valiant defensive effort throughout, the North Allegheny boys soccer team fell to top-seeded Upper St. Clair Tuesday night in the WPIAL quarterfinals. The undefeated Panthers scored a goal with less than 10 minutes remaining to secure a 2-1 victory and a spot in Monday’s semifinals.

North Allegheny finished the season with an overall record of 10-8-2 and its appearance in the WPIAL quarters since 2005.

The eighth-seeded Tigers started the contest about as well as they could have hoped, notching the game’s first goal in only the eighth minute. A Panthers defender pulled down Tigers freshman Josh Luchini about 30 yards from the Upper St. Clair goal, but because North Allegheny senior Steve Binnig possessed the ball with a clear advantage, the referee allowed play to continue. Binnig capitalized, rifling a shot from just outside the top left corner of the 18-yard box into the top right corner of the net.

Just 6:01 later, however, Upper St. Clair responded, showing why it is the top seed in Class AAA. Panthers senior Garrett Blake took the ball near the top left corner of the 18-yard box, beat two North Allegheny defenders and buried a shot in the bottom right corner of the net to tie the game at one.

Throughout the rest of the first half and much of the second, North Allegheny faced an unrelenting Upper St. Clair attack. Unofficially for the game, the Panthers held a 28-5 advantage in shots, yet the Tigers defense and senior goalkeeper Luke Nolan stood tall. For his stellar performance in net, Nolan earned the honor of Wright Automotive Player of the Game.

For a moment, it seemed as if the Tigers were going to be rewarded for their effort on the defensive end. With just over 10 minutes remaining, Luchini somehow found himself behind the Panthers defense. Luchini, who scored two goals in North Allegheny’s first-round win over Allderdice, angled in on the Upper St. Clair goalkeeper from the right side. When he reached the edge of the six-yard box, he took a shot, but it skipped just inches wide to the left of the net.

Then, with 7:29 left to play in regulation, Upper St. Clair sophomore Stefano Paolina played a cross into senior Doug Hapeman who headed it in to give the Panthers a lead they would never relinquish.

Upper St. Clair now moves on to face 12th-seeded Butler, who upset fourth-seeded and Section 2 foe Seneca Valley in overtime.

Boys Soccer Summary vs. Upper St. Clair, 10-23-14

North Allegheny101
Upper St. Clair112