2-sport athletes key to success of Westmoreland County boys soccer playoff teams

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Thursday, October 20, 2022 | 11:01 AM


Robbie Labuda threw his gym bag in the car, and off he went. An hour drive to McGuffey for a soccer game awaited.

The Mt. Pleasant senior barely had time to get his football cleats off after practice, but once he did, his foot was planted on the gas pedal.

The dual-sport athlete had to hustle.

“Football ended at 6. (Soccer started at 7:30),” Labuda said. “I barely made it on time.”

Labuda is one of several local athletes who are playing two sports during this fall season.

They are primed to give a full-time effort to a soccer playoff run, however, when the WPIAL postseason begins this weekend.

Other two-sport athletes include:

• Jake Kimmich, a senior at Franklin Regional (13-4) who, when he is not sending through balls back at opposing attacks, is hitting fairways and greens for the golf team.

Panthers’ sophomore Joey Bayne is a key member of the soccer team, and kicks for the football team.

• Freshman Jordan Mocello also split time between soccer and golf at Belle Vernon (13-3). He helped the golf team to a second-place in the WPIAL in Class 2A, its best-ever finish. He is a forward/defender for the soccer team.

Penn-Trafford (9-8-1) has senior Logan Swartz, who doubles as a kicker for the Warriors’ football team.

• Same goes for Burrell junior Ryan Croushore, a goalkeeper and placekicker for the Bucs. The Bucs (14-3) made the playoffs in their first season in Class A.

• Senior Wade Boyle and freshman Cole Zubaty of Greensburg Central Catholic (13-1) also play golf. Wade will be on two playoff teams. The golf team made the WPIAL finals and the Centurions were primed for a low seed in soccer.

Labuda is a unique case because he is a running back — the leading rusher in Westmoreland County, in fact, with more than 1,000 yards — not a kicker, the traditional position for soccer players.

“The biggest challenge is making time for school and other activities while going to practices and games for both,” Labuda said. “The recovery time is a little different, but I try to do everything I can to keep my legs ready and avoid injuries.”

Labuda, a long-time club player who is hoping to qualify for the playoffs in soccer and football, said two sports have been part of his yearly routine for years. It is what he knows — and loves.

“I’ve played both from a young age and really enjoy them, so it’s hard not to play both,” Labuda said. “What really drives me is playing alongside all the people I’ve played with for so long.”

Mt. Pleasant soccer coach Floyd Snyder half-jokingly said he wanted to hide Labuda until the playoffs. That now seems impossible with more film out on the Class 2A Vikings (8-7-2) and No. 17 such a key piece to the attack.

Kimmich showed his dual-allegiance in a recent soccer match. He scored a goal and proceeded to recognize his other favorite sport with a golf-swing celebration.

He air-swung and held the follow-through, watching an imaginary golf ball soar toward the parking lot as a real soccer ball bounced into the twine.

“I definitely had that in mind beforehand,” Kimmich said. “I was talking with Sam Dawson before the game and was like, ‘If I score, I’m going to do that celebration.’ I actually almost forgot when I scored, but Sam reminded me.”

Kimmich’s brother, Luke, also played soccer and golf for the Panthers. He continues to do both at Grove City, where Jake plans to go to college. He may, however, just play soccer for the Wolverines.

With Franklin Regional’s golf season finished, soccer becomes the priority for Kimmich.

“It was exhausting doing two sports, but it was worth it,” he said. “I would leave school and get home, eat and change, then head over to the golf course for a match. As soon as that was done, I would either head to soccer practice or a game. I had to miss some golf matches during the season because soccer interfered, but both of my coaches for soccer and golf were very understanding with my situation.

“All the mindset is definitely now on soccer hoping to make a long playoff run.”

Mocello is part of a young Belle Vernon soccer team that, like the golf team, won a section title.

“He’s dedicated and determined to get better,” Leopards soccer coach Al Yeschenko said. “He often shows up to soccer practice in his golf gear, changes, and he’s on the field in seconds.

“I see him as a major part of our future success.”

Swartz has scored a hat trick on a Thursday and kicked a field goal and several extra points on a Friday night.

“He has a tremendous work ethic and he is an excellent student athlete,” Penn-Trafford soccer coach Sotiri Tsourekis said. “He is a young man of few words, a quiet leader, expressing himself on the soccer field with a high level of skill and creativity.”

Bill Beckner Jr. is a TribLive reporter covering local sports in Westmoreland County. He can be reached at bbeckner@triblive.com.

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