A-K Valley athletes of the week: Leechburg’s Braiden Turiak, Plum’s Rayla Smith

Saturday, May 13, 2023 | 5:06 PM

Rayla Smith

Class: Junior

School: Plum

Sport: Lacrosse

Report card: Midfielder Rayla Smith scored seven goals and added an assist Monday in an 18-10 victory over North Hills. On Wednesday, she had five goals and four assists in helping the Mustangs to a 15-4 victory over Ellis School. She broke the school record for career goals with 181, surpassing 2019 grad Sam Casile’s mark of 179. The Mustangs (14-3 overall) went undefeated at 11-0 in Section 1-2A and earned the No. 2 seed for the WPIAL playoffs.

How did it feel to set the school record for career goals this week?

It felt really good. I didn’t know what the record was at first until someone told me. I was really happy to achieve that goal, even as a junior.

What did it take to accomplish that?

It’s not just me who was able to accomplish that. My teammates always pass me the ball and give me assists. It also took a lot of hard work. My teammates played a big role in getting me the ball.

What’s the most goals you had in a game?

I think seven. I had seven against North Hills.

What are some things the team is doing well heading into the playoffs?

I think we’re all working together really well. Over the past couple years, we haven’t been doing that as much. This year, We’ve worked together. It helped us win the section for the first time ever. Everyone is playing really well and taking every game serious and working hard.

What are the team’s goals for the postseason?

Be able to keep winning. We’ve never been to the semifinals, so just getting farther and farther is what everyone wants to do.

What will it take to advance?

We have to play really good defense. Our offense, we have to get the ball to the midfield and win the draw and get on offense.

How did you get started in lacrosse?

I used play baseball and softball up until fourth grade. I started to not like it. My dad heard about lacrosse. I went to a high school clinic and liked it. I started in fourth grade.

Are you involved in any other activities at Plum?

I also play soccer and basketball. I really like lacrosse. It’s probably my favorite. Playing all sports helps me with the others. I’m always in shape. It’s easy to go from one sport to the next.

Have you thought about playing at the next level?

I do want to play lacrosse in college. I’ve been emailing places, and I’m planning to go camps.

Do you have a dream car to own?

A Corvette.

What’s your favorite home-cooked meal?

I really like my mom’s pork chops.

What celebrities would you like to have dinner with?

I really like some things that Zendaya is in and Adam Sandler because he’s really funny.

What’s your favorite show to stream?

Either “Euphoria” or “Criminal Minds.”

What’s something people might not know about you?

I have a sister (Malayna) who also plays all three sports with me. She’s a freshman.

Braiden Turiak

Class: Senior

School: Leechburg

Sport: Baseball

Report card: Second baseman Braiden Turiak hit a double and the go-ahead RBI single in the bottom of the sixth inning to give the Blue Devils a 6-5 win over Rochester in the Section 2-A finale Thursday afternoon. The win helped Leechburg (13-4, 10-2) finish second in Section 2 and lock up the No. 3 seed for the WPIAL playoffs. The Blue Devils have a bye in the first round and will play the winner of Bishop Canevin and Western Beaver in the quarterfinals. Also a member of Leechburg’s soccer team, Turiak is batting .390 this season with a .526 on-base percentage and 16 RBIs. On the mound, he has a 2.15 ERA in eight appearances.

How did the team play against Rochester this week?

I think we played great. We really held it down on defense. Our outfield, with Logan Kline and Jayden Floyd, Chase Henry made a really nice play at Rochester. Our pitching, Owen McDermott really held it down. Chase Henry did really great on the bump. Our defense really held up. Our offense was pretty good, too. All nine of us were hitting really well this week.

What is the overall mood of the team heading into the WPIAL playoffs?

We’re really excited. We’re really confident in our abilities. We’ve been hot for a while now, and all of us want to keep that confidence in the playoffs.

What are your goals for the postseason?

Take it one game at a time and do our jobs and win. I think that as we go into the postseason, we just want to take one game at a time and do our best as we prepare. The goal is just to win and take it one game at a time.

What will it take to advance?

First, just playing as a team. Keeping energy levels high. Keeping everyone’s heads high. That team chemistry and playing as a team really helps in the playoffs. Building off the team chemistry and when energy is high is when everyone plays their best individually, as well.

What’s been the key to the team’s success to this point?

Just building off each other. Timely hitting. Once one person gets on base, it’s like a chain reaction. Everyone starts hitting, just one hit after another. That really has helped us put runs on the board. And our defense, if one player makes a nice play, everyone gets excited. That person wants the ball next to make a play of their own.

Who is the toughest pitcher you’ve faced?

John Hughes (from Springdale). He has a really nice fastball and can locate his other pitches well.

What type of mentality do you have at the plate?

I like to be aggressive. I like to be up and in in the box and challenge the pitcher’s fastball. I look fastball first pitch and adjust to the curve. I personally like fastballs, but I know I have the ability to adjust to the curve.

How did you get started in baseball?

I’ve been playing as long as I can remember. I think my dad and my grandpa are the two biggest factors in my staying with the game past T-ball. They brought me to every game and kept me going.

Do you have plans for next fall?

I’m going to Slippery Rock University to major in special education and history. I might walk on to the Slippery Rock baseball team but as of now I’m undecided.

Do you have a dream car to own?

Definitely a Corvette. My uncle drove one. And seeing him driving that around made me want one.

What’s your favorite home-cooked meal?

My grandma’s spaghetti. She makes the best sauces.

What celebrities would you like to have dinner with?

Andrew McCutchen, Mike Trout and Ryan Reynolds.

What’s your favorite show to stream?

“Stranger Things.”

What’s something people might not know about you?

I have extra sweat glands in my hands. I’ve adjusted, just picking up dirt between pitches and drying my hands off with the dirt.

Bill Hartlep is the TribLive sports editor. A Pittsburgh native and Point Park graduate, he joined the Trib in 2004, covering high school sports. He held various editing roles before assuming his current position in 2019. He can be reached at bhartlep@triblive.com.

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