Appolonia leads Yough past Highlands in WPIAL girls soccer playoffs

Monday, October 21, 2019 | 8:09 PM

A lot has been made of the Yough girls soccer team’s high-octane offensive skills.

The Cougars can find the net with the best of them.

But coach Dann Appolonia will be the first to say it all starts with defense.

“Our defense was very strong, and that’s what we need to happen,” the coach said. “What they do enables our offense to feed off the ball. That led to a lot of what we did tonight.”

Defensive play jump-started an offensive barrage in the first round of the WPIAL Class AA playoffs as No. 5 Yough dumped No. 12 Highlands, 10-1, on Monday night at Penn-Trafford.

“Soccer is a team sport,” said senior Justine Appolonia, who had a first-half hat trick and two assists for the Cougars. “The defense gave us so many chances by getting the ball out of the back.”

Appolonia, a Youngstown State commit, has 32 goals for the season and 117 for her career — a Yough record.

Yough (15-1-1) advanced to play No. 4 Burrell (17-0) in the quarterfinals for the third straight year, Thursday at a time and site to be determined.

No. 12 seeded Highlands is finished at 5-10.

“That is the not the team we are,” Highlands coach Jenna Plummer said. “We weren’t ourselves. We were a lot slower than we’ve been. I think if we play like we’re capable of, we can play with this team.”

Highlands had three shots on goal, the first coming late in the first half.

Hadley Sleith added two goals for Yough, which took a 9-0 lead into the break.

“We tried to get the ball up top,” Sleith said. “Once we did that, we could play our game.”

Yough’s other goals came from Hannah Biros, who got credit for an own goal by Highlands, Natalie Vilchek, Gianna Appolonia and Jenna Leukhardt.

“We have a very balanced team,” Dann Appolonia said. “I like their overall abilities. They are more balanced than any team I had in the past.”

Mykaela Palermo scored for Highlands, which hadn’t been to the postseason since 2016, at 8:48 to play in the second half.

Justine Appolonia is looking forward to another Burrell rematch.

“It’s been nerve-racking the last couple years, especially last year,” she said. “We beat them (two years ago), so why can’t it be our turn again?”

Bill Beckner Jr. is a Tribune-Review Staff Writer. You can contact Bill by email at or via Twitter .

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