Despite heavy graduation losses, Plum girls soccer off to strong start in section play

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Sunday, September 17, 2023 | 11:01 AM


With new starters all over the field and other younger players getting their first taste of varsity experience, Plum girls soccer coach Jamie Stewart said he likes what he has seen out of his players in the early going as they hope to build off a strong start both in and out of Section 3-3A play.

“We had a lot of things we had to work out as a team, losing eight starters, and we worked hard in the preseason to do that,” Stewart said.

“We were figuring things out with some players logging more minutes and things like that. It’s been good to get out there and play. We got our feet under us with nice wins over Gateway (6-0) and Greensburg-Salem (8-0). There is still a ways to go and a lot to get cleaned up, but that is all a part of the fun of going through the season.”

The Mustangs entered a section clash Monday at Franklin Regional 4-0-1 overall and 4-0 in the section.

Plum continues a stringent week of section action Thursday with Penn-Trafford at home.

Stewart said these games will tell a lot about where his team stands heading into the second half of the section slate.

A key victory in the opening stretch was a 3-2 triumph at Latrobe on Sept. 6. The Wildcats, runners up to Plum in the section last year and the only team to put a blemish on the Mustangs’ section record, pushed the visitors to the limit in the first of two meetings between the teams.

Plum led 3-1 before Latrobe scored with roughly five minutes left and pressed to get the tying goal.

Senior midfielder Ava Weleski scored a goal and added an assist in the win.

“It was just a great battle between two good teams,” Stewart said.

“Latrobe can score so quickly. We did what we needed to do to keep them at bay enough. I was really impressed with our offense. We scored some really nice goals and had some other good opportunities and also made some defensive stops when we need them the most.”

Stewart said he was grateful for a good early-season test against a Montour team Plum was familiar with from their WPIAL Class 3A quarterfinal meeting last year. The Sept. 9 game went to overtime before ending in a 3-3 tie. Weleski again scored a goal and provided an assist, while junior Rayla Smith recorded a pair of goals.

“We learned a lot that game,” Stewart said.

Montour is a very talented team. We were down twice and fought back. The way we responded to adversity was what I was most proud of.”

Weleski has come out of the gate strong with nine goals and six assists.

“Ava is happy to score the goals, but she also is really good at setting up everyone else,” Stewart said.

“She doesn’t care who scores. She just wants to win.”

Michael Love is a TribLive reporter covering sports in the Alle-Kiski Valley and the eastern suburbs of Pittsburgh. A Clearfield native and a graduate of Westminster (Pa.), he joined the Trib in 2002 after spending five years at the Clearfield Progress. He can be reached at mlove@triblive.com.

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