Despite tiny roster, Yough girls soccer team making plays by the dozen

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Tuesday, October 4, 2022 | 11:01 AM


With substitutions in short supply, Yough tries to conserve and persevere.

Every game, with a defensive-minded approach and their fingers crossed, the Cougars make do with what they have.

Right now, that is 12 players. Eleven starters and one reserve.

A microcosm of their situation: In an impressive, 1-0 overtime win over Penn-Trafford that left many around the WPIAL asking, “How’d they do that?” after freshman goalkeeper Carly Fitzgibbons received a yellow card and had to leave the game for five minutes.

With no true backup for Fitzgibbons, emergency goalie Hannah Wright, a senior defender, took over in net.

“I went in and stopped some shots,” Wright said. “I don’t know if they were saves, but I stopped some shots. We’re just trying to keep up our energy as the season goes on. We’re trying to work together more.”

Penn-Trafford had a heart when it played Yough. The Warriors agreed to play four, 20-minute “quarters” instead of two 40-minute halves, allowing Yough (5-4-1) to catch its collective breath — while its coach still held his.

“I have never seen them come together like that, against such a quality team,” Yough coach Mike Veycheck said of his girls. “We knew we needed to get lucky. P-T played really well. But we only had 12 girls and had just played with 12 the night before against Ligonier Valley. We played 94 minutes with Penn-Trafford.”

Yough started the season with 14 girls, but freshman defender Haley Omasta went down with a knee injury, and junior defender Carli Reisinger is set to have surgery on her knee.

That has left Yough with its untiring 12.

Still, the Cougars have produced six shutouts and have only allowed 13 goals. They are firmly on the doorstep of a WPIAL playoff berth.

“We would love to score more goals,” Veychek said. “Trust me, every girl would like to score more. But our situation has us playing a more defensive game. Based on what we have, we can’t do both.

“I like our morale. It is trending upward.”

While some teams play to their strengths, Yough often is forced to hide its weaknesses.

“We’re not going to dump the ball into the corner and chase it,” he said. “We’re going to get tired and run out of players. It’s nothing conventional we’re doing, but it’s what we have to do.”

Senior Nicky Veychek said the defense-first style is what works best for a team that has the potential to break out and score given the right opportunity.

Robert Morris commit McKenzie Pritts, Kendalyn Umbel and Nicky Veychek make up one of the more talented scoring trios in the WPIAL.

“Playing a lot and not stopping (without a bench) is tough,” Nicky Veycheck said. “We drink a lot of water to avoid cramps. We’re playing a lot more defense than we’d like to. We push everyone up in the last five minutes to try to score.”

Practices also are handled with kid gloves. Preparation is more about creating stress for opponents.

“We work on noncontact foot skills,” coach Veychek said. “We want to get in front of the players’ passing lane and disrupt what they want to do.”

Opposing coaches are empathetic toward the Cougars’ plight but also impressed with how they have handled it.

“When you dip below 18 (players) it starts to get tricky,” Southmoreland coach Josh Pajak said. “Credit them for what they are doing. You also have to keep the players’ spirits up. I know I wouldn’t want to play them (in the playoffs).”

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

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