Despite WPIAL quarterfinal exit, Yough girls soccer proud of season
Monday, November 8, 2021 | 10:36 AM
Yough girls soccer fell short of their ultimate goal in 2021, but coach Dann Appolonia likes the makeup of his team going forward.
The Cougars went 13-4-1 this year, besting Deer Lakes in the WPIAL Class 2A playoffs before losing in the quarterfinals to top-seeded North Catholic, 4-0, on Oct. 30.
“Overall, I was happy with the performance of the team,” Appolonia said. “I would’ve liked to have gone further in the playoffs, reached the semifinals or finals like we have the past couple of years. But overall, I was happy with the season. It was a successful one.”
Yough went 7-2-1 in Section 3-2A, finishing behind champion Southmoreland (8-1-1 in section) and Mt. Pleasant (8-2-0).
The Cougars split their season series with Mt. Pleasant, while playing to a draw and losing, 4-3, to the Scotties.
“The section we’re in was difficult, as it has been for a number of years,” Appolonia added. “We finished in third place, but just a game behind Southmoreland, which won the section. And it was a one-goal difference that decided whether we won the section or tied for third.
“Had we found a way to maybe finish first, our seeding might’ve been different and we might still be playing.”
Southmoreland claimed the No. 2 seed in the Class 2A playoffs. Yough was No. 8.
Even in the loss to North Catholic, Appolonia loved how his team battled throughout the season.
“They fought from the time we started in preseason,” he explained. “They were focused, and they fought to the very end.”
He believes the success of his team started in the back end, with goalkeeper Marin Sleith.
“She just had a fabulous season,” Appolonia said. “She kept us in a number of games when we were struggling and made outstanding saves. Defensively, it started with her.”
Sleith, a senior committed to Edinboro, was able to get some help from a strong back line that included an all-section pick in senior Makayla Dixon and junior Hannah Wright in the middle, and senior Tressa Kibel and junior Emily Stephan on the outside.
“As the year went along, they just continued to improve,” Appolonia added.
In the midfield, all-section selection Hannah Biros and fellow senior Dakota Cross controlled the inside of the pitch, while Nicole Veychek and Haley Lauffer worked the flanks.
But the team was perhaps strongest up front All-WPIAL selections in Robert Morris commit McKenzie Pritts and freshman Kendalyn Umbel.
Pritts, a junior, scored 26 goals and Umbel added 18.
“They really did a great job finishing goals for us and setting each other up,” Appolonia said.
Despite Pritts and Umbel set to return, the Cougars will lose six seniors, so there will be some notable voids to be filled.
“Always sad to see girls go, but they leave with their heads held high and should be proud of what they did,” Appolonia said. “They laid the groundwork for future years to come.”
The Cougars have established some lofty standards in the past couple of seasons. The team reached the semifinals last year and the WPIAL 2A title game in 2019.
To continue being a championship-caliber team, Appolonia believes continuing the offseason path already fortified within his players will be key.
“Going forward, it’s all about continuing to get better as individual players,” Appolonia said. “We’ve always prided ourselves on being a team that’s able to possess the ball, control and dictate the flow of games.”
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