‘Essential’ midfielders drive Mt. Pleasant boys soccer team

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Wednesday, September 21, 2022 | 8:14 PM


Opponents sometimes get lost in the triangle. The Mt. Pleasant boys soccer triangle.

Junior Luke Rivardo, senior Dylan Donitzen and junior Chase McCoy make up a midfield that can leave teams rearranging their defenders and altering their gameplan to combat the three-sided unit.

The trio has helped the young Vikings (6-3-1, 6-1-1 Section 3-2A) compete for a section title and become WPIAL playoff contenders.

“They are our three essentials,” coach Floyd Snyder said.

Rivardo makes things go for the Vikings offense. He handles set pieces to set up teammates in front of the net but also is one of the main scoring threats, along with senior forward Robbie Labuda, who also plays for the football team.

“Luke is the linchpin to the whole thing,” Snyder said. “The (midfielders) can take space away in side-to-side possessions as much as possible.”

Snyder teaches seventh grade science, so finding the right mix comes naturally to his thought process.

McGuffey played six defenders in the back against Mt. Pleasant in a game the Vikings won 3-0.

While a 2-0 loss to first-place Belle Vernon (8-2, 7-1) and 1-1 tie with Waynesburg (1-6-2, 1-5-2) followed, Mt. Pleasant continued to gain confidence in its mostly underclass lineup that has dealt with injuries without flinching much.

There have been times this year when the Vikings have started no seniors.

Junior defender Austin Ulery is another key component in the lineup, as is sophomore Ayden Gross, who also plays on the golf team.

The Vikings, who have had seven goal scorers so far, like to generate offense from outside in — the wings to the midfield.

“The thing is, we’re young, but these guys have experience from last year,” Snyder said. “They have been playing from such a young age. This group reminds me of our (2017 team) that went to the semifinals in the way they play together.”

The ’17 team won the program’s first first-round playoff game since 2001 before losing in the quarterfinals.

Labuda could be the secret weapon the team needs to make a run in the postseason.

“He’s no secret,” Snyder said.

The hashtag around campus is #RowVikes. Labuda probably will have an oar in his hands the deeper the team goes into the season.

The Vikings have used Labuda somewhat sparingly so he doesn’t burn too much tread for football, where he is the leading rusher.

He has played in the second half of most games but played about 60 minutes against Belle Vernon.

Thanks to a sharing-is-caring policy between his coaches, Labuda has found ways to bounce between football and soccer practices and games.

The 6-foot-3 Labuda, who also plays basketball and runs track, plays cup soccer for the Pittsburgh Riverhounds Academy, which speaks to his seriousness in the game.

“He can do a lot of things for us,” Snyder said.

Mt. Pleasant has made the playoffs seven times in the last nine years and reached the WPIAL semifinals two years ago before falling to Deer Lakes to finish 13-2.

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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