Highlands turns to familiar face to lead girls soccer program

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Friday, July 23, 2021 | 3:36 PM


Paul Matisz was hired last week as coach of the girls soccer program at Highlands. There was no need for an introduction to the Golden Rams players.

As an assistant under former coach Jenna Plummer the past two seasons and also deeply involved with the Highlands Area Soccer Club, Matisz knows the players well.

“I’ve coached all of these girls at some point at different levels,” said Matisz, the director of player development at HASC. “I feel I have a good connection with them. I know how they play, and I enjoy working with them to develop a gameplan.”

Plummer stepped down in the spring after three years at the helm. She now works as an assistant coach at Seneca Valley under Mark Perry.

“It was tough losing Jenna, but we know we have to build off of what she gave us and keep moving forward,” Matisz said. “The girls kept asking if I was the new coach. I kept telling them that there is a process that has to be done. Luckily, it worked out. I like being a part of this school and this athletic program. It’s a good group of kids who want to win, and I want to work hard for them to give them the best chance to win.”

With Plummer and Matisz, Highlands earned a spot in the 2019 WPIAL Class 2A playoffs. Last year, as covid toyed with the fall seasons for a number of high school sports, injuries and low numbers conspired against the Golden Rams, who went 0-9 overall and in section play.

“We were in a bind right off the bat,” Matisz said. “We had to cancel some games, but the girls made it through. The girls learned through adversity, and they, I think, are better off from those experiences so they know what they need to do to build the program. Now they are excited to see what they can do this year.”

Only one player graduated from last year’s team, and Matisz said a spring’s worth of club workouts and games helped the returning players see the potential for the team in 2021.

Voluntary workouts ramped up this week.

“Coach (Matisz) is familiar with us, and we know him, so we didn’t have to go through all that with introducing ourselves,” rising junior Alana Settnek said. “We didn’t have to worry about having to learn a ton of new things and waste time with that. There are a couple of new things, but we can use them to help build on what we already know to get ready for the new season.”

Preseason camp practices begin Aug. 16 and will lead to, along with a couple of scrimmages, a season-opening tournament at Golden Rams Stadium on Labor Day weekend.

“I am really excited for the energy the girls have for getting ready for the season,” Matisz said. “We’re getting good numbers here this summer. We had 11 here the other night, and that is good for voluntary summer training. They want to be here and learn.

”I feel confident that we can do something different than last year and make positive things happen. It’s a process. We want to build on good attitudes and work hard. That’s when the wins will come.”

Michael Love is a Tribune-Review Staff Writer. You can contact Michael by email at mlove@triblive.com or via Twitter .

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