Injury to Cernuto mars Southmoreland’s 2-1 win over Yough

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Monday, September 12, 2022 | 9:52 PM


Moments after a loud, happy celebration — screams and claps to applaud two goals in a row — a subdued hush fell over the crowd at Russ Grimm Field.

Even the crickets that chirped all night seemed to stop for a few seconds.

Public address announcer Paul Britton, who went quiet on the mic, said you could hear a pin drop.

Southmoreland soccer standout Olivia Cernuto, who was honored before the game for recently scoring her 100th career goal, went down with a lower-body injury with 23 minutes remaining Monday night and did not return.

An emotional, hard-fought win over visiting Yough came with a price.

Instead of rejoining her teammates in a 2-1, Section 3-2A victory, Cernuto was helped off the field, carted to her family’s vehicle and reportedly taken to a hospital.

The cheers for two quick goals subsided quickly. Silence blanketed the stadium when Cernuto fell to the turf after a collision with Yough junior Kendalyn Umbel in the penalty box with about 23 minutes remaining.

“We still had 22 minutes to play,” said Scotties senior midfielder Kendall Fabery, who scored both goals, one on an assist from Cernuto. “We were on such a high. I have been friends with Liv forever. You don’t want to see that happen to anyone, let alone her.”

Southmoreland coach Josh Pajak carried Cernuto off the field. He did not want to speculate about the nature of the injury after the game.

“It was tough to see,” Pajak said. “She was crying and in pain. We needed some other girls to step up and rally around what happened. We’re hoping for the best.”

The No. 2-ranked Scotties improved to 5-0, 2-0, and Yough fell to 2-2, 1-1.

Cernuto came in with 18 goals this season and 100 for her career. The three-sport standout is a Gannon basketball commit.

“You’re just heartbroken to see something like that happen to any player,” Yough first-year coach Mike Veychek said. “We’re hoping she is all right.”

Yough, which continues to overcome depth issues — the team has 13 players — and remains a playoff contender under Veychek, took a 1-0 lead into halftime.

The Cougars caught the Scotties off guard six minutes in when Umbel, who moved from midfield to the back line, helped to set up junior defender Milan Sudaric, who worked a short-range shot past senior keeper Lilly Wasmund for a 1-0 lead.

“Our gameplan was to play a more defensive first half,” Veychek said.

“We needed to do a better job of moving to the ball in the second half. After the second goal, we pushed more up top. They really had the momentum after (Cernuto’s injury). “

The Scotties found a spark in the second half, scoring two goals in less than a minute to take a 2-1 lead.

Cernuto touched off to Fabery, who rattled a shot into the cage with 26:05 to play.

“You have two fantastic players in McKenzie Pritts and Umbel,” Pajak said. “We knew this game wasn’t over.”

Shortly after, Fabery took another feed, this one from freshman Mylee Street in close and connected to make it 2-1 in the 55th minute.

“They pulled their center backs out, and I was there (to finish),” Fabery said.

Fabery was playing through the pain of a bruised lower abdomen. She said she had planned to play only a half but decided to stay in the game.

Pajak moved her around to try to create more opportunities.

“These games against teams like Yough and Mt. Pleasant, they are tough,” Fabery said. “But we got the win.”

Cernuto took possession and was about to square up to the goal from just inside the penalty box, but Umbel bumped into Cernuto, resulting in a penalty kick. Cernuto, though, could not take the shot as she lay on the turf for about eight minutes while the training staff tended to her.

Southmoreland had six shots in the first half but could not get anything past Yough freshman goalkeeper Carly Fitzgibbons, who finished with 12 saves. She even turned away the penalty kick by the Scotties’ Kylie Queer, which followed Cernuto’s injury.

Cernuto, who rarely is held scoreless — this game because of more than Yough’s defense — broke loose and sprinted ahead of the Cougars’ back line in the 30th minute, but her 10-yard shot was clutched by Fitzgibbons to preserve the one-goal advantage.

Bill Beckner Jr. is a TribLive reporter covering local sports in Westmoreland County. He can be reached at bbeckner@triblive.com.

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