Latrobe girls soccer in position for breakout season

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Monday, September 20, 2021 | 9:03 PM


It’s just about fall, so it’s pumpkin spice season. The Latrobe girls soccer team prefers a different flavor: nutmeg.

Or, at least they prefer the act by that name used in soccer where a player dribbles and kicks a ball through an opponent’s legs — a gotcha move that leaves the defender embarrassed and the kicker grinning.

They’re out to nutmeg each other in practice all the time, this ultra-competitive bunch with skillfulness and big goals.

“Our girls are always at the ready,” Latrobe fifth-year coach Jamie Morrison said. “You have to pay attention in practice for our nutmeg challenge. The girls have fun with it.”

People are starting to pay attention to the Wildcats, too.

Off to their best start since 2009, the team took a 5-0 record into the weekend, a mark that included impressive wins over Norwin (2-1), Upper St. Clair (4-0) and Kiski Area (4-1).

Not that this team has come out of nowhere.

Latrobe was 5-4-1 last year and made the WPIAL playoffs for the first time since 2014. The Wildcats lost to Upper St. Clair in the first round but got even with the Panthers in the season opener this year at the West Mifflin Tournament as they brought back nine starters.

From there, they blanked West Mifflin, 5-0, toppled Kiski Area and stunned Norwin. Latrobe had not beaten Norwin in at least 25 years, a span of no less than 48 games in their section series.

Norwin had not lost a section opener in more than two decades.

“From ninth grade on, we’ve gotten better and better,” Latrobe senior midfielder Morgan Reilly said. “We have a lot of girls who are really dedicated to the sport and there are a lot of cup players. We’ve really learned to play well together, and we’re closer than we were last year.”

With a lineup that is proficient in scheme and oozing with talent, Latrobe has its eye on a section championship, something that has eluded the program since 1972. The team is trying to force a changing of the guard at the top of the section, a place usually inhabited by local powers Norwin and Penn-Trafford.

“It’s doable,” Reilly said. “There is a lot of talent around here. We’re all super-excited to show who we are.”

Latrobe is flat-out dangerous. Playing against the Wildcats should come with a warning: watch your back. They always seem to be one play ahead of opponents, and they show tireless speed and make extra passes — smart passes — for better shots.

“Our girls are hungry to prove themselves,” said Morrison, a Jeannette grad and former soccer standout who played at Penn State. She had over 100 goals in her high school career and led the WPIAL in goals as a senior. “We want to control the pace and look to attack. We’re dangerous and deadly when we do.”

And balanced. Multiple scoring threats, who hail from multiple grades, keep opponents busy.

Center midfielder Maddie Delucio was a strong goal scorer last season, but her graduation has not taken a toll on this team.

Reilly, sophomore striker Regan Reilly and freshman midfielder Robin Reilly — a trio of sisters who see it as a blessing that they can play one season together — along with sophomore midfielder Ella Bulava, and freshman Maddy Petruzzi all can score the ball.

Bulava was a first-team all-section player as a freshman.

Robin Reilly and Petruzzi staked the Wildcats to a 2-0 halftime lead against Norwin. Regan Reilly had a hat trick against West Mifflin.

Senior Claire Gerard also is giving the team quality minutes since returning from a knee injury she sustained last season.

“There is so much technical ability and creativity here,” Morrison said. “We have some really smart players.”

Latrobe has six seniors, five juniors, five sophomores and six freshmen. Morrison likes the freshmen class, which should help feed the program for a multi-year run.

“They all play cup so they are not afraid of the moment,” Morrison said. “We don’t have a feeder program like some of the other schools, so the girls have to go towards Pittsburgh to play.”

While the talent is evident, the midfielders, forwards and defenders play with confidence knowing junior Sofia DeCerb is back at goalkeeper. She suffered a concussion toward the middle of last season and missed a number of games, including the playoff matchup.

“Sofia is a name to (watch),” Morrison said. “She is going to carry on into college soccer. She has the size and strength to be an outstanding keeper.”

The 6-foot keeper who joined a few teammates on a USYA Eastern Regional championship over the summer with the Pittsburgh Hotspurs (2005 Blue U16), is drawing Divison I attention.

In a 3-1 win over Allderdice to move them to 2-0 in section, Regan Reilly, Robin Reilly and Petruzzi all scored, and Regan and Robin Reilly, and Makenna Malone had assists.

With skill in place, the Wildcats have also been sharpening their rally cry skills.

The girls came up with a slogan and pinned it to the wall in the locker room at the Arnold Palmer Field House at Rossi Field.

“No mercy,” Morrison said. “That is their saying. They don’t want to give opponents anything.”

Except maybe the occasional nutmeg.

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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