Monessen softball team will play under another new coach

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Sunday, March 15, 2020 | 8:19 PM


For the second time in as many seasons, the Monessen softball team has a new coach.

After Bo Teets’ nine-year tenure, which brought two WPIAL championship appearances, Cal (Pa.) and Seton Hill graduate Carlee Wickstrom took over for one season before resigning in the offseason and accepting a teaching position in the Trinity school district.

After an interview process, which included six candidates, Wickstrom’s assistant from last year, Mia Emiliani was hired as her predecessor last November.

“There’s a lot of mixed emotions because I really enjoyed my partnership (with Wickstrom) last year, and I was looking forward to building the program with her,” Emiliani said.

“So when she told me she was going to leave, and the position got posted, I knew I wanted to stay with the program one way or another.”

Emiliani, who is a Monessen math teacher, played softball throughout high school at West Scranton, Class of 2011, but decided to forgo her playing career to focus on academics at West Chester University.

Last season was her first year as a coach on the high school level.

“I really enjoy being around the girls and being around the sport again, so it was a no-brainer for me to apply for the job,” she said. “I’m still using the techniques that we used last year as well as putting my own spin on certain things.”

Emiliani is taking over a program that last missed the playoffs in 2013-14 but finished 6-10 overall last season before being ousted in the first round of the WPIAL playoffs by Sewickley Academy, 5-4.

Top returning players include junior pitcher and infielder Hannah Yorty, sophomore infielder Kendelle Weston and senior second baseman Qitarah Hardison.

“Hardison is a senior this year, but last year was her first season with the team,” Emiliani said. “Sophomore catcher Loni Scott has improved a lot behind the plate after starting last season at third base, but eventually switched positions with senior Sasha Kenney at catcher.

“She improved so much, we are keeping her there.”

Along with Scott return outfielders Gracie Zizis and Rayne Winston as well Tatyana Vanhooser. Vanhooser and junior shortstop Sydney Caterino left the team before the end of last season but have rejoined.

Along with assistant coaches Brandon Yorty and Donny Caterino, Emiliani started preseason workouts with conditioning in January, transitioning to hitting and fielding by the end of the month, which led to the players honing the craft of their positions to close out February.

“One of my goals this year is to improve our hitting,” Emiliani said. “Last year, we improved as the season went on, this year, I wanted to hit the ground running.

“We were ready to go (by March 2 after completing winter workouts) and had an idea of where they would be playing. We try to find the best position, not only for each player, but for the team as well.”

So far, Yorty is the lone pitcher, but Emiliani said another arm can emerge at some point during the season.

Yorty, who has received some interest at the collegiate level according to her coach, is a key cog in the batting lineup along with Caterino, Scott and Weston.

“Hannah has a lot of movement on the ball, and she’s been improving her pitching over the past year,” Emiliani said of her ace. “Offensively, (Caterino, Scott, Weston and Yorty) are pretty spot on. I want to see what they can bring to the table this year, all playing together for the first time.”

Robert Scott III is a Tribune-Review contributing writer.

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