Mt. Pleasant girls soccer expects to make major strides this season

Sunday, August 25, 2019 | 8:33 PM

Last season was an adventure for Mt. Pleasant’s girls soccer team.

After dropping to Class AA, the Vikings faced a new set of section opponents. The march through Section 3 wasn’t easy, either, as the team finished in fifth at 7-7 and missed the postseason.

With nine starters returning, Mt. Pleasant is looking to gain traction in the section this season.

“The girls are up for the challenge. We knew last year was going to be challenging,” Mt. Pleasant coach Josh Pajak said. “Even though we dropped to Double-A, it’s a tough section with a lot of top-notch players. It’s the same way this year. South Park is a perennial powerhouse. Brownsville has talented players just like Waynesburg and Yough.”

South Park won the WPIAL title last year and reached the PIAA semifinal. Brownsville, Waynesburg and Yough all finished ahead of Mt. Pleasant and reached the playoffs. The tough section doesn’t deter the Vikings, though.

“We’re always up for the challenge,” Mt. Pleasant senior Megan Liberoni said. “We’re all determined to get back to the playoffs. With the talent of the underclassmen and experience of the upperclassmen, we feel we have a good shot.”

Juniors Mackenzie Leeder and Brooke Ulery join sophomore Carsyn Rivardo and Liberoni on the attack. Liberoni will play at Pitt-Greensburg next year. Leeder is a Duquesne commit, and Ulery will play at Cleveland State.

“There are a lot of returning players who have definitely improved and are ready to help us take the next step,” Pajak said.

Ashton Clark returns to the midfield, and Rivardo could be on the outside or move up to forward. Junior Hannah Zimmerman, a Latrobe transfer, can play in the middle or move to defense. Center back Ashley Mullen and outside backs Hanna Gesinski and Alexia Stanek return to the defense. Junior defender Courtney Poulich is recovering from a hamstring injury in softball and will miss the season.

“Our defense has a lot of experience,” Liberoni said. “I think we can be a good counterattack team, if needed. We have a lot of talent up front with our offense.”

Sophomore Jenna Piper and freshman Tiffany Zelmore could see time at goalkeeper.

“Last year, we had a lot of inexperience there, and Jenna shared some time,” Pajak said. “We went from being inexperienced at that spot to having two pretty strong keepers. I think that’ll be a big difference for us this year.”

The preseason has been productive for Mt. Pleasant.

“I think everyone is improving. I am really excited about this season,” Liberoni said.

“I really like the work ethic I’ve seen here. I think we’ll be able to hold the ball more this year rather than just counterattacking a lot like we did last year,” Pajak said. “I think the girls are excited to play in such a strong section. They understand they have to come ready to play every day. We’re looking forward to the challenge of playing those tough teams.

I think we have a talented squad, but there is a lot of talent in that section, so we have to come together as a team. We need all 11 players on the field to be strong and the role players coming off bench to be strong players as well.”

Joe Sager is a freelance writer.


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