Mt. Pleasant girls soccer team makes good on vow to do something ‘special’

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Monday, November 14, 2022 | 8:09 PM


At the start of the playoffs, coach Rich Garland posed a question to his girls soccer players at Mt. Pleasant.

“I said, ‘Do you want to just play, or do you want to do something special?’ ” the coach said Monday night as he oversaw a low-key practice in 33-degree weather under the lights at Vikings Stadium. “The girls had a players-only meeting. They decided they wanted to do something special.”

Mt. Pleasant makes program history every time it takes the field because no Lady Vikings team has made it this far in the state postseason.

Little seems to bother this team. Players seemed loose and giddy in the cold night air Monday.

Fort LeBoeuf played physical and tried to out-muscle the Lady Vikings in Saturday’s semifinal.

“I loved it,” Mt. Pleasant sophomore forward Rylin Bugosh said.

Mt. Pleasant (21-2) will carry on its “special” season when it takes on District 10 runner-up General McLane (15-5-1) in the PIAA Class 2A semifinals at 7 p.m. Wednesday at Slippery Rock High School.

Garland faced an unknown when he initially issued the “special” question. Now a season of unknowns continues for the Lady Vikings, who have been undeterred, despite their underclass-infused lineup and lack of postseason experience.

The team has no idea what to expect in the semis. Think that matters to this group?

“Everyone has handled the pressure. It hasn’t gotten to anyone,” Bugosh said. “We know any game, any day, anything can happen. It just depends on who shows up and who wants it more.”

Like Mt. Pleasant, General McLane never has been to the state final four.

The Lancers knocked WPIAL champion — and 2021 state runner-up — Avonworth out of the state playoffs with a 5-1 win in the semifinals.

“We don’t really think about (Avonworth’s loss),” Bugosh said. “We just focus on our game.”

Garland often marvels at his lineup, which has six freshmen.

“It’s really been one game at a time for us,” Garland said. “Don’t get ahead of yourself. We prepared for each section opponent and their players, and we built in what we thought were good nonsection challenges. The first Southmoreland game, that’s when I knew we could have something special.”

The WPIAL runner-up, Mt. Pleasant has followed a strict regimen in its preparation, something that likely played a part in its path to the semis.

During preseason training camp, the team practiced at 6 a.m. Throughout the season, it’s had 7 a.m. workouts on Saturday mornings. And it’s gone 6 to 8 p.m. every practice during the season — never after school.

“It’s based on the rhythm of the season,” Garland said. “There have been teams we’ve known very little about, only through film, and they have just played. When we made it down to Highmark, they weren’t fazed at all.

“Everything is discipline. If you’re disciplined, you can get creative. Then they take care of the basics.”

Garland said General McLane plays a “direct” style and tries to outrun the defense with through balls and run-outs.

“We’ll need to keep it on the deck and play with width,” Garland said.

Garland, who coached Franklin Regional for 19 years, is in his third season with the Lady Vikings. He’s 40-13 and quietly has 251 career wins.

Franklin Regional won six section titles under Garland but made the PIAA tournament only once and lost in the first round. The Panthers never won more than 16 games in a season under his watch.

Mt. Pleasant knew what it was getting and was glad to decorate the program with Garland.

The coach also captured five state and regional titles with the International Football Club, but he never has been this far in the PIAA postseason. Another unknown.

“It’s just such an honor to represent Mt. Pleasant in this space,” Garland said. “I am truly humbled by this.”

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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