Mt. Pleasant girls soccer turns attention to defense in second half

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Tuesday, October 1, 2019 | 8:58 PM


The first half of section play was good for Mt. Pleasant’s girls soccer team.

However, the Vikings hope to do better in the final stretch.

A 4-2 record after the first time through the table kept Mt. Pleasant near the top of the Section 3-AA standings. The squad wants to make a push for a WPIAL playoff berth as well as a title the second time through the loop.

“I think the second half of this section will show who the better teams are,” Mt. Pleasant senior Megan Liberoni said. “As long as we stay focused and we don’t lose a bad game, we’ll be OK.”

The team’s first two section losses came to Yough (4-1) and South Park (7-0). It made the Vikings understand the defense must be better to compete with the perennial powers.

“That South Park game was an eye-opener. It shows we have to be defensively responsible. If you’re not, against a good team, it can get pretty ugly pretty quick,” Mt. Pleasant coach Josh Pajak said. “You don’t ever want to lose a game, but sometimes a loss can be a tool to get better. It can be a teaching moment. We gave up seven to South Park, three to Waynesburg and four to Yough. That has to be better the second time around.”

The team has shown an ability to shut down teams. Mt. Pleasant has four shutouts on the campaign.

“Those shutouts are nice, but defense has been a point of emphasis for us lately,” Pajak said. “Frankly, against better teams, we need a better effort as a group of 11. Not just our backline, but as team as a whole, we’ve been working on being more disciplined defensively. We’re doing well, but there’s still work to be done.”

The Vikings have taken that message to heart.

“Considering we’re in a really tough section, we understand that’s a pretty key part,” Liberoni said.

Youth has been a factor, too.

“We’re starting six freshmen and sophomores. There has to be a certain amount of patience to help with their development. I always say that, in the second half of the season, the freshmen have to play like sophomores and the sophomores have to play like juniors. If they do that, we’ll be in a good spot,” Pajak said. “It’s not just the young kids, though Everyone has to step up. We’re going to have to continue to improve every game. If we don’t improve every game, we’ll drop a game we shouldn’t.”

Offensively, Mt. Pleasant has had success from different sources. In a 5-0 win over Elizabeth Forward, five Vikings scored.

“I think our offense is getting good and starting to connect really well,” Liberoni said. “It feels really good to be able to find the back of the net. There’s been quite a few of us who have, so far. Having a lot of people capable of scoring takes a lot of pressure off me and the other girls.”

Carsyn Rivardo, Mackenzie Leeder and Liberoni have been the team’s primary playmakers.

“The offense goes through those three, but everybody does their part. When the ball is on their foot, they’ve put the ball home, too. There’s a lot of variety,” Pajak said. “It’s nice that we’re finishing the ball and putting it into the back of the net better than expected. That’s why we’re focusing on tightening up our defense and being more responsible. Now, we need to win one of those close 1-0, 2-0 games. That’s what it comes down to in the second half of the season. We’re not going to score four or five goals each game. That’s not how it’s going to work.”

Joe Sager is a freelance writer.

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