Mt. Pleasant girls use creative, up-tempo style to leave opponents in the dust

Tuesday, September 26, 2023 | 11:01 AM

In order to play soccer the way the Mt. Pleasant girls play, you have to be ready to run.

There aren’t many teams with the wall-to-wall speed the Vikings possess. Not many teams can turn an ordinary pitch into a five-lane highway in hyperdrive.

“To play that way, you have to have 11 players who can do it,” Southmoreland coach Josh Pajak said. “Eleven technically strong players. When they bring that outside backer up and add her to the attack, it’s hard to account for that.”

So goes the 4-3-3 formation of Mt. Pleasant (8-2), the No. 2-ranked WPIAL Class 2A team and the returning WPIAL runner-up and PIAA semifinalist.

Once it is set in motion, it can be a thing of beauty to a soccer enthusiast — especially one who craves up-tempo play and goal scoring. It has, after all, produced 63 goals in nine games and a shots-per-game average of 15.4.

More than 20 shots is nothing out of the ordinary.

“It’s not as technical,” Vikings coach Rich Garland said of the formation. “It’s about the ability and the strengths of the team, enhancing the strengths of the team. Our strengths are many.”

Mt. Pleasant shifted from the 3-5-2 look it played last year to better utilize its personnel, a group that shares similar traits across the board, from speed and skill to field command and persistence.

The interplay of those traits makes Mt. Pleasant a true title contender in the WPIAL and PIAA postseason.

“It calls for creativity from all 11 kids,” Garland said. “It’s fluid movement where width applies and length applies. The girls are doing some cool things with it.”

Only higher classification teams like Class 3A’s Penn-­Trafford and Moon have been able to keep up, both posting shutouts against the Vikings.

Every win for Mt. Pleasant has been via shutout.

“We transitioned from the 3-5-2 into that, and we have learned the dynamics of it,” said junior forward Rylin Bugosh, who is tied for the team lead with 11 goals. “We watched some film on it. We want to go on the attack a little more.”

What teams use the 4-3-3?

“Well, Mars uses it,” Garland said. “And Barcelona.

“It’s tougher to play from it than against it.”

The back four for the Vikings are key defenders in sophomore Caitlyn Fullman, senior Riley Gesinski, sophomore Raygan Mizikar and freshman Addie Czekaj.

Fullman and Gesinski, who played center midfield last year, often are flanked to the outside. Gesinski becomes yet another scoring threat when she pushes forward.

The possess-and-distribute trio of center midfielders are senior Maggie Piper, sophomore Jaden Kantonik and sophomore Brooklyn Ulery.

The three forwards who hightail it to the top of the shape and race up and down the wings are sophomore Morgan Gesinski, Bugosh and junior Maddie Barrick.

Bugosh, Morgan Gesinski and Piper are tied with 11 goals. Barrick and Riley Gesinski have eight each.

Morgan Gesinski leads the team in assists with 15, including one to her sister in Monday’s 1-0 win over No. 4 South Park.

The lineup can change based on subs. Garland said his bench can stretch 14 deep, which could be pivotal in late-season games.

“It is a lot of fun to play this way,” Barrick said. “This is a great group of girls.”

Garland said the constant acceleration of the offense calls for tip-top fitness.

“You need to be the fittest team. You need to train to do this,” he said. “We practice at 6 a.m. on Saturdays. It’s shared sacrifice. Even if we win 11- or 12-0, the payment is working even harder.

“Right now, it’s be humble, work hard and execute. It’s too tempting to look ahead.”

Bill Beckner Jr. is a Tribune-Review Staff Writer. You can contact Bill by email at or via Twitter .


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