New Deer Lakes softball coach Cerra hopes to build on program’s success

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Sunday, March 8, 2020 | 5:26 PM


For the first time in 15 years, the Deer Lakes softball team will begin a season with a new coach.

Rick Cerra, who was hired by the school board in November, will have a tough act to follow.

Craig Tialani retired from coaching the program he had directed since 2005, wrapping up his career with 204 wins, eight section titles, two WPIAL championships and a PIAA runner-up finish.

“When ‘Coach T’ resigned, I was, obviously, interested in trying to move up through the program, and I wanted to take advantage of this opportunity,” Cerra said. “I’m fortunate enough to get interviewed for the job and get hired for it.”

Cerra is no stranger to the program. He was the junior high coach for the past four seasons, and his daughters, senior Maura and freshman Shayne, are on the roster.

Of the 17 girls on the roster, only four are upperclassmen. Cerra plans to use an all-hands-on-deck approach on offense.

“I feel like we are going to be swinging (throughout the lineup),” he said. “We need our returning hitters — Makayla Blair, Hannah Mass and Maura Cerra — to be solid throughout the season whether they are at the leadoff position or anywhere in the lineup. I feel pretty confident that we can hit the ball (at any spot in the lineup).”

A West Liberty commit, Blair will play primarily at shortstop but could play catcher along with the Shayne Cerra. Maura Cerra will start at second base, and Mass is likely to be at third.

Sophomore Keghan Cook is expected to play first base.

Coach Cerra is looking forward to seeing how his up-the-middle defenders — Blair, Maura Cerra and sophomore center fielder Lydia Guthrie — perform. Guthrie is one of seven outfielders — all underclassmen — on the roster.

Coaching his daughters is not unusual for Serra. Maura and Shayne always have had him in their dugout one way or another.

“I’ve coached them since they were 8 years old,” he said. “Fortunately, they both have God-given talent because it makes it easier for me as a coach.

“For them, sometimes it is harder because I expect a little bit more out of them, but I think it’s made them better players. It will be special this year because one is a senior and one is a freshman, so this will be the first time we will all be on the same squad.”

Key returning pitchers include senior Marleen Meyer and sophomore Jenna Bisegna. Cerra might use up to six pitchers with Meyer and Bisegna getting the bulk of the innings. Meyer is a returning all-section player

Freshman Tira Waksmonski also is listed as a pitcher.

Even though the team has of six sophomores and seven freshmen, Cerra does not feel the need to make drastic changes. He is inheriting a program that has not missed the postseason since 2010.

The Lancers lost in the first round of the WPIAL playoffs the past two seasons after six straight section titles from 2012-17.

“We definitely don’t need to reinvent the wheel,” Cerra said. “Coach T left us in a good spot. We only lost Katrina Taliani to graduation last year, and we have good talent coming up.

“We already had the talent there that he brought together, so it’s basically just a matter of me continuing the process that he was doing, trying to put my spin on it and utilize the talent that we have.”

Robert Scott III is a Tribune-Review contributing writer.

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