New Southmoreland girls soccer coach couldn’t stay off sidelines long

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Monday, May 11, 2020 | 5:23 PM


Josh Pajak thought about taking a break from coaching after he left the Mt. Pleasant girls soccer program. He was set for an extended vacation from the game.

Then the Southmoreland girls job opened, and he began to entertain the thought of leading a team at his alma mater.

Pajak is a Southmoreland graduate and has taught in the district for the last 14 years.

“I think it just made sense to return,” he said.

His intrigue got the better of him, and his break from coaching was short-lived. Pajak, who resigned at Mt. Pleasant after nine seasons, is the new Scotties coach. He is anxious to get going with his team, should the coronavirus restrictions be lifted to allow fall sports to return.

“The decision was not easy,” Pajak said. “I was content on taking a few years off and just going where my daughter’s activities led me. But I would be seeing some of the girls in class, and in the halls asking them if they were doing any winter training and stuff. My wife said, ‘You’re not going to be happy unless you’re coaching.’ … I’m just motivated to work with student-athletes I see every day and within the community where I live.”

He replaces Aryn Askin, who resigned after going 5-24 in two years.

“I had some conversations with (athletic director) Charlie Swink and some of my fellow high school coaches and realized this could happen,” Pajak said. “I watched a lot of Southmoreland’s games from last year, and I liked what I saw.”

Pajak, 35, led Mt. Pleasant to the WPIAL playoffs in eight out of nine years and won two section titles (2015, ’16).

A 2002 Southmoreland grad, he began his coaching career at Southmoreland as a boys assistant right out of college in 2006. He took over at Mt. Pleasant in 2011.

His sister, Meggie, who graduated in 2003, played on the first girls team at Southmoreland in 1999.

Josh Pajak said he was only able to have three workouts in March before the shutdown but liked the turnout, even with some basketball players missing because of an extended playoff run.

“We had enough commitments to take two teams to some tournaments,” he said. “Unfortunately with the pandemic, that didn’t happen. Last week there was a Zoom meeting and a lot of girls were on there, and we began posting workouts that they are doing and sharing. So we are trying to become dedicated to the program and each other while in this remote setting.”

Tentatively, high school teams can resume workouts July 1.

“Once we are able to get together and work, we need to focus on improving little by little daily,” Pajak said. “There are talented players on this squad. I think if the girls remain dedicated and buy in, success will come sooner than later.”

Another goal of the new coach is to better connect with the Scottdale Soccer Club and the school’s junior high program.

“I have been coaching in the rec program the past three seasons,” he said. “The officers of the club do a great job, so I’m excited by the opportunity to build a strong K-through-12 program.”

Southmoreland has not been to the WPIAL playoffs since 2012.

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

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