Olivia Cernuto returns from injury, scores hat trick as No. 4 Southmoreland tops No. 2 Yough

Monday, October 4, 2021 | 11:24 PM

Junior forward Olivia Cernuto wasn’t at 100%, but neither was her team as Southmoreland hosted Yough in a Section 3-2A rematch of top-five girls soccer teams.

It didn’t matter.

The Scotties gave 110% effort with what they had and it paid off.

Cerntuo, a junior forward who missed four-and-a-half games with a knee injury, returned and made an instant impact, scoring three goals to propel the No. 4 Scotties past the No. 2 Cougars, 4-3, on Monday night in Alverton.

The hat trick helped Southmoreland build a three-goal cushion, and it was a good thing: the Cougars pumped in two scores inside the final 11 minutes — one by junior forward McKenzie Pritts with 25 seconds left — to threaten a serious comeback.

Pritts had two goals in the Cougars’ second one-goal loss in three games.

“I was probably 80 to 85%, but I really wanted to play in this game,” said Cernuto, who scored two minutes in to set the tone for Southmoreland (7-1-2, 5-1-1), which played to a scoreless draw the last time it faced Yough (9-2-1, 4-1-1). That was the game when she tweaked her right knee. Both teams made the WPIAL semifinals last season.

With no fractures or tears, Cernuto rested in anticipation of a comeback against Yough. She wore a knee brace but had a brace (two goals) by the 40th minute.

Her third goal, on a breakaway with 22:11 to play, upped her season total to 15 goals.

“It doesn’t surprise me,” Scotties coach Josh Pajak said of Cernuto’s performance. “We had three starters out, and we had girls step up. The entire team did a great job tonight. Yough is a tough team to hold scoreless.”

Scotties’ junior midfielder Kendall Fabery did not play after suffering a concussion four games ago against Mt. Pleasant.

Sophomore midfielder Kylie Queer and freshman Aubrey Seder also missed the game.

Senior Hannah Biros played for Yough after suffering a concussion against Burrell on Sept. 28.

“We wanted redemption after the last game,” Cernuto said. “We pushed tonight. I was a little sore as the game went on but kept going.”

Cernuto came up with a loose ball in front and scored in the second minute, but Yough tied it nine minutes later on a score by Pritts.

The Scotties took a 2-1 lead into halftime after senior Tatum Lucero angled a free kick toward Cernuto, who headed in a shot in the 40th minute.

“Cernuto is a heck of a player,” Yough coach Dann Appolonia said. “We knew she might play tonight so we prepared for her. The thing about her is that she never stops working. Any time you face a player like that, it’s tough to beat. We did have a couple of unlucky breaks. We kept fighting.”

Senior Taylor Klingensmith found the net in the 55th minute as she pushed ahead on the attack and fired from the top of the penalty arc and beat senior keeper Marin Sleith high and left to make it 3-1.

After Cernuto’s breakaway, junior forward Nicole Veychek was in the perfect spot to put back a rebound for Yough to cut it 4-2 in the 69th.

Yough kept attacking. “You know Yough is going to keep coming at you,” Pajak said. “We were sagging a little and they made some creative plays.”

After Scotties’ senior keeper Kaylee Keys denied Pritts on back-to-back shots, diving to make both, Pritts finally got loose and showed her one-on-one shiftiness and speed, scoring with 25.5 left to make it 4-3.

Keys had eight saves, while Sleith stopped five Scotties’ attempts.

“We kept working,” Appolonia said. “I thought we played better tonight than we did in the 0-0 game.”

Southmoreland is alone in second place behind Mt. Pleasant (9-2, 6-0), a team it hosts next Tuesday.

Yough plays at the Vikings on Monday.

“We have to regroup,” Appolonia said. “My teams that made the semifinals and finals never went undefeated.”

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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