Reloaded Belle Vernon girls soccer ready for a long playoff run

Thursday, August 15, 2019 | 3:32 PM

With nine starters back, new Belle Vernon girls soccer coach Tracy Lovett is excited to see what the team can achieve this year.

The Leopards cruised to the Section 2-3A title last year with a 12-0 mark. However, the team’s postseason stay was short as it fell to South Fayette, 2-1, in the first round of the WPIAL tournament to finish 13-4 overall.

“I think they’re upset by that playoff loss, but very motivated,” Lovett said. “I expect them to win the section this year, and I really believe we have the talent to go far in the postseason.”

Senior defender Marissa Grubbs agrees: “The section should be no problem. For playoffs, we need to just get past that first round and we should be good. All of our players are a pretty good fit. Bringing more talent up from middle school, I think we’ll do a lot better this year.”

Lovett, who was a longtime assistant coach, is excited to work with assistant coaches Dave Colditz and Doug McCullough. In the preseason, trainer Sean Boyles focused on enhancing the team’s strength and conditioning, while Sasa Miscovic and Ashley Gagliardi worked with the goalkeepers.

“They are a very dedicated and committed team,” Lovett said. “My philosophy is all about coaching all aspects of the game. I am coaching tactically, technically, for fitness and a positive attitude. I believe those four things combine to make a very successful team.”

Lovett hopes the added work with Boyles, especially, will pay off for the team throughout the season.

“He worked with the girls two days a week every week since the beginning of June,” she said. “I really wanted to increase our stamina. I want our play in the second half to be just as hard as the first half. We have the skill, but we need the endurance. I want to maintain a fast pace all 80 minutes.”

Belle Vernon returns its top three forwards from last year. Izzy Laurita, an all-WPIAL selection, has 48 goals through her first two seasons. Jillian Butchki has 36 in two seasons. Sophomore Morgan Einodshofer had 13 goals and 16 assists last year.

“I am expecting big things from those three,” Lovett said. “They are great kids and leaders.

Freshman Farrah Reader could see time at forward or midfield. Kaitlyn Hrycko, Autumn Forte and Klaire Temoshenka return to the midfield. Grubbs leads the defense at center back, while Adeline Guess and Danielle Engstrom are on defense. Hrycko could slide back as well.

Chloe Morgan, Abby Booker, Gianna Laurita and Sade Patterson will all see time throughout the lineup, as well. All-section goalkeeper Grace Henderson returns. Freshman Victoria Rodriguez could see time in goal, too.

“We have a good, solid group of girls, but all positions are open right now. We’re going to use these first couple weeks of practice to evaluate the talent and see who fits where,” Lovett said. “We’ll try out some new formations and move people around. Some girls will be playing in different positions than last season. We have a lot of work ahead of us.”

The Leopards hope a challenging exhibition schedule will pay off when the postseason rolls around.

“I am honestly really excited,” Grubbs said. “Most of the varsity never got to play in exhibition games before — the JV players did — so it’ll be nice this year to have those games really challenge us.”

Joe Sager is a freelance writer.


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