Section-opening loss drives Latrobe girls to find higher gear

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Tuesday, September 20, 2022 | 5:55 PM


When Latrobe was tripped up by top-ranked Plum, 4-2, in its Section 3-3A girls soccer opener, the sky was falling, but only briefly.

Was Plum that good? Was Latrobe better than it showed? Was Class 3A this tough?

The Wildcats took a long look in the mirror.

“It was a devastating loss,” Latrobe sophomore midfielder Robin Reilly said. “It was an eye-opener for us. We knew we had to pick up our game and give 110 percent, not 100.”

Fifth-ranked Latrobe responded by going 2-0-1 in its next three section games, including a 1-0 victory over Franklin Regional, another team expected to make noise in the postseason.

“This game is who we are,” Wildcats coach Jamie Morrison said after the Franklin Regional win. “We showed a lot of heart.”

While the schedule won’t get an easier from here, and injuries only stand to magnify a thin bench, Latrobe (3-2-2, 3-1-1) could be finding the gear it hit last year when it finished 13-2-1 and posted eight shutouts.

“We played to our strengths. We played with our hearts,” Reilly said. “We know that’s the way we need to play to make the playoffs.”

Latrobe has never won a playoff game, but this could be the year the Wildcats break through.

They won a section title last year for the first time since 1992 but lost to Peters Township in the WPIAL quarterfinals.

Latrobe could be a team nobody will want to play late in the season, especially if it is at full strength.

“We’re one of the better teams in the area when we’re fully healthy,” senior goalkeeper Sofia DeCerb said. “We played really well (against Franklin Regional) after we had a rough start. We didn’t play well against Mt. Lebanon (in a 3-2 loss) or Plum. We know what we have.”

Latrobe tied Norwin, 2-2, at the Moe Rosensteel Memorial Kickoff Classic, then dropped the back-to-back games before shutouts against Penn Hills and Franklin Regional.

A tough effort by Penn-Trafford, particularly on defense, contributed to a 1-1 tie with Latrobe on Monday.

“We just have to be sure we finish games,” Morrison said. “We need to be able to get those additional goals, not just one. We need to be more clinical in front of the net. I am really happy with how we played (against Franklin Regional), but we could have used another goal.”

DeCerb also is rounding back to form, a prime example of Morrison’s “rest and recover” mantra. She made her first start of the season against Plum.

She tore her right labrum during a United Women’s Soccer game against college-level players and sat out most of the summer.

The James Madison commit couldn’t wait to resume the high school season.

“I could jog, but I couldn’t have contact until like two weeks into the high school season,” DeCerb said. “I am trying to get back into the flow of the game.”

Other injuries also prompted shifts in the rotation. But with proven cup players, Morrison knows she can shuffle some players around.

Think about a travel softball player who can pitch, catch or play shortstop.

Junior Ella Bulava, a Maryland commit, played in the back when sophomore Ava Yurko was injured at Franklin Regional. She normally is a midfielder.

“Top to bottom,” Morrison said, “Ella is an outstanding player. It’s a credit to our girls. They slid into new roles and did the job.”

Bowling Green recruit Regan Reilly, another junior, is another back-liner who helps the Wildcats preserve leads.

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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