Southmoreland blanks Mt. Pleasant to keep section title hopes alive

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Tuesday, October 12, 2021 | 9:41 PM


Southmoreland’s offense tends to attract all the headlines, but the Scotties showed they can play some defense, too.

Like, really good defense against a threatening opponent.

In a must-win game to keep their hopes of back-to-back section titles alive, the second-ranked Scotties limited Mt. Pleasant’s opportunities and turned away the Vikings, 2-0, in a Section 3-2A game Tuesday night at Russ Grimm Field in Alverton.

The section championship will hang in the balance until next week.

“Our center backs played great tonight. All four of our girls back there played great,” Southmoreland coach Josh Pajak said. “(Junior defender) Skylar Koshar was tremendous. So was (senior defender) Tatum (Lucero).”

Lucero even scored a goal for the Scotties (10-2-2, 8-1-1), who have completed section play and will take a five-game winning streak into its final three-game stretch of the regular season. They need Mt. Pleasant (11-4, 8-1) to lose or tie Yough on Tuesday to share the section with the Vikings.

“They won a lot of balls and kept it on their end,” Vikings coach Rich Garland said of Southmoreland. “We didn’t possess the ball as well as we wanted to.”

Mt. Pleasant is looking for its first section title since 2016 — its first outright since ’15.

Mt. Pleasant edged the Scotties earlier in the season 1-0, but that was when junior Olivia Cernuto was out with a knee injury, and junior Kendall Fabery suffered a concussion in the first half of that game for Southmoreland.

Both were back in the lineup for the rematch. Cernuto had a goal, and Fabery played a strong all-around game to keep Mt. Pleasant at bay.

“Mt. Pleasant played a more defensive game,” said Pajak, who used to coach Mt. Pleasant. “They did a great job jumping on everybody early the first go-around.”

Mt. Pleasant, which had won four of its last five coming in and had given up just two goals in section play, upset No. 3 Yough, 2-1, on Monday night.

Southmoreland, which hasn’t lost since the setback to Mt. Pleasant, had one shot on goal in a scoreless first half before finally breaking out.

The Vikings had two shots on frame on the night and no corner kicks.

They came in with eight shutouts this season. The Scotties made sure they didn’t get nine.

After more possession soccer that yielded few opportunities, the Scotties finally made some noise in the 52nd minute.

Lucero delivered an arcing drive from the 20-yard line that just cleared the fingertips of Vikings keeper Jenna Piper and went into the cage. Cernuto nearly headed in the kick, darting into frame like she was trying to finish a basketball alley-oop, but the ball sailed in without her assistance.

Cernuto found a breakaway chance late in the second half. She drove in on Piper but ran out of room and could not wind up. Maggie Piper was there to boot the ball out of trouble for Mt. Pleasant with about eight minutes to play.

When Cernuto got behind the defense again two minutes later, the Vikings weren’t as fortunate.

Cernuto ripped in her 16th score to make it 2-0 in the 74th minute. She left the game to rest her knee after the goal.

“(Cernuto) can really go,” Garland said. “She tries to come right at you. When we get pressured like that, we need to be able to adjust better. All I ask is for our girls to compete.”

Southmoreland has won 14 of its last 15 home games.

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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