Westmoreland County girls soccer notes: Yough ‘won’t be an easy out’ in playoffs

Tuesday, October 13, 2020 | 7:51 PM

Yough knows what it feels like to be a favorite in girls soccer.

Last year, the Cougars had one of the WPIAL’s most high-powered offenses and rode it to their first district championship game appearance — and a PIAA playoff berth.

But this season, Yough isn’t as prominent in the standings. With the emergence of Southmoreland as a contender in Class 2A and Yough looking to replace all-time goal scorer Justine Appolonia and a talented supporting cast, the Cougars (9-3, 6-3) have been able to fly under the radar.

Do anything but count them out as the postseason approaches.

“I’m hoping that we are starting to find our stride,” Yough coach Dann Appolonia said. “Obviously when you replace seven starters, there is going to be a learning curve.”

Injuries also have stunted this team’s growth some. Senior Nicole Croushore has been out all year with an ankle injury she sustained during the offseason, and senior Natalie Vilchek missed the preseason with a fractured hip.

“We were learning on the fly during the first half of the season, which included having to experiment with different formations and player movement within those formations to find something that worked,” Dann Appolonia said. “The younger players are now starting to settle in and understand the level of play that is required to win.”

Yough took a six-game winning streak into Tuesday’s game at Brownsville. The streak included wins over No. 4 Southmoreland (2-1) and Mt. Pleasant (1-0).

“I still think we may be inconsistent at times, but they showed what we are capable of against Southmoreland,” Dann Appolonia said. “Hopefully that is the confidence boost they needed to understand that they can make some noise in the postseason.”

Sophomore McKenzie Pritts leads Yough with 17 goals, while junior Hannah Biros has seven and Vilchek six.

Junior Marin Sleith, another new face who is making a difference, is playing well at goalkeeper.

“She’s shaken off the first-year-starter butterflies and has been playing very well of late,” Appolonia said.

The perception of his team only carries minimal weight, Appolonia said.

“I’m not sure it matters,” he said. “You either perform when it counts or you don’t. I liked what I saw against Southmoreland. If we can consistently play to that level, we won’t be an easy out.”

Playoff teams

With one full week left in the regular season, the following area teams have clinched spots in the WPIAL playoffs: Norwin in Class 4A; Belle Vernon, Kiski Area and Franklin Regional in 3A; Burrell, Southmoreland, Mt. Pleasant, and Yough in 2A: and Greensburg Central Catholic in Class A.

The playoffs are scheduled to start Oct. 22.

Butchki gets 100

Belle Vernon senior standout Jillian Butchki needed three goals to reach a program milestone and notched a hat trick Monday at Uniontown to reach 100 goals for her career.

Butchki, a competitive dancer when she is not playing soccer, is just the fourth player in Belle Vernon history to score that many.

Bierhals commits

Hempfield senior goalkeeper Gillian Bierhals made a verbal commitment to play college soccer at Point Park. Bierhals has been guarding the net for the Spartans for three seasons.

Game rescheduled

The Norwin at Penn-Trafford game that was postponed Oct. 13 after Penn-Trafford closed for a week over covid-19 cases at the high school, will now be played Tuesday.

Jeannette struggling

Jeannette had to forfeit a game Tuesday against Springdale due to a shortage of players. The team has not been able to fill out a lineup lately due to injuries and personal reasons among team members. Some cheerleaders who also play soccer had to quarantine after a member of the squad tested positive for covid-19.

LV returns

After forfeiting to Greensburg Central Catholic because it had only nine healthy players, Ligonier Valley was set to return to action this week. Athletic director Wesley Siko said the team had more than 12 players ready to play again, so the Rams would not need to forfeit their remaining two section games. One, however, was postponed when Serra Catholic announced it was closing due to covid-19 issues.

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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