Westmoreland County girls soccer preview: Class 3A field loaded with contenders

Thursday, August 25, 2022 | 12:01 AM

WPIAL Class 3A girls soccer just got a lot stronger.

As if three-time defending champion Mars — with its 63-game winning streak — wasn’t already a problem for opponents, the addition of former 4A teams Moon, Latrobe and Penn-Trafford only stands to thicken the title chase.

Moon won WPIAL and PIAA titles in 4A last year.

And don’t forget about runner-up Plum and Franklin Regional, who also should have something to say in the postseason.

Latrobe could be ready to take the next big step after a run last year to its first section title since 1992.

With 10 of their starters back, the Wildcats are primed to push for their first playoff victory — and maybe more.

The Wildcats return three Division I commits in junior midfielder Ella Bulava (Maryland), junior midfielder Regan Reilly (Bowling Green) and senior goalkeeper Sofia DeCerb (James Madison).

Sophomores Maddy Pedruzzi and Robin Reilly also return to a talented and fast lineup.

All of the aforementioned girls from Latrobe were all-section players. Bulava and DeCerb made the All-WPIAL team.

“This season is going to be a challenge especially with the move to 3A, but I am confident in my team that we can overcome that challenge and go very far,” said DeCerb, whose season preparation has been slowed by an injury. “We have a great team with great attitudes, and I am so thankful to play with them.”

DeCerb, who had eight shutouts last fall, said the move in class will provide more matchups against girls she plays with and against at the club level.

A couple of freshmen also could figure into the mix for Latrobe, in Annalyse Bauer and Mackenzie Kubistek.

“In terms of switching conferences, the only real change is going to be the bus rides,” Latrobe coach Jamie Morrison said. “We know we will be facing teams in our 3A section that have heavy experience in the postseason, just as we had faced in 4A. With two reigning state champions now in this (class), the challenge is certainly there.

“Our girls are excited and hungry to prove themselves. If we can build off of our successes from 4A last year and continue to find growth in our game, we believe this team is a special group of young ladies who are capable of challenging any opponent when they show up and play their game.”

Penn-Trafford, coming off a slightly down season, returns six starters, including senior defender Mia Muro and sophomore Isabella Swartz.

“I’m glad we have a very strong section again that allows us to compete against high quality teams,” Penn-Trafford coach Jimmy Mastroianni said. “Change is good. We are excited and looking forward to the season.

“Our preparation isn’t different from any other year. We start with our strengths and build from there. We’ll watch a lot of video and make sure we are prepared to play against different teams and different formations.”

Like Latrobe, Franklin Regional has talent in net with All-WPIAL junior goalkeeper Aris Lamanna. Senior Sierra Todero should help, as well, and Burrell transfer Leah Brockett is another scoring option for the Panthers, who were section champions last year and reached the WPIAL quarterfinals.

In 4A, Norwin is looking to make a deep postseason run behind sophomore Julia Bursick, Maryland-Baltimore County commit Reagan Casper and junior Evelyn Moore.

Class 2A also is loaded with Westmoreland County contenders, including Southmoreland, Mt. Pleasant and Yough, all Section 3 teams. They will look to challenge Avonworth and North Catholic for the title.

Southmoreland, a first-time semifinalist (and PIAA qualifier), features senior forward Olivia Cernuto (29 goals, 10 assists) and senior midfielder Kendall Fabery (14 goals, 10 assists), both All-WPIAL picks.

Mt. Pleasant continues to develop young talent in sophomores Rylin Bugosh, Maddie Barrick and Maggie Piper and seniors Marissa Garn and Cassidy Fullman.

“Our expectations haven’t changed from past years,” Cernuto said. “If anything, they’ve grown. We have accomplished so much in our previous years, we can only grow from that. We have new teams in our section that we aren’t really aware of what they have, but ultimately, I believe if we focus on what we need to do each game, instead of what the other teams are going to do, we’ll can be successful.”

Southmoreland has eight starters back, including Fabery, a Cleveland State commit.

“We want to be in the conversation as a team advancing in the playoffs at the end of the year,” Southmoreland coach Josh Pajak said.

Bugosh and Garn also made the All-WPIAL list. Bugosh had 19 goals and 14 assists.

“And we have a lot of kids battling for spots,” Mt. Pleasant coach Rich Garland said. “We are hoping to improve in section play, contend for a section title and get deeper into the playoffs.”

Yough has a new coach in Mike Veychek. He replaces longtime coach Dann Appolonia, who stepped down after 10 seasons.

Senior McKenzie Pritts (26 goals, 11 assists) and sophomore Kendalyn Umbel (18 goals, 10 assists) are another dangerous All-WPIAL combination. Pritts is a Robert Morris commit.

Also watch Cougars senior Nicky Veychek (14 goals).

Belle Vernon lost a ton of firepower, but the Leopards return eight starters.

Greensburg Central Catholic also made a coaching change after the resignation of Olivia Kruger. Kara Batey, a former Penn-Trafford assistant, took over the program and inherits several key players including go-to scorer Sara Felder, who is a senior, along with sophomore Riley Kerr.

Felder is a Youngstown State commit with 79 career goals.

GCC was the WPIAL and PIAA runner-up in Class A.

Ligonier Valley is playing up in 2A.

Players to watch

Leah Brockett, Jr., Franklin Regional

Rylin Bugosh, So., Mt. Pleasant

Ella Bulava, Jr., Latrobe

Julia Bursick, So., Norwin

Reagan Casper, Sr., Norwin

Olivia Cernuto, Sr., Southmoreland

Sofia DeCerb, Sr., Latrobe

Kendall Fabery, Sr., Southmoreland

Sara Felder, Sr., Greensburg CC

Marissa Garn, Sr., Mt. Pleasant

Riley Kerr, So., Greensburg CC

Aris Lamanna, Jr., Franklin Regional

Maddy Petruzzi, So., Latrobe

McKenzie Pritts, Sr., Yough

Farrah Reader, Sr., Belle Vernon

Regan Reilly, Jr., Latrobe

Robin Reilly, So., Latrobe

Kendalyn Umbel, So., Yough

Bill Beckner Jr. is a TribLive reporter covering local sports in Westmoreland County. He can be reached at bbeckner@triblive.com.

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