Westmoreland County girls soccer preview: Southmoreland has ‘something to prove’

Saturday, August 28, 2021 | 3:15 PM

If Josh Pajak was only allowed to give his Southmoreland girls soccer team one message before the start of the season it might be this: Proceed with caution.

Southmoreland appears to be loaded with returning talent, but the second-year coach doesn’t want the Scotties to get ahead of themselves.

Offsides can happen quickly when teams do that.

“We can’t be looking ahead,” Pajak said. “We do have a lot back, but we still have a lot of areas to improve on.”

Affirmation of the Scotties’ ability could come in the form of a longer playoff run. They went 13-2 last season, secured their first section title since 2011 and won a playoff game for the first time since 2010-11.

The season was cut short with a loss in the quarterfinals.

“The girls are still upset about the (playoff) loss (to Avonworth, 3-2),” Pajak said. “There is no magic drill we can do. We just want to improve technically on a daily basis.”

Junior midfielder Olivia Cernuto, a college prospect in soccer and basketball, had 37 goals and nine assists last year and was named the Trib Westmoreland Girls Soccer Player of the Year and athlete of the year.

She joins junior Kendall Fabery, a midfielder who played mostly on the back line last season, and senior midfielder Taylor Klingensmith, another proven scorer who had 16 goals and 11 assists as a junior.

All three were all-section players.

“Right now, we’re pushing each other to make us better,” said Cernuto, who has 63 career goals. “We’re looking to create more opportunities for everybody. I know later in the season last year I had to deal with more double coverage.”

Pajak said Cernuto can lead the offense like she does from her point guard spot in basketball.

“She is a really unselfish player,” the coach said. “If her teammates work off the ball, she will get them the ball.”

Fabery, a Cleveland State commit, is looking forward to playing up in the offense and doing more as a scorer and facilitator.

“We have a chip on our shoulder; We still have something to prove,” she said. “We want to make another playoff run.”

While the Big 3 will be the nucleus of the lineup, Pajak expects a supporting cast to shine through, giving the team a more balanced attack.

Senior Tatum Lucero, another all-section player, will rotate with Fabery at midfield.

Two juniors will anchor the defense in Amanda Hoffer and Skylar Koshar, with sophomore Gabby Fabery also working the back.

Sophomore Kylie Queer is another returning starter, while senior leadership should be a strength from Kaylie Redmond and Kameryn Premus.

Another important cog in the machine: Senior Kaylee Keys returns at goalkeeper.

“We just want to make sure we’re all on the same page and communicate,” Cernuto said. “We should be able to anticipate what we’re going to do on the field.”

Again, Pajak is pumping the brakes on any WPIAL semifinal or final talk — for now.

“We’re still developing to change the culture here,” Pajak said. “It’s only Year 2.”

Southmoreland has amped up its nonsection schedule with games against South Park, South Allegheny and Brownsville, among others.

Around the county

• Greensburg Central Catholic won the WPIAL Class A title and finished second in the state last season. The Centurions will be a dangerous team with firepower again as senior Tatum Gretz (25 goals), junior Sara Felder (29) and senior Bethany Winnor come back for unfinished business.

• Norwin has a new coach in Diane Metzger and should continue to be a contender in Class 4A, although Latrobe could have something to say about that as the Wildcats return sophomores Ella Bulava and Regan Reilly, and junior Sofia DeCerb, from a playoff team.

Latrobe has nine starters back. Freshman Robin Reilly also could be an impact player, joining sisters Morgan and Regan. Senior Claire Gerard returns from injury to play goalkeeper.

“We have a young team that is hungry to make a name for themselves,” Latrobe coach Jamie Morrison said.

Metzger is trying to implement a team-first mentality. Norwin returns seniors Paloma Swankler (Robert Morris) and Emma Rigone (Youngstown State).

“I want each person to find their role here,” Metzger said. “It’s not all about who scores all the goals or individual attention. And I am not a win-at-all-costs coach. If we win, we’re going to beat you with our skill. If we put the wrong 11 out there and get smacked, we will have to try something else.”

• Watch seniors Sydney Lindeman and Sydney Kranick power Franklin Regional in Class 3A. The Panthers have nine returning starters. Lindeman is a Towson commit.

• And never count out Yough in 2A. The Cougars are a perennial playoff team who will be led by junior McKenzie Pritts. They will look to challenge Southmoreland in Section 3.

Westmoreland County players to watch

Olivia Cernuto, Jr., MF, Southmoreland

Kendall Fabery, Jr., MF/D, Southmoreland

Sara Felder, Jr., F, Greensburg Central Catholic

Tatum Gretz, Sr., F, Greensburg Central Catholic

Malia Kearns, Sr., MF, Penn-Trafford

Taylor Klingensmith, Sr., MF, Southmoreland

Sydney Kranick, Sr., F, Franklin Regional

Sydney Lindeman, Sr., MF, Franklin Regional

Morgan Einodshofer, Sr., MF, Belle Vernon

McKenzie Pritts, Jr., F, Yough

Kylie Smith, Sr., F, Greensburg Salem

Paloma Swankler, Sr., F, Norwin

Bethany Winnor, Sr., MF, Greensburg Central Catholic

Preseason rankings

Class 4A

1. Peters Township (11-2-1)

2. North Allegheny (13-3)

3. Seneca Valley (8-4)

4. Moon (9-4-2)

5. Butler (11-2)

Class 3A

1. Mars (19-0)

2. Plum (16-1)

3. West Allegheny (11-4)

4. Franklin Regional (11-2-1)

5. Montour (10-7)

Class 2A

1. North Catholic (15-3-1)

2. Avonworth (14-2-1)

3. Southmoreland (13-2)

4. South Park (12-1-1)

5. Shady Side Academy (12-1)

Class A

1. Greensburg Central Catholic (18-1)

2. OLSH (12-3)

3. Steel Valley (14-1-1)

4. Freedom (12-3)

5. South Side (12-4)

*2020 records listed

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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