Westmoreland notebook: Belle Vernon freshman’s research project catches eye of WNBA

Saturday, October 5, 2019 | 8:25 PM

Viva Kreis fell for basketball at a young age.

The 14-year-old freshman at Belle Vernon was able to share her affinity for the game with a number of WNBA players over the summer as part of a research project.

She spent time with all 12 pro women’s teams.

Kreis’ project was part of National History Day, and the theme was “Breaking Barriers in History.”

“The WNBA popped into my mind,” Kreis said in a video the WNBA produced about her project.

She wrote to the league, asking for access to teams and the league obliged. The result was fun and informative for Kreis, who plays point guard.

“They read (my letter), and they called me and it’s history from there,” Kreis said in the video. Pros began to recognize the wide-eyed teen.

Even her favorite player, Diana Taurasi of the Phoenix Mercury, sought her out for a meet-and-greet.

“She is doing something that is remarkable and inspiring for young women all over the world,” Belle Vernon girls basketball coach Ronnie Drennan said. “She has grown so much as an individual throughout this process. It has really carried over onto the court. She definitely has taken some pointers from the pros because she has really improved her ability to communicate and direct on the floor.”

Drennan has trained Kreis since she was in second grade.

“She’s a student of the game,” he said. “It’s a pleasure coaching someone who loves the game of basketball. You can tell she loves the game because she is always smiling.”

Belle Vernon has a strong freshman group making its way into the program.

“They all can be a program-changer,” Drennan said. “Viva stands for what our program is built on. I’m glad she’s on my team.”

New Yough coach

Yough named Kelsey Kuhns its softball coach. She replaces Art “Dutch” Harvey, who resigned in June after six seasons.

Kuhns, 23, was an assistant last season at Mt. Pleasant. She is a 2014 Southmoreland graduate and was a four-year starting catcher for the Scotties.

She played college softball at Seton Hill before transferring to Cal (Pa.). She spent less than two years at each place.

“I plan to keep the standards and expectations high,” Kuhns said. “I am a firm believer in setting team and individual player goals, and in turn that typically results in success for a program.

“Dutch has set the bar high. I hope to build a good rapport with the team in order to maintain that level of success. It is essential to have player commitment and ‘buy in’ when trying to reach maximum potential.”

Harvey had a record of 94-30 and guided Yough to a PIAA championship in 2016. The Cougars won four section titles (2015-18) and finished second in the WPIAL twice, in 2015 and ’17.

“Yough is getting a good person, not just a young, ambitious coach,” Mt. Pleasant coach Chris Brunson said. “She will be able to relate to the girls, and she should be able to help recruit some numbers in the district. She played catcher collegiately, so she knows the game.”

Kuhns is the sister of Southmoreland basketball player Bailey Kuhns.

Team golf

The WPIAL golf postseason turns to its team portion this week. The girls semifinals will be Monday and the boys will be Tuesday.

Advancing teams will compete in the finals Thursday at Cedarbrook Golf Course in Rostraver. Belle Vernon, Hempfield, Latrobe and Penn-Trafford will compete in the boys Class AAA bracket, and Derry, Burrell and Mt. Pleasant made the Class AA tournament.

The semifinals open play Tuesday.

Belle Vernon and eight other teams will compete in a semifinal at Indian Run Golf Club, and Hempfield, Latrobe and Penn-Trafford will be at the other semifinal at The Links at Spring Church.

Derry, Burrell and Mt. Pleasant will join seven other teams at one of two semifinals, at River Forest Country Club. The other tournament is at Beaver Valley Golf Club.

The top three teams at each site qualify for the finals.

The girls semifinals will be Monday. Franklin Regional and Penn-Trafford will be at the nine-team Class AAA site, Pleasant Valley Golf Club.

Four-time defending Class AA champion Greensburg Central Catholic, meantime, advanced straight to the finals Thursday at Cedarbrook. Four teams will compete for the Class AA title.

The top three girls teams in the Class AAA semifinal make the finals.

Soccer playoffs

With just more than a week remaining in the WPIAL soccer season, a number of local teams have clinched playoff berths.

The top four teams – and ties — in each boys and girls section qualify for the postseason.

Area girls qualifiers so far are: Norwin and Penn-Trafford in Class 4A; Belle Vernon and Kiski Area in 3A; and Burrell in 2A.

Boys playoff teams from Westmoreland include: Norwin in Class 4A; Franklin Regional and Belle Vernon in 3A; and Greensburg Central Catholic in A.

The playoffs are scheduled to begin Oct. 17.

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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