With 7 starters back from 2019, Monessen softball poised for success

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Sunday, March 28, 2021 | 4:46 PM


Count Monessen softball among the teams left wondering what might have been had the covid-19 pandemic not wiped out the 2020 season.

The Greyhounds returned more than a handful of starters from a team that finished 6-10 the year before and qualified for the WPIAL Class A playoffs for a fifth consecutive season.

Just don’t count Monessen among the many schools with a large contingent of players who missed out on a senior season.

As for that handful of starters from 2019, seven are back this season. The Greyhounds also return a couple of bench players and are adding a few freshmen to the mix. It could be enough to move the consecutive playoff seasons streak to six.

“When I started with the program two years ago, we had a really young team,” Monessen coach Mia Emiliani said. “It’s been kind of crazy. I’ve gotten to grow with this group.”

Emiliani served as an assistant in 2019 and was promoted to the top spot last year after Bo Teets, who guided Monessen to two WPIAL championship-game appearances in nine years, resigned. Emiliani was eager for her head-coaching debut before covid-19 made other plans.

So nearly two years into running the show, Emiliani hasn’t guided anything but a practice for Monessen. Even last year’s scrimmages were wiped out, and a covid pause this year forced the cancellation of a pair of scrimmages.

“It hasn’t been ideal circumstances, what has happened, but it’s given us more practice time, more time to work on the things we need to work on, especially game-type situations,” Emiliani said. “I’m anxious, nervous. It’s been two years, and I haven’t even coached a scrimmage. I know I’m eager to go, but I hope the players are more eager to get started. I do think as a team, we’ll be ready.”

Senior pitcher Hannah Yorty, who will play at Division III Waynesburg next year, can ease Emiliani’s concerns.

“We’re super excited. We can’t wait to play,” Yorty said. “I know for me, I wanted three things my senior year: graduation, prom and softball. I’m so glad we’re getting to play.”

Monessen will open play in Section 1-A on April 1 against perennial power Chartiers-Houston.

For the Greyhounds to get through a section that also includes West Greene, the play of Yorty will be essential. More of an off-speed pitcher, Yorty also ranks as Monessen’s best hitter. She batted .414 as a freshman and .585 during her sophomore season.

She’ll be paired with senior catcher Loni Scott. Junior Kinsey Wilson started at first in 2019 and could play there or third base this season. Multisport athlete Sydney Caterino, another senior, is at shortstop. Junior Mya Petruska and sophomore Diana Thomas could end up at third or first, but Thomas and Petruska are candidates to start at second.

The outfield consists of senior Tatiana VanHooser, sophomore Abigail Rhome and freshman Sidney Campbell.

It’s a strong mix of experience and speed that could morph into a playoff contender.

“I think we’ll be pretty good,” said Yorty, who succeeded current Robert Morris pitcher Dana Vatakis at Monessen. “We had three or four girls who played basketball, so they missed out on the whole preseason process, and we have a couple other girls who haven’t played much before. So we’re working on getting the whole team up to speed.”

From there, it’s full speed toward a playoff push.

“I’d like to see us make a run in WPIALs, and I think we can,” Emiliani said. “I see us being in a lot of close calls this year.”

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