Yough ties No. 2 Southmoreland; Scotties lose star forward Cernuto

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Thursday, September 16, 2021 | 11:37 PM


A tie is worth one point in the standings, but Southmoreland and Yough didn’t want to settle on a 0-0 result Thursday night in their Section 3-2A girls soccer clash.

Both WPIAL semifinal teams from a season ago wanted to keep playing.

The draw still had its share of highlights and lowlights, but the mood was somewhat somber after 100 minutes of tightly contested soccer at Yough’s Cougar Mountain Stadium.

“It was like a funeral over there (after the game),” Yough coach Dann Applolonia said.

Southmoreland didn’t win, but it did suffer a key loss. It played most of the second half and both 10-minute overtime periods without standout junior Olivia Cernuto, the leading goal scorer for the No. 2-ranked Scotties (3-0-2, 1-0-1) who left with 33:45 to play in the second half with an apparent knee injury.

Unranked Yough (4-0-1, 1-0-1), on the other hand, felt like it could have done more with Cernuto on the sidelines, her right knee wrapped in ice.

“We hoped to get more chances going forward,” Appolonia said. “Things changed a little bit when she went out. We game-planned for ways to stop her, but it’s not like they don’t have other very good players.”

Southmoreland coach Josh Pajak did not want to speculate on the seriousness of Cernuto’s injury. Cernuto, a 12-goal scorer this season, tried to test the knee behind the team bench but obviously did not want to put much pressure on her leg. She was, however, walking lightly after the game and left with family members.

“She tweaked it a little bit when she made a run,” Pajak said. “I don’t want to guess. It was tough to see her go down. Liv is so tough and she wanted to be out there. That takes away a big part of what we do. We needed other girls to step up.”

Southmoreland had the lion’s share of the shots on goal, registering 18 to the Cougars’ four. But Yough still managed its fourth shutout in five games.

Yough senior goalkeeper Marin Sleith was terrific, even against Cernuto when she stopped a penalty kick by the standout forward just 2:51 into the game. Sleith finished with 16 saves.

“Yough is a good team and we knew that,” Pajak said. “Their goalie was really good tonight. I was happy with our effort.”

Yough, which resisted taking shots outside of the box for most of the night, had a few premium scoring chances late in regulation and then in extra time.

Freshman midfielder Kendalyn Umbel, who has made an immediate splash for the Cougars, delivered a soft cross to junior McKenzie Pritts, who had only the keeper left in front, but the delivery was just wide in the 74th minute.

Umbel nearly ended it with another quality try in close with 15 seconds left in an uneventful first overtime.

Chances were limited in the second OT until the Cougars again came within inches of a buzzer beater. Pritts regained possession as Southmoreland was about to clear it with 15 seconds to play and again found herself one on one with Scotties senior keeper Kaylee Keys.

But Pritts couldn’t drive the ball squarely, and it went sideways off her foot and wide left. Game over. Nobody wins.

“I told (Pritts) to keep her head up,” Appolonia said. “She’s going to get more chances and she will finish.”

Southmoreland and Yough split their two-game section series last year with each winning on their home turf.

But Cernuto played both of those games.

“Losing Liv was tough because she is such a big asset to our team,” Southmoreland senior Taylor Klingensmith said.

“We had to come together and pull through. It was nice to get (a tie). Hopefully we can get them next time.”

Appolonia was glad to play the high-powered Scotties so close. A team with nine returning starters has outscored their opponents, 31-2, and also have a tie against South Park. Yough, though, might have to be taken seriously now with its eight returning starters — and Umbel.

“We’re OK with giving up some shots,” Appolonia said. “That doesn’t bother me. … Our defense and goalkeeping was outstanding. It takes time to integrate some things and know our movements. But that will come.”

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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