Mt. Lebo girls soccer struggling offensively
Two veteran defenders and one of the WPIAL's top goalkeepers have helped the Mt. Lebanon girls soccer team win games by relying on its defense.
But if the top-ranked Blue Devils plan on easing the sting of last year's abrupt playoff exit, second-year coach Aaron Panczyk knows his team will have to figure out how to consistently generate offense.
"We defend well, but we lack desperation when it comes to scoring goals," Panczyk said. "That's something that we need to remedy if we're going to be where we want to be at the end."
Mt. Lebanon's defense has pitched shutouts in 23 of its past 27 games, including all eight this season. Yet in half of those games, the Blue Devils (8-0, 4-0 Section 4-AAA) scored only once.
"We almost have the puzzle solved," said senior defender Johanna Platt, a High Point (N.C.) recruit who, along with fellow defender Kate Touscany and goalkeeper Emma Pellicano anchor the team's back line.
"We're connecting, and we're getting a lot of crosses. Being desperate in the box has been our main problem, just doing anything to get a goal."
Mt. Lebanon has historically been one of the WPIAL's top programs, winning Class AAA titles in 1983, '84, '86, '93, 2000 and '08, when the Blue Devils allowed just nine goals in 23 games.
But after winning nine straight down the stretch last fall to split the Section 4-AAA title with eventual WPIAL and PIAA Class AAA champion Peters Township, the Blue Devils were bounced by Hampton in the WPIAL quarterfinals, 1-0.
Mt. Lebanon opened this season with a win over Penn-Trafford and followed that by downing PIAA Class AA champion Mercyhurst Prep. Six days later, Mt. Lebanon won at 2010 Class AAA runner-up Norwin. All three games, not so surprisingly, finished 1-0.
Junior forward Lucy Nass and senior midfielder Katharine Pryor lead the team with four goals apiece. Junior midfielder Alex Ventrone has three, creating a tie for second with one of the team's two younger defenders, sophomore Maddie Collins.
"We're struggling to find goal scorers," said Panczyk, who was the Seton-La Salle boys soccer coach from 2002-08, winning three WPIAL and two PIAA Class A titles. "I know that sounds odd, considering we're undefeated and haven't had a goal scored on us, but we're not playing with the type of passion that we need to be playing with when you talk about playing into November and deep into the WPIAL and state playoffs."
Pellicano insists she knows Mt. Lebanon can score.
"We need to have more confidence in ourselves," Pellicano said. "We shoot perfectly fine in practice, and our offensive players have good shots. We just need to figure out how to shoot in a game."
Pittsburgh Tribune-Review soccer rankings
(records through Monday's games)
Team — Record
1. Peters Township — 5-1-0
2. Mt. Lebanon — 5-1-1
3. Central Catholic — 8-1-0
4. Bethel Park — 5-2-0
5. Seneca Valley — 5-2-0
Dropped out: No. 3 Pine-Richland (1-2-3), No. 5 Upper St. Clair (2-1-2)
1. Hampton — 6-1-0
2. Beaver — 6-0-0
3. Mars — 4-2-1
4. West Allegheny — 5-0-1
5. Quaker Valley — 5-1-0
1. Sewickley Academy — 3-1-0
2. Seton-La Salle — 5-1-0
3. Neshannock — 7-0-0
4. Greensburg Central Catholic — 4-1-0
5. Mohawk — 4-0-0
Team — Record
1. Mt. Lebanon — 8-0-0
2. Peters Township — 5-1-1
3. Penn-Trafford — 5-1-0
4. Norwin — 4-2-0
5. Seneca Valley — 6-1-0
1. Mars — 8-0-0
2. South Park — 5-0-1
3. Central Valley — 5-1-0
4. Mt. Pleasant — 5-2-0
5. Knoch — 7-0-0
Dropped out: No. 3 Deer Lakes (4-3-0), No. 5 Beaver (2-4-0)
1. Greensburg Central Catholic — 8-0-0
2. Shady Side Academy — 4-2-0
3. Avonworth — 7-1-0
4. Vincentian Academy — 4-1-0
5. Sewickley Academy — 4-2-0
Dropped out: No. 3 Springdale (3-3-1), No. 4 Seton-La Salle (4-2-0)