Derry girls display new attitude on soccer field
Nicole Reitz doesn't want to give the wrong impression about herself and her Derry girls soccer teammates in past seasons.
“I wouldn't say we had a bad attitude,” the junior fullback said of the Trojans program prior to last season. “But there was a negative attitude, how's that?”
Coach Mark Curcio similarly is reluctant to use too strong a language in describing the state of the Derry program when he took it over just prior to the start of last season.
But make no mistake, no matter how you frame it, there's no denying the Trojans were in a perpetual state of struggle. Heading into last season, Derry had won 23 games over the previous eight seasons combined.
“A lot of girls looked at it as a wrecked program,” Curcio said. “But I've tried to show them that we can be a legitimate varsity program that can compete.”
The Trojans are showing signs of doing just that, and Curcio has set their sights on attaining a .500 record or — gasp — playoff berth.
Those are modest goals at some places. But they would have been unthinkable only a couple years ago at Derry. Between 2003-11, Derry won only 13 section games and never was closer than seven games under .500. The Trojans lost their final 16 after winning the season opener in 2010, the season before Curcio took over.
“Ever since Coach Curcio started as our coach, it definitely helped make our attitude better,” Reitz said. “And when that happens, it makes you play better.
“He's definitely turned the entire program around for the better.”
Derry's roster has four seniors. Three of those players — midfielders Shauna Wambold and Jill Catanzarite and forward Nichole Klapchar — have roots in soccer that date back before joining the varsity team. Wambold, Catanzarite and Klapchar serve as team captains, and Reitz joins them in handling a leadership role.
“They carry the team on their backs for the most part,” Curcio said. “My biggest job is to keep them motivated and not frustrated with the inexperienced players.
“If they make a play and an inexperienced player messes it up, it goes back as if the play didn't execute at all. I have to be able to keep the experienced players motivated, and hopefully the inexperienced players will catch up with them. That's my biggest challenge this year. If these inexperienced players come along quickly, we can compete in our section.”
Klapchar led the team in goals with three heading into the week and Curcio said Reitz is one of the section's top defenders. Also, sophomore Kaitlynn Piper had a strong offseason and has stepped in to be a reliable goalkeeper.
Section 1-AA is already beginning to separate itself into the tiers Curcio expected it to. Derry lost two of its first three section games before playing Mt. Pleasant Monday. But the defeats were to section co-favorites Yough and Southmoreland.
Greensburg Salem is another section heavyweight, but Curcio believes his team can compete for fourth place among a group that includes Waynesburg, Uniontown and Mt. Pleasant. The Trojans already defeated Uniontown, 3-0, Sept. 7.
“If we can stay around .500, that would show we're working well on getting a better name for the program,” Reitz said.
“The morale and will to win is there,” Curcio said. “Right now, it's just experience that's against us.”
Chris Adamski is a freelance writer.