New coach hopes to guide Greensburg Salem girls deep into playoffs
The Greensburg Salem girls soccer team has made the WPIAL playoffs the last four seasons under four coaches. The Golden Lions hope it won't be any different this season under first-year coach Michael Rhea.
The Golden Lions (8-10-1, 7-5) finished third in Section 2-AAA behind Mt. Pleasant and Belle Vernon, who both were 9-1-2.
After starting the season 5-3, the Golden Lions finished 3-7-1, including a 7-0 loss to South Park in the first round of the WPIAL Class AAA playoffs.
They will look to replace the production of several graduates, including three all-section selections — midfielders Emily Indof and Katie Wotus and forward Kellie Lynch.
Indof, now at Duquesne, led the Golden Lions with 18 goals, and Lynch added 16. Wotus is playing at Penn-State Behrend.
“We have a lot of sophomores and juniors from last year's team returning,” said Rhea, who replaced Jesser Boulnemour. “We lost a lot of seniors, but we have just as many sophomores and juniors coming up ready to play, so it's pretty exciting.”
The Golden Lions return senior defenders Abigail Priolo and Caileigh Chappell, as well as junior midfielder Sydney Gatons and sophomore forward Maddie Gaul.
On defense, the Golden Lions will be led by senior goalkeeper Kendra Kennedy and a group of juniors that include sweeper Autumn Sarsfield, stopper Nikki Mellinger and defender Emma Turin.
“I like the overall attitude of the girls. They are working together, they are talking, they are doing what they are supposed to do,” Rhea said. “I think we have a really good group of girls this time. They are all willing to work together and focus. That is really what makes a great team.”
In his first year, Rhea wants to make sure the Golden Lions conduct themselves properly on and off the pitch.
“We want to play hard, be competitive, be sportsmen. During the game, we need to keep our heads in the game,” Rhea said. “But after the game we need to remember it's still a game and we are to be Greensburg Salem athletes and sportsmen, and we are to be a good team.”
Even though the Golden Lions have made the WPIAL playoffs the last four seasons, the program hasn't been able to get out of the first round.
Rhea believes if they keep it simple, they will be able to make a deeper run.
“We need to keep pushing forward and keep working hard, and we will get there,” Rhea said.
Rhea and his coaching staff understand they need to do their part as well to make sure the players are put in the best situations.
“We need to look at strategies as far as different alignments with how we are playing the game and how we are structuring our girls and our defense,” Rhea said. “You have to be aware of other teams' strengths as well.”
The Golden Lions start their season at Belle Vernon in Section 2-3A action at 7:30 p.m. Sept. 5.
Andrew John is a freelance writer.