Scotties overcome adversity in return to playoffs
On Saturday, the Southmoreland girls soccer team will play at Belle Vernon in the first round of the WPIAL Class AA playoffs.
For the Scotties, this is the fifth year in a row they have qualified for the postseason.
More importantly, the playoffs serve as a reward for a team that has battled through its share of adversity.
“We have a lot of talented individuals on this team, and I think we would have been more successful (in the regular season) had we not had so many injuries,” Southmoreland coach Bob King said.
Indeed, the Scotties (11-7) were hit hard by injuries. Seven players — seniors Brooke Zimmerman, Alyssa Argento and Amanda Harrer; juniors Jenna Morgan, Kaylee Cummins and Rylee Dixson; and sophomore Brittney Leonard — missed time. However, all but Argento and Morgan should be ready to go for the 4 p.m. playoff opener.
Despite the injuries, the three-time defending section champion Scotties still finished in a second-place tie with Mt. Pleasant in Section 1-AA.
The challenges seem to have made the team stronger; Many players were forced to switch positions because of the constant shuffling lineup.
“We put them in different positions, and they started to come together,” King said.
Dixson, senior Lauren Virgin, junior Heather Overly and Leonard have been solid defenders while sophomore keeper Emily Burkhart has been strong in net.
“Emily has stopped people point-blank, and she has a lot of good qualities as a keeper,” King said.
Offensively, the team endured some dry spells, but there are several players who have produced for most of the season. Junior forward Paige Weaver leads the team with 25 goals, and freshman forward Vayda Farino has added nine. Seniors Emily Helms and Zimmerman, and juniors Alex Kitta and Cummins have also contributed.
Earlier this month, Southmoreland suffered a 3-0 nonsection loss to Belle Vernon (15-2-1), the No. 4 seed in the WPIAL Class AA playoffs. In order to turn the tables, the Scotties will be focused on controlling the tempo.
“After the last Belle Vernon game, we started really playing better,” King said. “Between that game and our very next practice, we started to come together and really possess the ball.”
According to Weaver, testing Belle Vernon's defense will be critical.
“We definitely need to get more shots on net,” she said. “The last time, they scored three on us, but Emily Burkhart did a great job. We just have to play our game.”
With a nearly full complement of players, the Scotties are hoping Saturday's game represents the start of a successful postseason.
“We came into the season with a strong team, but we experienced a lot of injuries,” Weaver said. “There were unforeseen challenges, but we have overcome them.”
Jason Black is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 724-626-3534.