Record-breaking striker powers Vikings' recent surge
With losses piling up through the early part of September, it looked as if the 2012 season would be a disappointment for the Mt. Pleasant girls soccer team. Instead, the Vikings found their game, and the season will be remembered, at the very least, for a dramatic turnaround and great individual accomplishment.
And with the playoffs just days away, Mt. Pleasant (11-7) has a chance to create even more magical moments in a season that looked all but lost.
Mt. Pleasant started the season with five straight losses and were 1-6 after a 3-1 loss to Elizabeth Forward on Sept. 20, which was the low point of the season.
“After we played Elizabeth Forward, we sat down on the bus and talked about what we could do as a team,” coach Josh Pajak said.
The fruits of that discussion resulted in several position changes for key players, an increase in the senior leadership and an overall improvement in team morale.
One of the biggest reasons for the team's success has been the strong play of junior striker Jordan Toohey.
This season, Toohey has scored 36 goals, and she has 96 for her career. Her 80th career goal — in a 1-0 victory over Southmoreland on Sept. 29 — broke the Mt. Pleasant record. The previous mark was 79, set by Ashley Formato during the 2010 season.
“It was pretty exciting,” Toohey said. “Kasey Brown was running down the left side. She crossed it and it hit off my stomach or chest and it went right in.”
Toohey credited her family and her team for helping her reach the milestone. The record is something Toohey is proud of, but she is more thrilled with the way the team has come together, resulting in 10 wins in the past 11 games.
“In the beginning, it started slow and the team wasn't doing that great, but we just kept trying,” Toohey said.
The team also began to do a lot of off-field activities, such as going out to dinner, which helped to strengthen team bonds. Pajak cited seniors Chelsea Houser, Ellen Brady and Brittany Ruggeri for improved leadership, Courtney Zelmore's goalkeeping and increased offense from sophomore Brown and junior Rachel Salai. A midfield position switch between Ellen Brady and sophomore Eileen Brady also paid dividends.
Toohey, who also plays basketball and runs track, has hopes of playing college in soccer. She has shown some interest in schools such as Bucknell, St. Francis and Notre Dame. However, she still has a senior year ahead of her.
“She is obviously a goal-scoring threat and she is incorporating her teammates more,” Pajak said. “As she develops further, she can be responsible for at least 50 goals (in a season).”
This year, Toohey, with her 11 assists, has had a role in 47 of Mt. Pleasant's 59 goals. And there's certainly a chance Toohey could help account for 50 goals this season, if she can have a big postseason. But statistics won't be on her mind when the Vikings begin playoff action.
“I think we just need to play a nice strong game in all areas and work together,” Toohey said. “I think we can take a good team down to the wire and, hopefully, win.”
Jason Black is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at email@example.com or 724-626-3534.