Freshmen step in to help Central Valley girls to another section title
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Molly Delostrino wasn't concerned. Perhaps that's because she personally knew better than most.
Delostrino was part of the Central Valley girls soccer team that last season went undefeated in section play and advanced to the WPIAL and PIAA Class AA semifinals.
But seven starters from that Warriors team graduated. In their place, ultimately, seven freshmen stepped in.
Cause for concern? Not at Central Valley — and certainly not for Delostrino. Two of the freshman who have stepped up are her sisters. Ally and Lexi Delostrino are one of two sets of twins who are freshman starters for the Warriors.
“I definitely think they will be one of the best classes we'll have at Central Valley,” Molly Delostrino said. “They're getting this experience this year and have played together competitively, so I think they could go really far as they get older. This is only their freshman year, and they've already been pretty successful this year.”
The Warriors were WPIAL Class AA's lone undefeated team heading into their regular-season finale against Steel Valley Tuesday night. At 10-0-2 in Section 3-AA play, Central Valley shared the section championship with Hopewell and continued its section unbeaten streak. In its three years since the merger of the Center and Monaca school districts, Central Valley has yet to lose a section game.
The Warriors figure to be one of the top seeds when the WPIAL releases its playoff brackets tonight.
“We're very excited about the season we've had so far,” Central Valley coach Mark Perry said. “Especially after we lost seven starters from last year's team that was so successful, it was a little unexpected to be where we are because we're so young.”
Injuries to upperclassmen contributed, too, but Central Valley has started seven freshmen for late-season games. In addition to the Delostrinos, who play at the outside back spots, the Pritt twins (Olivia and Cassie) handle the outside midfield.
Freshman Jessica Henderson has played well since inheriting the center-fullback spot initially due to injury, and two other freshmen have played very prominent roles.
Robyn Hampe has stepped in as Central Valley's goalkeeper, and forward Hannah O'Connor was third on the team with 14 goals heading into the regular season's final game.
Sophomore Karina Fratangeli also is a starter.
With all that youth, the Warriors' four upperclassmen co-captains provided a stabilizing force: Molly Delostrino is a solid midfielder, and junior midfielders Katie Alexander and Ashley Mutkus are the team's two leading scorers with 21 and 18 goals, respectively.
Central Valley suffered a big blow when four-year starter Danielle Pontus sustained a knee injury that knocked her out for the season. Pontus had started every game since her freshman season at center fullback.
Veterans coming off the bench include senior defender Elizabeth Lucci and senior midfielder Haley O'Connor.
“Ashley, Katie, Molly, and when Dani played, those four kind of led us and let the freshmen come along and develop at their own pace,” Perry said. “Now that they have a season under their belt, they're almost sophomores. That's the way we look at it.”
Just in time for the postseason.
Chris Adamski is a freelance writer.
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