Halinka hoping Monessen girls on rebound
For various reasons, whether because of a lack of numbers or because of federal cutbacks in education, several smaller schools have had to cut back and eliminate some middle school sports programs.
For proof of how this affects varsity programs, look no further than the Monessen Lady Greyhounds' soccer team.
Once a perennial challenger for the playoffs as recent as a few years ago, the Lady Greyhounds have struggled as of late and one key factor has been that the team has had to put players on the field who had never played before.
Such was the case last year for first-year head coach Bill Halinka, and his team only scored three goals during its 0-16 campaign.
“Without a middle school program, the development has had to take place (during varsity games),” Halinka said. “For three years we did not have a middle school team, but this is the second year of having one again.
“Lindsay Keene has done a great job with the middle school team, and you can see the development in the ninth graders from getting experience last year.”
Speaking of experience, the Lady Hounds return six starters from last year's team and 11 of the 13 returning players saw significant time.
“We are a lot better than we were at this point last year,” Halinka said. “The returning players got experience, and we have a good group of freshmen coming up.
“They will get better each year.”
While the eight-player freshman class will push for playing time, all five seniors started a year ago.
Mikayla Boone and Sarah Franccewic are middle defenders while Monet Wade is the defensive leader.
Lauren Perry and Eden Holland are strikers, and Monessen will look to be more proficient on offense.
The Lady Hounds have not scored more than one goal in 34 straight matches dating back to the 2011 season.
Junior Kiana Arvinger is the sixth returning starter, and Halinka said she is another defensive leader.
Marisa Germinario, a junior, will be the third key striker for Monessen.
Halinka also pointed out a trio of sophomores in Monique Johnson, Bailey Matush, and Alexa Vitagus as well as freshman Victoria Cooper, stating that “they will all see a lot of time.”
Monessen is in Section 2 A with Bentworth, Beth-Center, Charleroi, Chartiers-Houston, Serra Catholic, and South Allegheny.
The Lady Hounds open the season Sept. 4 when they host South Allegheny in a section tilt.
Bill Hughes is a freelance writer for Trib Total Media.