Without injured Latsko, Peters Township girls to have different look
Veronica Latsko's teammates at Peters Township are doing everything they can to ensure she extends her high school soccer playing career.
The only way they have even a chance of perhaps succeeding in that quest is a deep playoff run. The Indians have proven quite adept at that in recent years.
Latsko, a University of Virginia recruit and a two-time Pennsylvania player of the year, sustained a torn ACL injury in her right knee in May. Recovery time after the resulting surgery for such an injury can vary, but using a six-month time frame as a guide, that leaves Latsko as out until mid-November.
Last season, there was only one Class AAA girls soccer game played in Pennsylvania after Nov. 15: the PIAA championship contest that Peters Township won, 1-0, against Cumberland Valley.
That was the third straight PIAA title for the Indians — and Latsko starred on all three championship teams.
Nothing is guaranteed, but Peters Township is out for a four-peat as much as to give Latsko every last ounce of chance possible to return to the team.
“Absolutely, 100 percent,” senior teammate Emily Franty said. “Ultimately, we don't know what decision she and her family are going to make for whenever we get into the playoffs, but all of us look at it like, ‘OK, how are we going to give ourselves the best shot to give Veronica a chance?'
“If it doesn't come, it doesn't come. But it's given us that mindset and definitely has motivated us even more as a team.”
Not that the Indians have needed such outside influences to attain PIAA championship goals in the past. But although Peters Township enters this season as the three-time reigning state champion, the lineup will have a drastically different look. And not just because of Latsko.
Counting Latsko and graduating seniors, at least 10 players who were starters at some point last season are not available now. Just three players who will be in the projected lineup this season were at least part-time starters at their positions last year.
“We're certainly a new team,” coach Pat Vereb said. “We're young, but we've been in this position before. I don't think we come in with nearly the experience or expectations we usually have.
“People around the program are not going to have the same expectations, but our goals are not going to change.”
Safe to say, those goals are lofty.
Consider that in addition to the PIAA three-peat, Peters Township has advanced to each of the past five WPIAL championship games, winning three. In the two seasons before that run began, 2006 and '07, the Indians had undefeated regular seasons.
Players with starting experience who return include Franty, junior midfielder Lauren Carpenter, sophomore defender Madeline LaVigna and junior Carly Johns.
Johns started as goalie last season but was a defender previously. Last season, she was filling in for Megan Parker, who was out with a knee injury. Parker is back for her senior season.
Junior forward Madison Santo is among the players for whom Vereb forecasts a breakout season.
“We pride ourselves in being the best possible playoff team we can be,” Vereb said. “It's not about being ranked, it's not about your record or whatever — our goal is to be peaking at playoff time, and five of the last six years we've played in the WPIAL championship. That's what we set out to do. I don't know if it'll happen, but we strive every year to do it.”
Chris Adamski is a freelance writer.