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McKeesport girls soccer team taking different approach with new coach

| Monday, Sept. 9, 2013, 12:31 a.m.

After struggling through the 2012 season with a 2-15-1 record (1-10-1 in section 4-AAA), the McKeesport girls soccer team and first-year coach Natasha Johnston are taking a bit of a different approach this season.

Instead of primarily worrying about wins and losses, the Tigers simply hope to improve on the things they can control.

“I think one thing that we're working on is to not really pay attention to the score, but to pay attention to how we're playing in general,” Johnston said. “Like are we connecting passes, are we being aggressive, are we doing the fundamentals of soccer? As long as we're doing that, I'm happy with how we're playing.”

After starting off 0-2 with a pair of blowout losses, that type of improvement was on display last Friday, as McKeesport defeated Obama Academy, 7-0, to improve to 1-2 overall.

“They came out, played hard, did all the things we do in practice and put a great game together…I think that gave them more confidence for the games coming up this week,” Johnston said.

The Tigers got strong offensive efforts against Obama Academy from junior Carly Tanney, who scored two goals, and sophomore Katie Strohm, McKeesport's lone Cup team player (FC Arsenal), who led all scorers with four goals.

Through the first three games, Strohm leads the team with five goals. Aside from Tanney, she will be complimented by seniors Courtney Patterson, Katrin Villinger and Catrina Zuber, along with juniors McKenzie Bana and McKenzie Toth.

Bana has taken on a leadership role for the Tigers, and is team captain.

“She's very supportive, vocal, always helping the younger players and trying to teach them different skills,” Johnston said. “She was the goalie last year, but now she's a field player. ”

For Johnston, a California native who played college soccer at Penn State Behrend and also coaches at AC Atletico and FC Arsenal, her goals for the Tigers are to play the way they practice.

“I think goals are just to improve our game, improve the way we play the game,” she said. “That's our main goal. Using the fundamentals that we learn in practice and applying them in the game. ”

Competing for a playoff spot will be no easy task in a section that features perennial powers Bethel Park and Mt. Lebanon, but Johnston is optimistic that her team will continue to improve through hard work.

“We'll get there,” she said. “It's just going to take practice and working on it.”

Alex Oltmanns is a freelance writer.

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