Lineup changes haven't knocked Yough from top of Section 1 standings
Any roster plans that Yough coach Dann Appolonia had coming into the season have been abandoned.
Appolonia had his work cut out for him after losing his top two scorers from last year's undefeated team. Mikayla Mance — the top scorer in the WPIAL — left to play for the Riverhounds Training Academy, and Hannah Ponitz — the top returning scorer — tore her ACL in the spring.
“Having to replace (Ponitz) was certainly difficult,” Appolonia said. “Shawna Zaken had 17 goals last year, so by no means was she unfamiliar with putting the ball in the goal. The adjustment was finding someone to go with her.”
The Cougars have risen to the challenge and are 9-3 overall and 7-1 in Section 1-AA as a result.
“We've been shuffling through some kids, but we've only lost one game in our section so far and we've been scoring,” senior captain Samantha Maughan said.
Appolonia's first answer was to move fullback Danica Pils to striker to play with Zaken, but that plan didn't come together.
“It was an adjustment for a few weeks, and just when things started to mesh up there with her, she got injured and was out a little over two weeks,” Appolonia said. “It was kind of a hard hit there because we went from just getting settled in with a few players up there to getting readjusted to her being back in.”
The front-line injuries have led to shuffling elsewhere for the Cougars.
“Obviously, you're taking players out of where they've been and having to backfill them with other players,” Appolonia said. “It's hurt our consistency, having to move around girls, but that's not a problem that other teams don't have to face.”
Since Pils' injury, former midfielder Natalie Luppold has solidified the other forward spot, so Pils has stepped into the midfield. Counting Monday's 4-0 win over section rival Mt. Pleasant, Luppold has 13 goals to complement Vaken's team-leading 16.
The win was the eighth shutout of the season for junior captain Leigh Appolonia. The defense — consisting of Maughan, Ellie Balko, Alex O'Brien and Tayler Powell — has felt the pressure to help the team succeed this year, she said.
“Definitely (Monday) night,” Leigh Appolonia said. “We had to step up. Since we lost a couple players, we definitely have to play a more defensively sound game. We've always said, ‘If they can't score, they can't win.' ”
Amid the chaos, it seems the only plan not changing is for Yough to repeat as Section 1-AA champ. It is leading the section, with their only loss coming against Southmoreland, 2-1.
“We do expect to win, but we have four more games and two are pretty big,” Leigh Appolonia said. “We definitely have to step it up against Southmoreland, but I think we're ready for them this time.”