Southmoreland senior soccer players share close bond
There is a group of seniors on the Southmoreland soccer team that have been together for a long time.
They have done some great things on the soccer field and along the way have created friendships they feel will last forever. When speaking of their closeness the term “family” is readily used.
Jenna Morgan, Paige Weaver, Kaylee Cummins, Tara Ritz, Rylee Dixon, Heather Overly, Paige Bowman, Alex Kitta and Hannah Porter have formed the primary backbone of a team that amassed an 8-4-1 record as of Oct. 7, 7-3-1 in Section 1-AA.
“It's going well,” said Jenna Morgan of the season, which had a setback with a tough 1-0 overtime loss Oct. 5 to Greensburg Salem. “We had to cover for the players we lost (from last year), but we had a lot of girls that stepped up.”
Many members of this group have been playing together since they were quite young and during a break from a recent practice at Kendi Park they talked about what they've been able to accomplish. It also struck them that they were at the field were many of them started playing the game, a move necessitated this year by the damage done to Russ Grimm Field by August storms.
Then again, when this group was young playing soccer was what was done. Teams in the Scottdale Soccer Club frequented Kendi Park.
“It's what we did around here on Saturdays,” Dixon said. “When we were little, that's the thing you did on Saturdays. You spent all day here. You came at 9 o'clock in the morning and stayed until 3 or 4 p.m.”
“That just what everybody does,” Cummins added. “We would all come down here..... It's wonderful (to have success with friends). We talk about games all the time.”
There's that togetherness again.
“There are no rivalries. We're all in it for the team,” Bowman said.
“I think this is probably the best group of seniors since my freshman year,” Dixon added.
Kitta cited the closeness of a team that's “grown up together” and Porter said the girls work well together.
The togetherness is evident from Paige Weaver. The senior forward has been the team's top goal scorer throughout the season. However, she is quick to credit her teammates for any success she may be having.
“(This season has been) everything that I could have hope for and more my senior year,” Weaver said. “I truly believe every position works together. We score our goals from the back from (goalkeeper) Emily Burkhart, up the defense, up to midfield, up to the forwards.”
When someone scores it's a celebration by the whole team that even includes Burkhart sprinting up the field to offer congratulations.
Weaver's passion for the game is constantly on display. She clutched a soccer ball on her lap during the entire interview session.
Ritz did not play soccer in her freshman and sophomore years, but when she returned a beat was not missed.
“I just feel when I went on the field it just clicked,” she said.
A key ingredient to what has made this team “click” is its simple motto, “Make it better.” There is no finger-pointing if a mistake is made. There is encouragement to just do better the next time.
“We are there for each other,” Overly said. “There's always encouragement. We can take criticism and turn it around. Even if we get upset with each other it's just on the field. It's to make us better.”
As with any group, there are diverse personalities.
This can be found in the many superstitions which range from Dixon's need to have her shin guards sticking out of her socks, Morgan's propensity to burn her shoes if she plays a bad game in them, and Weaver's many idiosyncrasies, which include wearing a lucky sports bra and the need to put her uniform on the same way every time.
There's also other accomplishments that have been achieved.
Weaver is tops in the senior class and is a student representative to the school board. Cummins was recently elected Homecoming Queen, and Porter and Ritz joined her on the court. Ritz also had the lead in the spring play “Alice's Adventures in Wonderland.”
“They're a strong group of girls, strong willed,” said coach Bob King. “One thing I can say about this group is they give it their all.”
Assistant coach Bill Farino has been with the group for a number of years and has watched them progress to the players they have become.
“It's a good group of girls, a popular group of girls, an intelligent group of girls,” Farino said. “It's a very involved group of girls who do a lot of different things. It's the kind of kids you want in a sports program.”
Now they look forward to the rest of the regular season, which ends Saturday with a game at Connellsville.
“It's kind of surreal that it's our senior year already,” Cummins said. “I've been playing with these girls forever, knowing that this is the last year that I'm going to be playing with all of them on the same team, it's bittersweet.”
Paul Paterra is a staff editor for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-887-6101 or firstname.lastname@example.org.