Defensive play keys success for Belle Vernon girls
TribLIVE Sports Videos
The notion that the best defense is a good offense hasn't really applied to Belle Vernon this year, according to coach Paul Sasko.
“I would flip that around and say that the defense has helped our offense,” Sasko said. “Not only are they a good defensive group, but they also support the attack by getting the ball forward.”
Returning All-WPIAL goalie Ashley Galiardi said that the offense's speed makes it easy for the defense to get the ball to their feet.
“We play a lot of through balls, and Sam (Mendicino) gets to every one,” Galiardi said. “If she's not running to the ball, then Hayden (Pascoe) is.”
With Pascoe, another All-WPIAL selection from last season, leading the offense, it's no surprise the defense's contributions are overlooked.
“(Pascoe)'s not only a goal scorer, she's the pulse of the team,” Sasko said. “She's a hard worker. Not only does she score, but she brings up the energy of the other girls as well.”
The Leopards (11-2, 8-1) have scored 61 goals this season while allowing nine. Galiardi and the back line of seniors Stephanie Morgan and Maggie Lewis and sophomores Marissa Zetty and Courtney Hrycko have posted shutouts in eight of the wins and only allowed one goal in the other three.
So far, the only hiccup in an otherwise stellar season is a 4-2 loss to Section 4-AA leader South Park (11-2-2, 9-0-1). Yet Belle Vernon still controls its own destiny in terms of winning the section title. If the Leopards win their remaining three section games, they'll repeat as champs.
That of course would mean beating South Park in enemy territory at 8 p.m. Saturday in the section finale.
“We talk about staying focused all the time,” Sasko said. “If we were to lose a game prior to the South Park game, then the South Park game is meaningless. Our goal is to win the section.”
If Belle Vernon fails to win out, it won't be for a lack of desire.
“Everyone knows that we have to win to become section champs again,” said Pascoe, who has 23 goals. “I know everyone wants it, but hopefully we play well enough.”
Sasko faces the challenge of keeping his team on track with a brutal stretch of four games in the last week.
“He plans on doing a lot of subbing, and the team is really cool with that,” Galiardi said. “We're going to try to get a lot of fresh bodies on the field.”
Pascoe added: “(Sasko) knows what he's doing, and some players need rest and some players don't need rest. He knows us.”
The team trusts that the potential lineup switches won't throw off the defensive chemistry they've built.
“I've played with all my defenders for so long” Galiardi said. “They listen to me. I listen to them. I'm not worried about any changes.”
And the defense knows they can count on their leading scorer stay on the field.
“I don't get tired,” Pascoe said. “I get banged up, but I don't get tired. They can run me as many times as they want and I'll keep going.
“It's going to be a hard week and we have to take it one game and a time,” Pascoe added, “but I think we're going to be fine.”
Gary Horvath is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at email@example.com.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.