Latrobe girls soccer trying to play unpredictable in quest for return trip to postseason

| Tuesday, Aug. 19, 2014, 9:00 p.m.

Be unpredictable.

That's the challenge put forth by Latrobe girls soccer coach Vincent Pimpinella to his players as the 2014 regular season approaches.

“One thing we've stressed is not to have a set pattern of play,” Pimpinella said. “It's still a traditional system, but we don't want to follow the same path to the goal every time.”

No matter what routes the Wildcats choose on their way to the goal, there will be some new players charged with the task of putting the ball in the back of the net.

Latrobe lost three of its top four scorers from last year's team that qualified for the WPIAL playoffs for the first time in two decades.

The Wildcats finished last season with an 11-7-1 record and a 6-5-1 mark in Section 1-AAA play. They lost to eventual WPIAL runner-up Peters Township, 3-0, in the first round of the Class AAA tournament.

Sisters Abby and Allison LaDuke combined with Emma Kate Womack to score 32 of Latrobe's 56 goals last season.

Womack and Allison LaDuke graduated last spring, and sophomore striker Abby LaDuke — who netted a team-high 13 markers as a freshman in 2013 — will miss the entire season with an ACL injury.

“We have a couple of big shoes to fill,” Pimpinella said. “The core of players we have coming back is doing a decent job.

“With Abby injured, somebody else is going to have to step up.”

The two players who figure to shoulder much of the load in terms of offensive production are seniors Rachel Campbell and Madison Mueseler.

Campbell scored nine goals last season, while Mueseler added four tallies and dished out a team-leading 10 assists.

The Wildcats' defense will be anchored by senior Ava Petrosky, an all-section performer in 2013, along with juniors Brooke Baughman, Hannah Mears and Reilly McCracken. Baughman put together a strong 2013 campaign from her center back position.

“With a year under her belt, we'll definitely benefit from her coming back,” Pimpinella said.

In addition to the more experienced players on the roster, Latrobe also has 14 sophomores who figure to earn some playing time this season.

“We have a big sophomore class,” Pimpinella said. “They've been competitive in practice, and they're getting more confident as they get more experience.”

The last line of defense for the Wildcats is senior goalkeeper Stephanie Kubus, another all-section player in 2013. She's been honing her skills by attending camps during the offseason.

“She's been working very hard,” Pimpinella said. “As a senior and a captain of this team, she's taking a step forward.”

Pimpinella sees Penn-Trafford and Norwin as the teams to beat in Section 1-AAA again this season. He was encouraged by the way his team played against those squads last season.

“I feel like we've closed the gap on Norwin and Penn-Trafford a little bit,” Pimpinella said. “We took them to overtime and played one-goal games against them last year versus earlier in my career when we were not competitive.

WPIAL realignment shuffled Franklin Regional and Kiski Area out of Section 1-AAA for the next two years. Albert Gallatin and Laurel Highlands were added to the section.

“This section is difficult,” Pimpinella said. “The teams are strong and fast.

“It's going to be an uphill battle.”

Latrobe posted a 2-1 victory over Plum in a scrimmage Saturday, the team's first game action of the preseason.

The Wildcats are scheduled to open the regular season Aug. 30, with a nonsection home game against Altoona. Latrobe's section slate begins Sept. 2, at home against Norwin.

Kevin Ritchart is a freelance writer.

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