McKeesport girls soccer continuing to build
Building a WPIAL program from the ground up is not an easy task. Just ask Paul Yester, the first-year coach for the McKeesport girls soccer team, which has turned in win totals of zero, two, seven and two in the past four seasons.
Yester has been heavily involved in the program's construction for the past few years, and he is guiding the Tigers (1-4, 0-4) through a challenging start in Section 3-AAA.
“We have a solid team, but overall we're inexperienced,” he said. “For years, we've never even had a youth soccer program through our high school. About four years ago, I helped start one and now we're starting to see some of that soccer knowledge coming up through the ranks. However, it might be a few years before we see those kids contribute.”
The good news for the program is the participation level in youth soccer programs is increasing with each season, Yester said.
On the flip side, the varsity team must work overtime to build fundamental skills and knowledge while also competing against the challenge of WPIAL Class AAA competition.
“What they are doing, is they are building a foundation,” Yester said. “In the last four years, they've had four different coaches. I may be the most consistent coach they've had, because I was an assistant for the last two years and now I'm the head coach.
“So they believe in me, and I believe in them even more so. However, with the skill level that we're playing against, it's tough. We have 13 to 14 girls that are trying to play soccer against a team with 40 girls on the sideline.”
Seniors Summer Burkhart, Brianne Barbera and Kayla Ball have been instrumental in Yester's efforts to build up some of the younger players' soccer knowledge and skill. They have helped set the tone for the Tigers with their all-out effort.
Maria Koedel and Kate Poston also drew praise from their coach for their enhanced leadership and steadfast commitment to improving themselves, and the team.
Yet it's the younger players who offer a peak into what could be a bright future for the Tigers. Sophomore Allison McLaughlin has sparked the team's defense and freshman Riley Madden already has two goals despite missing two weeks with an injury.
Still, despite being undermanned and outgunned this season, McKeesport will continue its workmanlike efforts.
The dividends may not pay off in the immediate future, but the Tigers still take pride in what they do. Yester said that is something that's not going to change.
“Without question, they hold a lot of pride in themselves and in their school,” he said. “We have four starters who are injured, and thankfully they'll be able to come back at some point this season.
“But they want to come back now, even though they aren't allowed yet. That pride they have, and that love of the game is what's going to keep them going throughout the year.”
Kevin Lohman is a freelance writer.