MP girls young, but full of soccer experience
The Mount Pleasant girls soccer team is young, but no one would call the Lady Vikings inexperienced.
"We only have one senior (Amanda Nelson) on the team this year, but we pretty much only lost two starters from last year, and our whole core group is back, so we expect to be pretty strong," head coach Kelli Belanger said.
Belanger is beginning her first season as head coach, but like her team, she has plenty of experience. Belanger served as the assistant to former head coach Jerry DeFlitch for six seasons. Now that she's at the helm, she has an assistant of her own. Former player Jessica Higgins will help Belanger with the coaching duties this year.
Belanger is already seeing positives in both attitude and skill.
"We're working very well together as a team," she said. "Overall, we're a pretty young team. Everyone got a lot of experience last year, which is good, but we're still pretty young. We've always been strong on defense, and this year, we actually have two goalkeepers, which is something we've never had."
Sophomore Lauren Fearer, who started as a freshman last year, will return to the net, where she'll be joined by freshman Nicole Capozzi.
Belanger said she expects Mount Pleasant to display its usual team speed, and she added that despite its youth, the team does have a few players who are stepping into leadership roles.
"Even though we're young, we've got a couple of good leaders that are stepping up," she said, pointing to junior captain Jill White, along with co-captains Nelson and junior Jenna Snyder. "Everyone is playing together as a team, and they've got a good, positive attitude."
Belanger said the Lady Vikings are getting more shots on goal than they have in the past, but the team is still working on cashing in on its opportunities.
"Scoring, we're struggling with a little bit," she said.
Mount Pleasant competes in Section 1-AAA with such opponents as Penn-Trafford and Norwin, two teams which consistently finish at the top of the section. Belanger said this season, the two should make another strong run at the top spots.
"Penn-Trafford graduated their whole group of starting seniors, so they're a little weaker, but they always have a good program," she said. "Norwin is actually ranked I think third in the whole WPIAL right now. They should have a very, very strong team. They should be hard for anybody to beat."
Belanger said the Lady Vikings are also concerned with Hempfield, a team which they typically battle for the final playoff spot.
"We're very worried about Hempfield this year. They've got a new coach also, and they've gotten a lot better," she said.
Mount Pleasant has already faced Penn-Trafford, losing 5-1 on the road. The team will visit Greensburg Salem today.