LaVigna, Stuck lead Peters Township girls soccer team into promising season
The Peters Township girls soccer team has gone through a transition from a dominant WPIAL force to one in a rebuilding phase and potentially back again.
Under the leadership of coach Pat Vereb, the Indians may be on the cusp of returning to the form they experienced winning three straight state championships from 2010-12.
“We had a couple years after we won three consecutive state titles where we had some years of rebuilding, playing with younger faces,” Vereb said. “Now these younger faces are juniors and seniors and there’s an opportunity, and we’re certainly excited to be ranked, but it only matters to us how you play the last 10 days of the season before the playoffs start.”
The Indians are currently ranked No. 1 in the Trib’s WPIAL Class 4A standings. Peters Township kicked its season off this past weekend, beating McDowell, 4-2, and Mercyhurst, 2-1, in the South Hills Classic at Century United Field in South Park.
Vereb will rely heavily on the offensive firepower he expects to come from senior Regan LaVigna and junior Hannah Stuck. Both have committed to Division-I programs with LaVigna committing to Youngstown State and Stuck to Bucknell. Senior midfielder Natalie Daube will be the playmaker that sets plays for the forwards.
“Regan and Hannah are just so physically strong and athletic, and they have a lot of experience both starting every game since they were a freshman,” Vereb said. “Obviously, they have responsibilities on their shoulders to be goal scorers and put numbers up and score in big games”
Stuck said their offensive success stems from the ability to score when the ball is in the air.
“There aren’t many teams that are better in the air than we are,” Stuck said. “We just see the ball, and we don’t even think about it.
“Everyone wants to win and succeed as a team, and we’re willing to go out and make sacrifices on crosses and put the ball in the net with our heads.”
The Indians’ back line of senior Payton Fremer and juniors Rachel Raber and Mia Gentile are working to reacclimate themselves and their styles. Vereb expects them to be a dynamic, vocal group that will command the attention of opposing offenses.
Vereb said the Indians’ entire roster and starting formations will be notably more physical than the opposition. Each player on the offensive side attacks when they do not have possession. Stuck said it’s a style of play the entire team enjoys.
“I really enjoy playing the physical style of soccer that we do,” Stuck said. “Whenever another girl (on the other team) has the ball, we all go into defense mode and hunt it down. I think that makes it really tough on the other team because we really do not let up on any plays.”
The Indians have the luxury of an all-section goalkeeper in sophomore Emma Sawich. Vereb said he is eager to see how Sawich’s development has progressed and how her experience will allow her to be a vocal leader along with the defense in front of her.
The recent accolades and high potential surrounding the Peters Township program is something Vereb appreciates, but also understands what is on paper doesn’t matter if the play is not up to par.
Vereb has prepared his players for the high praise and has them mentally prepared to ignore the chatter and instead focus on the results.
“I’ve been a part of a lot of successful teams, and I have always told my players that what it says in a newspaper doesn’t mean anything compared to medals,” he said. “It’s nice to be recognized as a program and have a ranking, but once you get into the WPIAL tournament, it’s not about where you’re ranked.”