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Plum girls soccer trying to find style that will help it succeed

September 18, 2018
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Usually during high school times, style is associated with clothing or music.

But with Plum girls soccer, fifth-year coach Caitlin Schuchert is spending the preseason looking for a style of play that best suits her roster. The Mustangs have made the WPIAL playoffs all four previous seasons under Schuchert and six straight seasons overall.

“Every year, with a change of players, it’s hard to find what style is going to fit your team,” Schuchert said. “We tried something earlier, and it just didn’t look right. We tried to find a formation and a style that fits this team, and we feel we did in the scrimmage against Norwin.

“We stayed disciplined, organized and we helped each other out.”

Plum will start the new season Saturday at Penn Hills in a nonsection match at 1 p.m. After that, the real change will come for the Mustangs.

After playing in the highest enrollment classification for many years, Plum dropped to Class 3A and will play in Section 3. Gone are rivals such as Penn Hills, Fox Chapel and Pittsburgh teams such as Allderdice and Brashear.

While nearby Woodland Hills and Oakland Catholic are in the new alignment, Plum will have to keep the team bus fueled up as schools like Thomas Jefferson and Trinity, west of Washington, are now new section rivals.

Schuchert isn’t concerned about facing so many new teams. She feels her team’s style of play can find weaknesses or gaps and create spaces for her players.

“I was pretty happy with the play against Norwin,” junior midfielder Trish Fratangelo said. “The chemistry’s going to take time, but it will come.”

One of the Mustangs’ strengths is in goal with seniors Ally Bruner and Zoe Nonnenberg providing leadership.

“With Zoe and me, we’re the eyes in the back of the field directing everybody,” Bryner said. “You’re a senior, and you’ve got to be a role model for the younger kids who have never experienced anything at the high school level.”

Added Schuchert: “A couple of players from our back line are also coming back. Katie Patton and Elena Banta are there, and Gina Proviano will also be a key player.”

Banta is a senior, Patton a junior and Proviano is coming off a successful freshman season. Schuchert and Bryner also are looking at a promising freshman class to contribute soon.

“We have a lot of new faces, and a lot of freshmen have stepped up,” Bryner said. “We lost a lot of seniors, and it’s basically all of us trying to come together as a whole. It’s about practicing hard and connecting with one another. It’s been a whole different environment this year with a lot of new girls who have really stepped up.”

Fratangelo has her sights set high.

“Our goal, as a whole, is winning the section this year,” the junior said. “We were in Quad-A last year. Now we’re in Triple-A, but I don’t think that’s lowering anyone’s expectations as to where we will be going this year. There will still be a lot of talent on the field.”

Plum went 8-2 in section play in its Class 4A swan song, 13-5 overall. The Mustangs lost a first-round playoff game to North Allegheny, 5-1.

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