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Rugged Class AA section awaits Mt. Pleasant girls soccer

September 18, 2018
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Mt. Pleasant’s Megan Liberoni aims a shot on net during a team scrimmage practice at Mt. Pleasant Area High School on Friday, Aug. 24, 2018.

When WPIAL realignment was announced before this season, it made Mt. Pleasant girls soccer a happy team.

Landing in Section 3-AA, the Vikings knew they would be in for a challenge to earn a return trip to the postseason after their first-round appearance in the Class AAA tournament last fall. They will compete with defending WPIAL champion Waynesburg, semifinalist Yough, quarterfinalist Brownsville and South Park, a Class AAA semifinalist, for a playoff spot this year.

“We will be ready for that challenge. I know our team, and I can know we can handle it,” Mt. Pleasant senior Shayree Ansell said. “It’ll definitely prepare us for playoffs going against those teams.”

Coach Josh Pajak believes playing those section foes will only make the Vikings better.

“We don’t have one opponent in our section from last year, but there are some familiar opponents. I am excited,” Pajak said. “If you come out of the section and make the playoffs, you’ll be ready to compete at a high level. That’s encouraging. You have to understand that each and every game is a test, and you can’t take anything lightly. I think there are a lot of teams in the section that could beat each other. So, if you drop a game, you can’t be worried. You just have to keep moving on.”

Mount Pleasant, which finished 9-8-1 last season after its 4-1 loss to Franklin Regional to open the playoffs, hopes to move forward with a healthy lineup this season. Shayree Ansell, a four-year starter, broke a leg in the team’s third game and missed the rest of the season.

“I’ve been cleared to play, and I’ve been practicing. We’re just limiting things before the first game,” she said. “I really look forward to getting back and playing in games.”

Ansell is one of six returning starters. Sophomore midfielders Brooke Ulery and Mackenzie Leeder earned all-section honors last year. Meg Liberoni is a two-year starter. Lexi Stanek moved to defense from midfield, and Courtney Poulich, who missed all but the final three games last year with injuries, returns. Kayla Moninger, Ashton Clark and Hannah Anthony are returning letterwinners.

“We’re doing pretty well so far. We have some new people in new positons, but they’re looking pretty good,” Ansell said. “There is a good mix of players. We have four seniors and three juniors, but it’s pretty much a young team.”

Freshman Carsyn Rivardo, Liberoni and Clark will see time at forward. Ulery, Leeder, Anthony and Poulich bring experience to the midfield. Ashley Mullen, Hannah Gesinsky, Stanek and Ansell are on defense. The goalkeeper competition is open.

“We’ve been a relatively older team the last two years, but this is a younger squad, for the most part,” Pajak said. “We still have a lot of returning players. We’re trying to fill some holes. The returning players are trying to improve and take on more significant roles on the team.

“They are working hard, and they are catching on really quickly. We’re not having to stop drills and explain things and simplify things. We did a lot of work in the summer, but in the last two weeks, we’ve really gotten a lot done. I like that. That always hasn’t been the case.”

The team is working to solidify its defense in order to prepare for the grueling section schedule, which begins Sept. 5 against Southmoreland.

“I think our attack will be pretty solid. We have some creative players who can put the ball in the net,” Pajak said. “Right now, we’re focusing a lot on our defensive shape and being solid defensively and not giving teams things. If teams are going to score or make a play, we don’t want to give them anything - they are going to have to earn it.”

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