Expectations high for Yough girls soccer after trip to semifinals
Yough girls soccer coach Dann Appolonia anticipates the expectations surrounding his team to be fairly high given how the girls finished last year.
The Cougars’ season ended in the WPIAL semifinals, and Appolonia expects the disappointment the girls felt last year to be the catalyst for them moving forward.
“The group this year is hungry to do more, and that’s our hope,” he said. “Our first step is the section title and go from there.
“We have a lot of work ahead of us with Waynesburg returning as champions and South Park and Mt. Pleasant dropping down to our section, but we’re going to be ready.”
Yough returns 10 starters from last season, and Appolonia said the extra year of experience is an element that will carry significant weight in the team’s overall development.
Junior goalkeeper Sara Krofcheck returns and Appolonia said she took strides last year and the most noticeable difference is her comfort in net.
“With a year under her belt, she’s a different player with that comfort factor,” Appolonia said. “I expect her to have a great season.
“In our quarterfinal win over Burrell last year, she was near the top of the list of performers. Had she not had that game, we’d have lost that game, and I think that built her a lot of confidence.”
The Cougars will be strong defensively. Seniors Lindsey McClaren, Sabrina Hodge and Autumn Baumeister and juniors Hadley Sleith and Amber Biros are returning starters.
“I expect our defense to take a step up this year,” Appolonia said. “There were times last year against strong offenses where we had some setbacks, but they’ve learned from that and are ready to prove they are one of the better defenses in the WPIAL in Double-A.
Appolonia’s daughters -- juniors Justine and Gianna -- return to the midfield. Justine scored 34 goals and had 12 assists last season.
“Justine is a goal scorer,” Appolonia said. “At times she carried us offensively, but I’ll look for her continued contribution and also some from the others.
“Gianna is more of a holding midfielder as opposed to an attacking midfielder.”
The Cougars’ future is bright with the return of sophomores Nicole Croushore (midfield) and Natalie Vilcheck (forward). Appolonia said the experience they gained last season will be vital in their growth. He expects them to continue to develop and take the necessary strides to lead the next group of Yough players.
“I look at them and expect them to have that sophomore year bump where it’s not new to them,” he said. “The bus rides, stadiums and playing under the lights won’t be new to them.
“We’ll need them to take that next step if we want to have a longer run in the playoffs.”
With a solid foundation of regular contributors, the Cougars will continue to work toward an elusive section title.
“We’re focused day in and day out at practice,” Appolonia said. “Those handful of girls that started last year don’t have those big eyes; they are comfortable trying to improve every day.”