HUGHESTOWN — Pittston Area’s girls soccer team enters the 2016 high school season young, but experienced.
The Patriots have compiled multiple playoff wins over the past three seasons, including a district title. A few of the players that helped make that happen will be back on the field this season.
Four starters from last season, Taryn Ashby, Mia Barbieri, Kayla Hogan and Jordan Levandoski, all return for their senior year.
“They helped lead last year and will do a good job with the experience,” Pittston Area coach Nicole Tieso said. “They played with the younger girls and know how to motivate them to do the best they can.”
Pittston Area lost three seniors to graduation — Tiffany Tubioli, Samantha Mayers, Maddy Mimnaugh — all of which were Wyoming Valley Conference all-stars in 2015. Mimnaugh, who is headed to Bloomsburg University to play soccer, scored 19 goals and had nine assists last season.
Filling that void for the Patriots this season will be the aforementioned seniors and sophomores Grace Mimnaugh and Luchia Carabetta.
“We have a lot of players that can step up this season,” Tieso said. “Our scoring should be a little more diverse this season. We’re going to have to make some changes.”
Defensively, Tubioli was the leader on the pitch last season for the Patriots. Stepping up in her place will be now-senior Barbieri, who was right with Tubioli the last several seasons. Barbieri, one of the vocal leaders on offense and defense, may be moved up to mid this season to help out on both sides of the field, Tieso said.
“She’s always trying to tell her teammates what they need to do and keep it positive,” Tieso said.
The team features 12 sophomore players. Three of them will help anchor the defense: Nicole Mayers, Jenna Smith and Kayleigh Walker. Junior Angelica Singer will also lead the defense.
The same story has been told at the Pittston Area keeper position for the past several seasons. Ashby has been the defensive wall for Pittston Area since its district title in 2014. Ashby posted three shutouts last season and had three games where she allowed just one goal.
Tieso said Ashby has become more vocal over the past several seasons, which helps both the offense and defense.
“She’s getting better every year,” Tieso said. “She’s continuing to learn the game and she’s really starting to see the game.”
After posting a 5-1 win over Delaware Valley in the opening round of the Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic Association District 2 3A championships, Pittston Area was knocked out in the semifinals by Wallenpaupack, the eventual 3A champion.
With the new PIAA realignment, boys and girls soccer on the state level have switched from three to four classes. The Patriots will compete in Class 3A, the second largest. This year, the Wyoming Valley Conference changed formats to two divisions, one for the large schools (4A and 3A) and one for the small (2A and A).
Tieso believes the normal opponents will fight for WVC supremacy this season — Crestwood, Dallas and Coughlin.
“We’re looking to improve each game and star competing and make sure we execute every play,” Tieso said. “We have to improve every game. They all work extremely hard together and have known each other for a long time.”
The Patriots will get the season started Wednesday, Sept. 7 by hosting Tunkhannock at the Pittston Area Primary Center in Hughestown.
Reach Nick Wagner at 570-991-6406 or on Twitter @Dispatch_Nick