Pittston Area coach Nicole Tieso might be dealt with one of the biggest tasks she’s faced in her time as the girls soccer coach: How do you move on from a team that won a district title?
The Patriots lost seven seniors from last year’s Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic Association District 2 championship team — the first in school history. They lost Allie Barber — one of the best goal-scorers in the history of the district and in Pennsylvania. What they didn’t lose, however, is their will to win.
“We’re still going to push and we’re still going to try and repeat,” Tieso said. “You always have a higher goal to shoot for. If we don’t reach it, we’re going to achieve any expectations that we set for us.”
Barber, who scored 159 goals in her career, now plays at Bloomsburg Univerity. The Patriots also lost Madison Cardinale, Liz Waleski, Megan Karuzie, Carly Filipski, Katelyn Pugliese and Shannen Brady. Pugliese and Waleski each scored in Pittston Area’s 2-0 win over Williamsport in the district title game last season.
But that doesn’t mean the Patriots are without veteran leadership. Seniors Maddy Mimnaugh, Tiffany Tubioli and Sam Mayers, along with several others, return for the 2015 season.
Mimnaugh was the beneficiary of her speed the last several seasons. This year, however, Tieso sees her in the midfield doing some of the same things Barber was capable of.
“She can score from the outside,” Tieso said. “She’s so fast that she can still take the ball to the net. She knows a lot of the younger girls and they are just all comfortable together.”
Junior Mia Barbieri returns to the Patriots lineup after missing most of last season with an ACL injury. Barbieri will be with Tubioli in front of junior keeper Taryn Ashby to solidify the defense.
This is Ashby’s third season as keeper for the Patriots. Tieso believes the Patriots will be more of a defensive team with a counter attack. Sometimes, that starts with Ashby.
“She needs to continue to do what she’s doing,” Tieso said. “She gives great support to the defense and she sees the field real well.”
Tieso and assistant coach Sarah Donahue work hard each season to make sure their team is ready for the opener. That doesn’t just mean harsh conditioning.
Pittston Area’s goal is to mesh together as a team. Team-building activities are a big part of what the team does at each practice.
“We do a lot of things together as a team,” Donahue said. “We have a lot of great skill but they need to mesh. A huge focus is getting them to communicate.”
The Patriots are back in Class AAA for the 2015 season. They won the title at that level last year after spending 2013 in Class AA. Wyoming Valley West and Hazleton will be strong in the Wyoming Valley Conference. Once districts roll around, teams like Wallenpaupack, Scranton and especially Williamsport will be tough to beat.
The Patriots opened their season with a game on Friday, Sept. 4 against Holy Redeemer. They host Hazleton at 4:15 p.m. on Tuesday, Sept. 8.
Reach Nick Wagner at 570-991-6406 or on Twitter @Dispatch_Nick