As the team assist leader a year ago when Dallas went 14-1 in the regular season and reached the District 2 Class AA girls soccer semifinals, Ashley Strazdus is well-established for her ability to set up teammates.
After the graduation of Ashley Dunbar, an all-state player who was the Wyoming Valley Conference scoring champion and the school’s career leader in goals, the Mountaineers need something more from Strazdus this season.
“Once she left, I realized that now that I’m a junior I have to step up a bit and take the scoring for myself,” Strazdus said.
Strazdus delivered Sept. 7 in an early-season meeting of league leaders when she scored four goals – two more than her previous best effort – to lead a 5-0 win over Pittston Area.
“I think I’m pretty good at feeding the ball and getting the assist to people,” Strazdus said. “I have to work on shooting for myself more often.”
That work appears to be paying off.
With the help of the big effort against Pittston Area, Strazdus shared the team’s scoring lead with converted defender Talia Szatkowski at five goals each in the team’s 4-0 start.
Strazdus converted on a breakaway, knocked home balls that had deflected off the crossbar and the goalie’s hands and nailed a shot from inside the penalty area for her four goals.
“Ashley and Talia are probably the best 1-2 forward combo in the league so far,” Dallas coach Abe Lewis said.
They have helped the Mountaineers hand Pittston Area and Wyoming Valley West their first losses while also handling a strong Coughlin team.
Finding a new scoring combination has been a big part of that success against a challenging early-season schedule.
“I play more of an upper forward and Talia plays behind me,” Strazdus said. “She’s almost like an attacking center mid. She usually gets all the balls coming up from the center mids and then we just feed it to each other.”
Szatkowski and Strazdus assisted on goals by each other 1:50 apart in the final 30 minutes when Dallas broke open a 2-0 game against Pittston Area.
The Mountaineers made the most of their chances during a game in which they held only an 11-10 shot advantage.
Lewis said the play of the midfield, led by the starting combination of junior Courtney Wagner and sophomores Ruby Mattson, Katie Snedecker and Tiffany Zukosky, helps the team to make the most of its opportunities.
Goalie Sydney Emershaw made six saves while combining with a defense that held Pittston Area without a corner kick. They shut out an opponent that scored 11 goals just two days later and features 100-goal career scorer Allie Barber.