Former assistant Hritz new head coach of Baldwin girls' soccer team
Anyone watching a girls' soccer practice at Baldwin Stadium recently might not have noticed there's a new coach at the helm.
Vicki Hritz was hired as the Lady Highlanders' new head coach in June.
But Hritz is not new to Baldwin girls' soccer, having served as assistant to former head coach Liz Allemang the past three seasons.
Hritz, 29, of Greenfield, graduated from South Park in 2001, then played soccer at Allegheny College in Meadville.
She earned a master's degree from Carnegie Mellon University, and works for UPMC as a database administrator in the finance department.
Even though Allemang resigned earlier this year to spend more time with her newborn daughter, she is volunteering with the team when she is available.
Hritz is thrilled to have Allemang's help this season.
“I couldn't believe it when she showed up for the first 7 a.m. practice. She's been great,” Hritz said.
According to Hritz, the pair always has had a collaborative coaching relationship, and their role reversal has been a win-win situation for all involved.
Bringing a fresh perspective to the coaching staff are new assistant coaches Beth Diederich and Caley Troutman.
“They're forcing me to think outside the box and try some different looks,” Hritz said.
The local team finished last season with a 9-9 overall record and a 5-7 section slate, just missing a trip to the WPIAL Class AAA playoffs.
This year, the WPIAL's realignment of Section 4AAA may bode well for the Lady Highlanders.
McKeesport, Albert Gallatin and Trinity have joined the section, and perennial WPIAL powerhouse Peters Township has departed.
“We're not going to miss Peters,” Hritz said. “The changes make me a little more confident about what we can do in the section.”
With 10 seniors and 10 juniors on the varsity roster, Hritz is hopeful Baldwin's experience pays off this season.
“Last season, seven games were decided by one goal,” the rookie head coach said. “We need to win those close games this year. I think we have the experience and confidence to do it.
“We are no longer a team that other teams are walking all over. This team knows they can play. I think we're a team to be reckoned with this season.”
Junior Alicia Mastroianni was the Lady Highlanders' leading scorer last season with 13 goals.
Alexa Stahl, a senior, was the second-leading scorer with five goals.
Defensively, the Lady Highlanders will be led by the likes of seniors Nicole Venturino and Miranda Kuzman, along with sophomore Kelsie Balsam.
Junior Sam Yule will help out on defense and at the midfield area.
Midfielders Stephanie Mizla, a senior, and Amanda Grmusa, a junior, are expected to continue their leadership in the assists department.
Mizla and Grmusa combined for 12 assisted last season.
Senior midfielder Tori Scott also is a key player this season
“She is a catch-all player,” Hritz said of Scott.”She's been a (varsity) starter all four years, so she'll be an important player for us.”
Junior Liz Spegar and freshman Emily Jurzyk are two position players who are being considered for a switch to goalkeeper.
“Hopefully one of them will commit to playing in goal,” Hritz said. “But I want them to make that decision.
“I tried to explain that sometimes you have to do what the team needs.”
At this early point of the season, Khori Weaver is the lone freshman to secure a starting varsity spot. Hritz expects her to be one of the players to watch this year.
“She's been pretty impressive in scrimmages,” Hritz said, “so hopefully she can contribute in terms of scoring goals for the team.”
Other varsity players include seniors Lucia Cencia, Caitlin Dee, Lizzie Geis, Miranda Schneider and Jackie Sirc; juniors Carly Baumann, Lydia Fennell, Elissa Flavin, Carla Nicole, Katy Pearson and Sarah Pender; sophomore Mara Meyer; and freshman Gwen Schemm.
The Lady Highlanders open the season with back-to-back home games next week against McKeesport and Norwin.
Jennifer Goga is a freelance writer for Trib Total Media.