Norwin girls soccer has a lot more in mind

| Wednesday, Sept. 14, 2011

Over the last few seasons, the Norwin girls soccer team has been in a state of flux.

Danielle Baginski took over the program from longtime coach Dana Ferry in 2009 but left after one season to take a job at North Allegheny. Right before the team began official workouts in 2010, Jeff Palm was brought in as the Knights' third coach in as many seasons.

Now, as Palm enters his second season with the team, he sees things finally settling down.

"My staff was really helpful last year, but this year, having that full year to work with them, I think we have a stronger connection between the players and the coach," Palm said. "They know what I'm looking for, and they know what they need to do to succeed. They saw how well we did last year, and that will help us as we look to go a little bit further this year."

The team has continued to progress despite the coaching turnover. Each of the last two seasons, Norwin advanced to the PIAA Class AAA semifinals and, last year, the Knights appeared in the WPIAL championship game.

And the team is prepared to achieve more.

"We want to win our section first, and hopefully, get to the WPIAL championship and have a better result," Palm said. "Then, in the states, the past two years we lost in the semifinals and they want to get past that, as well."

To reach that point Norwin (2-2, 2-0 Section 1-AAA) will have to get over some early-season adversity. Returning leading goal-scorer Molly Peddicord, lost just before the 2010 playoffs with a torn left ACL, aggravated the injury during a preseason scrimmage and will miss the 2011 season.

"She went through rehab, and she tried to make a comeback in camp and that hurts," Palm said. "You hate to say that she pushed herself too hard, too fast, but she had a really long recovery."

Without her — Peddicord had surgery Thursday with another surgery scheduled for December, according to Palm — the team will rely on several younger players, including junior midfielder Rachel DelleFemine and sophomore forward Sierra Vecchio. The duo scored three goals apiece in the team's first three games.

And Norwin already has a gauge for how much it must improve to contend for the WPIAL championship again this season: The Knights lost a pair of one-goal games to two WPIAL heavyweights — Mt. Lebanon and defending WPIAL and PIAA champion Peters Township.

"I've been encouraged at times, and at other times, I think we need to do some work," Palm said. "It's been up and down so far."

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