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Norwin soccer coach makes nice transition

Danielle Baginski got her introduction to Norwin girls soccer while scouting the team for a PIAA Class AAA playoff game last season.

She obviously did her job well, as her Erie McDowell team handed the Knights a 1-0 loss at Harbor Creek High School.

Now nine games into her first season coaching on the Norwin sideline, she's beginning to realize just how hard it is to coach in the WPIAL as compared to District 10.

"Being from District 10, I was always looking to see what was going on down here, and it's funny because people will talk to me and say 'You don't know anything about Western Pennsylvania soccer,' or 'Welcome to the WPIAL,' but the fact is we do this, but we're just in our own little corner, and this is a bigger area," Baginski said. "The competition obviously is a lot better than it is up there. You have a handful of teams (in Erie), and that's about it."

Baginski came to Norwin after coaching four years at McDowell where she won back-to-back District 10 championships in 2007 and 2008. She replaced longtime coach Dana Ferry, whose contract was not renewed following that loss to McDowell.

In nine years at Norwin, Ferry's teams were 164-39-7 with four Section 1-AAA titles. Despite regular-season success, his teams could not ascend to the height of the program when it won its only PIAA crown in 1996 and appeared in the state title game again in 1997.

Ferry's best postseason finish came in 2004 with losses to Moon in both the WPIAL championship match and the PIAA semifinals. His divisive style led to parents campaigning both for and against his dismissal until the Norwin school board finally opened the position after his contract expired.

Though a situation like this could cause a rift in the locker room and considerable angst directed at the person selected to replace a coach who left under such circumstances, the players themselves have been quick to welcome Baginski.

"Everything's different, and everybody has a very good attitude about what's going on and what happened," senior midfielder Ariel Shasko said. "Even though our parents got involved, we don't hate each other for it; there's no hard feelings, and we just moved on."

Whatever turmoil there may have been over Ferry's departure and Baginski's hiring has not shown up on the field. Norwin (8-1-0, 6-0-0) is in first place in the section as it heads to Penn-Trafford (5-3-1, 4-1-0) at 7 p.m. Monday for the first of their two meetings this season.

Baginski has not been a part of the Norwin/Penn-Trafford rivalry, but she doesn't expect to have any problem getting into the spirit of things. In fact, she has her own axe to grind with the Warriors, who eliminated McDowell in the first round of the 2007 PIAA Class AAA playoffs on their way to a state finals berth.

"This is a revenge game for me as well, so I'm getting excited," Baginski said, laughing. "I'll get excited, and the kids will get excited because, if we as coaches are excited the kids also get excited, and if we're just kind of nonchalant the kids will (feed off) that."

Still, though Norwin does have a win over highly regarded Bethel Park and lost a one-goal game to Peters Township, Baginski hasn't been involved in this rivalry as yet despite playing Penn-Trafford at McDowell. And her players are aware of it.

"I don't think she knows what she's in for yet," senior defender Sam Vasy said. "She'll find out on Monday."

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