Section 2 offers tough test for Baldwin girls soccer
Baldwin's girls soccer team won three of its first four nonsection games, and compiled a 5-3 record in nonsection action this season.
But the Highlanders weren't able to enjoy the same kind of success in league-play, against the likes of South Hills rivals Peters Township, Mt. Lebanon, Upper St. Clair, Canon-McMillan and Bethel Park.
Due in part to an assortment of injuries, Baldwin won only one of 10 games in Section 2-AAAA, and ended up 6-12 overall.
“The girls never backed down to a challenge this year, even when we found ourselves up against some of the best teams in the WPIAL week after week,” coach Kelly Shoplik said. “There were moments of brilliance in keeping possession and building up the field, but at times we tried to do too much and found ourselves retreating to defend.
“We had key players in and out of the lineup with injuries, which in turn disrupted the flow of play, but I know that (also) was a big issue with the rest of the section this year.”
Senior forward Alina Stahl connected for 20 goals for the Highlanders, and finished with 91 goals in her stellar four-year career.
“Alina has been the focal point of Baldwin's attack for the past four years,” Shoplik said. “She has the speed alone to cause defenders to lose sleep. When you combine that speed with the uncanny ability to keep the ball under close control with changing pace and dribbling at full speed, she is unmatched as a player. She would find success going forward when two or three defenders were not enough to stop her.
“She created an atmosphere in the program where girls looked up to her and strived to be better, and work harder to get the chance to play by her side. She plays with a love for the game and has a strong determination to succeed.”
Stahl will continue her soccer career at West Virginia, an NCAA Big 12 Conference member. The WVU women's soccer team has been ranked in the top 10 nationally in each of the past two years.
“I expect Alina to go in and challenge the returning players at WVU for playing time,” Shoplik said. “She is the type of player that will make the most of any opportunity given to her, even if that means playing a position outside of her comfort zone.
“She is always willing to listen and learn, and I know those qualities will take her far in the next chapter of her career. She'll be a tremendous asset to the WVU program, and will be dearly missed next year in a Baldwin uniform.”
Stahl was joined in the starting lineup in the second half of the 2017 season by freshman forwards Adriana Marina and Robyn Sopata; seniors Haley Huber, Katie Deiley and Isabella Rossa, and freshman Addie Carr, at midfield; seniors Kelsey Heenan and Megan Flavin, and junior Mandi Bellas, on defense; and senior CharliAnn Hooper and sophomore Emma Brandwene, at goalkeeper.
Hooper's save percentage in 10 games was 85.3 (168 saves on 197 shots); Brandwene's stood at 83.1 percent in eight games (128 saves on 154 shots).
Along with Stahl, the team's goal-scorers this season consisted of Huber (5 goals), Sopata, Deiley, Bellas, Rossa and senior Isabella Kenny.
Stahl, Huber, and Flavin were four-year varsity starters for the Highlanders.
“I am proud of starting varsity all four years, but coming in as a freshman I had just come off an ACL injury and it set me back more than I expected,” Huber said. “Other than that, my last two years I think I gained more ball skills and confidence, especially from playing alongside one of my best friends, Alina, who always pushed me to go that extra step further.”
Huber is hoping to continue her soccer career, possibly at Penn State Behrend, but is undecided on a college at this time.
Among the leading reserves on this year's were seniors Katie Doyle and Rebecca Case; plus freshmen Victoria Dicesare, Elena Zandier and Mackenzie Auel. Two other seniors, Kalie Stenglein and Skylar Flanigan, missed the season because of ACL injuries.
“I am looking forward to see what the incoming players have to offer, and see how the underclassmen take on the responsibility of playing a bigger role on and off the field with the departure of our strong senior class,” Shoplik said. “I wish the seniors the best and brightest future, whether that includes continuing playing soccer at the collegiate level or focusing on their studies.”
There were 10 seniors, three juniors, four sophomores and six freshman on the 2017 team roster.
Stahl, Huber, Deiley and Heenan served as team captains this season.
Ray Fisher is a freelance writer.