Through multiple coaching changes, the Greensburg Salem girls soccer players remained one as a team.
The Golden Lions twice had new coaches named during the offseason, but Alaine Nativio has them in position to be just what they were the two prior seasons: WPIAL playoff team.
“We're all just still just working together as a team,” Nativio said. “As coaches, we just really promote that mindset. It's about playing as a team, all 11 players on the field. That's what they need to do, focus on playing together as a team and working together as a team and recognizing it takes all 11 of them to win.”
Greensburg Salem is 8-6 heading into a scheduled nonsection game Wednesday against Hollidaysburg. The Golden Lions began the season 4-1 before losing four of five but have recovered to win three of their past four.
Nativio is a former junior high coach in the district who was named to the varsity staff after Jim Morrison was replaced by Brandon Mitgisch, who then resigned over the summer when he took a day job that prevented him from coaching. Nativio was ultimately hired as coach, with Kevin Hutchinson — who also coached many of this crop of players when they were in junior high — as an assistant.
“We had (Nativio) in middle school, so we knew what she was like,” junior defender Ali Wilson said. “We knew what we were getting ourselves into. It's fun this year. We're having a good time. It's just a shame this season is going by a little fast.”
It might be October already and the regular season two-thirds complete — but luckily for the Golden Lions, the season appears it might be extended via a playoff berth. Greensburg Salem sits in third place in Section 1-AA with a 6-3 section record.
“Our goal is to make it well into the playoffs,” Nativio said.
A third consecutive postseason appearance would be significant considering Greensburg Salem went 1-12-1 in 2009 — the season before the playoff run began. The Golden Lions won a total of 23 games in a seven-season span between 2003-09 but have won 27 in less than three seasons since.
Many of the Golden Lions' upperclassmen have played together for several years. Six of them — three seniors and three juniors — share the team's captaincy: Senior goalkeeper Rachel Ott, senior outside midfielder Brittany Schaller, senior defender Jayden Morrison, junior forward Kellie Hutchinson, junior defender Sienna Shoup and Wilson.
“I think I've played with many of these girls since seventh grade and even before that, so I know them and it's going to be a little sad when they leave,” Wilson said. “Even the new freshmen, they've been good to get to know and find out what they're good at and what they like. Our team's real together.
“Before we go into every game, we always say we need to talk out there, we need to stay together. We need to focus as one and play together as a team and not as individuals.”
Hutchinson leads Greensburg Salem in goals with 11, Schaller has 10 and Ali Sheffler has eight goals after a hat trick in a 4-1 win against Uniontown on Monday.
The Golden Lions start two freshmen: center midfielder Mary Markle and defender Hope Cremer.
“They've most definitely earned their spots,” Nativio said.
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