Baldwin soccer team to host Bethel Park in season finale
The Baldwin boys' varsity soccer team is scheduled to close out its regular season today, Thursday, at home against section rival Bethel Park.
The season finale will be held at Baldwin Stadium and start at 7:30 p.m.
Baldwin, Bethel Park, Mt. Lebanon and Ringgold have vied for the top three playoff spots in Section 4-AAA this year.
At the start of this week's action, the Highlanders stood in fourth place with a 6-4 section record, behind Bethel Park (8-1), Mt. Lebanon (8-2) and Ringgold (7-2).
Baldwin lost a tough 4-3 decision at home to Ringgold last week.
The Highlanders have been led in 2012 by first-year head coach Adam Obranovich, who formerly coached at California.
“I came into the season with no expectations, being in my first year with Baldwin, and I walked into the first day of tryouts with over 60 kids,” Obranovich said. “One thing I stress quite often is that their game is 80 minutes long, and the team that works harder for those 80 minutes usually comes out with a more favorable result.
“The team with the most skill and the ‘best' players isn't the team that is going to win the game. The winner is based on who wants it more.”
Baldwin opened its year with two losses before winning five of its next six games, including four consecutive shutouts.
The Highlanders have registered five shutouts — edging rival Mt. Lebanon at home, 1-0 — while being shut out six times, including three 1-0 losses.
“Our performance has been up and down this season,” Obranovich said. “We were on top of the mountain earlier in the season when we beat Mt. Lebanon at home. This was the first time that any member of the team, from the freshmen to the seniors, have beaten Mt. Lebanon at the high school level. But after that game our performance fell off and we lost a couple key section games.”
The local squad lost 1-0 games to Bethel Park and Mt. Lebanon in section play.
“The score didn't indicate how well they played,” Obranovich said.
Baldwin's varsity program has been bolstered by a large contingent of senior athletes who have in the mix this season.
Senior leadership has been provided by goalkeeper Alan Breisinger; forward Jeff Remlinger; midfielders Blaise Pfaff, Nathan Meyer and Uly Ator; and defenders Fitz Doyle, Justin Baumann, Michael Kubiak, Pat Maloney, Steve Backo, Tyler Schultz and Mason Flanigan.
“There are 16 (seniors) mixed between the JV and varsity teams,” Obranovich said. “The seniors really helped me out this year in pulling everybody together. They have had three different coaches in their career at the high school level, and they have really held it together.
“They made it a much easier situation for me to walk into as a coach. I relied heavily on them to get practices together over the summer, and get everybody together. A core of these guys have played together since they were younger, and it really shows while they are on the field.
“I have never coached a group of kids that have been so close with each other.”
There are 21 players on the varsity unit, including four juniors — midfielders Jon DeGregorio and Nick Jugovic, and forwards Fedja Smajic and Michael Harrell.
Sophomore prospects include forwards Austin Vertullo and Belmedin Nurkic, midfielder Nick Schiller and goalkeeper Brandon Thompson.
Luke Picchi is a freshman forward.
“We are in a very competitive section with four teams fighting for (the) three playoff spots,” Obranovich said. “Making the playoffs will always be an expectation of mine, no matter what section we are in or who is in it.”
Senior members of the junior varsity squad are Mark Chajkowski, Marshall Hartman, Paul Clinton and Tyler White.
Rounding out the squad are juniors Adolphus Tarley, Alex Hissung, Arjun Riman, Bimal Bhattarai, Dan Goga, Jean Claude, Marin Marina, Matt Goettmann, Mukunda Khanal and Shane Becker; sophomores Babin Gurung, Changra Gautam, Michael Franklin and Yaqoob Khan; and freshmen Justin Goulehan, Lewis Lippl, Peter Wright and Sheriff Ayouba.
Obranovich played soccer at both California University of Pennsylvania and South Park High School.
Obranovich was a member of the first boys' soccer team at South Park to reach the PIAA finals; his college career was cut short due to injuries.
“I started the (soccer) program at California High School in 2007, and was there until last season,” Obranovich said.
The Trojans captured the Section 4-A title last season.
Obranovich also played for Century United for eight years, and has been a coach with the club for the six years.
“I heard about Baldwin having an opening this year and couldn't pass up the opportunity,” he said.
Ray Fisher is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-388-5820 or firstname.lastname@example.org.