Team-first mentality has led Bethel Park girls to unbeaten record
At Bethel Park, the share-the-wealth, team-first mentality is so prevailing, almost every player on the roster has scored a goal.
Even all but two of the fullbacks.
And yes, even the goalkeeper.
“What's really nice about this year is we're playing like a team,” coach Jon Gentile said.
“We play as team and win as a team. We don't just use 11 people. We're subbing in four or five people a game. It truly shows we are well-rounded in a lot of different areas with people who can step in. Things have kind of clicked this year. Almost instead of being selfish like we might have been last year — ‘I want to score every goal; I want to do this or that' — this year, with seven games to go, 20 of the 22 players on our team have scored a goal. Goalie included.”
Just about every Black Hawk has scored this season — but there's one thing none of them have done.
Bethel Park is following up a disappointing 8-10 campaign — the program's first that ended with a losing record since 2004 — by starting 12-0. The Black Hawks had a four-year run of playoff appearances snapped last season but are in the driver's seat for the Section 4-AAA title now. Bethel Park is 8-0 in section play heading into a game against McKeesport Wednesday night.
“In our high school gym, we have section title banners, and only two other (Bethel Park girls soccer) teams have ever done it,” senior striker A.J. Baroffio said. “One was my freshman year, and we can become the third team to get a section banner up. We're all pushing each other in practice and whatnot. We have that goal in our mind.”
This yet-undefeated season is the crescendo of a build-up from two years ago, when many of Bethel Park's starters were freshmen and sophomores. Now, that group has become a collection of three-year starters as juniors and seniors.
“I knew going in with this group three years ago when we had a lot of freshmen and sophomores starting out, I knew we definitely had the potential to do what we're doing now,” Gentile said. “It's nice to see it come out to fruition.”
Baroffio, a Duquesne recruit, leads the Black Hawks in goals. Junior midfielder Tatiana Ruzzini and sophomore midfielder Halle Hammer are also dangerous offensive talents.
“That's a dynamic trio,” Gentile said. “They all have 10-plus goals and are closing in on 10 assists each. They've been complementing each other and passing and creating problems for teams.”
Senior midfielder Alexis Keibler is in her second season as a team captain, sharing the duties with Baroffio this year.
Defender Tori Bowler and goalie Alycia Jimenez are other key senior contributors, and midfielder Lauren Toth joins Hammer as sophomores in a playing-time rotation that uses more than 15 athletes.
“Our play hasn't really fallen off for all 80 minutes,” Gentile said. “We all continue to play 100 percent for all 80 minutes, and that works to our advantage.”
And the vast majority have been doing it together for several years coming up through the Bethel Park system. Despite a losing-record hiccup last season, it was always this year that the Black Hawks were pointing toward.
“At the beginning of the season, coach told us, ‘You guys have a chance to make a difference this year,' ” Baroffio said.
At 12-0, so far, they have.
Chris Adamski is a freelance writer.