Baldwin girls, Hritz achieve playoff goal this season
The WPIAL playoff draught is over for the Baldwin girls' soccer program.
This year's varsity squad, which included 10 members of Baldwin's 2013 senior class, made sure of it.
Most, if not all, of the players on this year's team were not even born the last time the Lady Highlanders advanced to the WPIAL playoffs; the local squad qualified this season thanks to a second-place finish in Section 4-AAA.
The Lady Highlanders tied for second with Mt. Lebanon, behind only section champion Bethel Park, which wrapped up the section title with a perfect 12-0 record.
“This was the first time that Baldwin girls soccer has made the WPIAL playoffs (in recent memory), and this was the goal the girls set for themselves at the beginning of the season,” Vicki Hritz, Baldwin's first-year head coach, said. “This team has started to lay a foundation for a successful future for Baldwin, and has raised the bar as to what can be achieved.”
Baldwin fell to Section 5-AAA runner-up Upper St. Clair by a 5-0 score in the first round of the playoffs to end up 12-7 overall. USC improved to 11-5-2.
Hritz, who had served as an assistant to former head coach Liz Allemang for three seasons, did not believe the final score told the whole story of the local squad's playoff game.
“We prepared extremely hard for our playoff game against USC, and I am very proud of the effort of the girls,” she said.
“If the girls play like they did (against USC), the future is bright for this team.”
Baldwin outscored the opposition by a commanding 77-26 margin in regular-season play, and junior goalkeeper Liz Spegar registered 10 shutouts.
The Lady Highlanders' leading scorers this season were junior forward Lydia Fennell and junior midfielder Amanda Grmusa, who netted 12 goals apiece, along with Alicia Mastroianni, a junior midfielder/forward who finished with 10 goals.
Fennell, Grmusa and Mastroianni, with 34 goals between them, accounted for almost 50 percent of the team's scoring.
Other leading offensive contributors included senior midfielder Stephanie Mizla and junior forward Katy Pearson, who connected for eight goals apiece; senior midfielder Alexa Stahl, with seven goals; and junior midfielder/forward Carly Baumann, with five goals.
Mastroianni, Mizla and Stahl were named recently to the all-section team.
Defensively, the Lady Highlanders were led by seniors Nicole Venturino and Miranda Kuzman, sophomore Kelsie Balsam; along with Tori Scott, a senior midfielder/defender, and Sam Yule, a junior midfielder/defender.
Senior leadership on the team was provided by Mizla, Stahl, Venturino, Kuzman and Scott, as well as forward Caitlin Dee, midfielder Jackie Sirc, midfielder/forward Lizzie Geis, defender/midfielder Miranda Schneider and defender Lucia Cencia.
Hritz believes the 10 seniors were most instrumental in the Lady Highlanders' success in achieving their playoff goal.
“They demanded a lot of themselves; they were prepared and focused to take on the challenges this season,” said Hritz, who graduated from South Park in 2001, then played soccer at Allegheny College. “They encouraged their teammates, supported the coaches, and made it a fun year for everyone involved.
“They have made huge contributions over their careers and will be missed greatly.”
Other team members this year included juniors Elissa Flavin and Carla Nicole, both midfielders, and Sarah Pender, a defensive specialist.
Top sophomore prospects include defenders Kelsie Balsam and Mara Meyer, while forward Khori Weaver, goalkeeper/defender Emily Jurczyk, midfielder/forward Gwen Schemm are leading freshman prospects.
Weaver secured a starting position on the varsity team early in the season.
Bethel Park, Baldwin and Mt. Lebanon advanced to the WPIAL playoffs, and were trailed in the section standings by Ringgold (6-6), Trinity (4-8), McKeesport (1-10-1) and Albert Gallatin (0-11-1).
The Lady Highlanders opened the 2012 season with seven wins in their first eight games, which included six shutouts by Spegar in her first year manning the goalkeeper position.
Included in that spectacular start was a 1-0 victory at home against South Hills rival Mt. Lebanon.
Overall, Baldwin blanked McKeesport, Albert Gallatin and Trinity twice this season, and Seton-La Salle, Mt. Lebanon, Ringgold, and Latrobe one time.
Spegar & Co. allowed only three goals in their two other victories, a 3-1 win at North Hills and a 3-2 decision at home versus Ringgold.
Along with the 10 seniors, there were 10 juniors on this year's playoff squad.
Ray Fisher is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-388-5820 or email@example.com.