Baleno named new Plum boys soccer coach
Dave Baleno knows what it feels like to experience success on the soccer field at Plum.
The 2000 Plum graduate was a four-year varsity letterman for the Mustangs.
He played as a freshman and became a starter as a sophomore.
In the fall of 1998, Baleno's junior season, Plum went 8-4-2 in Section 4-AAA and finished in third place. At the time, only the top two teams made the playoffs.
But Baleno's senior year in 1999 was a breakout season for the Mustangs. Plum went 13-1 in Section 4 and claimed the section title and a WPIAL playoff spot.
The Mustangs beat Indiana, 2-1, in overtime in the first round, but they suffered a stinging 2-0 defeat at the hands of eventual WPIAL runner-up North Hills in the quarterfinals.
Those type of seasons, Baleno said, bolster the strong tradition of Plum boys soccer, and that tradition is something he wants to uphold as he begins his first season as Mustangs head coach this fall.
“Having a 19-2-1 season is hard to come by, and it takes talent, focus and character,” Baleno said.
“Those things are still in the program, and I want to help the players reach their championship goals.
“Soccer means a lot to me, and it's a great feeling to be a part of my alma mater and the community I grew up in. It's important for me to be able to share that passion with the current players. I know what it's like to put on that uniform and play soccer for Plum.”
Although this is his first year as head coach, Baleno is no stranger to coaching at Plum and is no stranger to the players he will coach in the 2013 season.
He takes over for his brother, Mike, who stepped down after five seasons at the helm of the varsity program. Mike Baleno cited a growing family as the chief reason for his decision.
When Mike Baleno became the head coach in 2008, Dave Baleno became a volunteer assistant, and he served as a full varsity assistant the past three seasons.
“We always knew that with building the program up the past five years, it would be an easy transition for me or any other coach who would come in,” Dave Baleno said.
“It keeps the continuity in place. It should be a smooth transition, from the formation to the lineup to the whole philosophy of the program. I know the guys, and they know me. It also works with the parents, because I know them, and they know me. It works easier for communication.”
The Plum boys soccer team will attempt to make the WPIAL playoffs for the third year in a row after missing the postseason from 2008 to 2010.
The Mustangs are 0-4 in the WPIAL playoffs since 2006, and the program's last WPIAL playoff win was the 2005 WPIAL title game, a 2-1 triumph over Peters Township.
Plum placed third to Pittsburgh Central Catholic and Fox Chapel the past two seasons. In 2011, the Mustangs went 6-3-3 in section and lost to Seneca Valley, 5-1, in the first round.
Last fall, Plum again went 6-3-3 in section play and fell to eventual WPIAL runner-up and PIAA champion Upper St. Clair, 4-0, in a WPIAL first-round game.
“We've really built the program up,” Dave Baleno said.
“Over the past couple of years, when you look at our section, Central Catholic and Fox Chapel have been able to get the top two spots. We've done a good job to get to that No. 3 spot, but we want to break into the No. 1 or No. 2 spot and challenge Central Catholic and Fox Chapel.”
Nine seniors from the 2012 Plum squad moved on because of graduation, but Baleno will be able to count on returning players such as defenseman Corey Williams and midfielders Orazio Barbarino, Joe Pavia and Stephen Hemmerle.
Michael Love is a staff writer with Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-388-5825 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.