Baldwin soccer's inaugural purple-and-white doubleheader event to be held on Saturday
Growing up playing youth sports, it's always a dream to compete on the high school varsity team, under the lights in front of family and friends.
For young Baldwin-Whitehall Soccer Association players, they will get a taste of what that is like Saturday at the Baldwin boys' and girls' purple-and-white scrimmage.
“It's a good way for us to start the season, and kick (it) off,” said Adam Obranovich, head coach of the Baldwin boys' varsity soccer program.
Baldwin's soccer teams will welcome BWSA players and supporters to Baldwin Stadium and watch what is expected to be a new tradition.
At halftime of each scrimmage and in between the games, BWSA youth teams will take the field — marking the first time Baldwin and the local soccer association has held such an event together.
Obranovich, in his second year as the Highlanders' head coach, got the idea from his playing days at South Park High School, which held a similar event.
“It's good to get (youth players) involved,” Obranovich said. “Plus it gets more people at the games, and the kids have fun doing it.”
The association has almost 600 members, with the highest numbers being in the youngest levels.
Baldwin's girls' first-year head coach, Caley Troutman, knows it's difficult to keep young girls interested in soccer through high school.
“They have large numbers in youth, but when they get to high school the numbers aren't really there for the girls,” Troutman said. “Hopefully, we can get those girls to stayed interested in soccer.”
Two weeks ago, the school also held a three-day youth soccer mini-camp for the first time. Participants had an opportunity to interact with the high school players, and Troutman believes the community is coming together through soccer.
“The boosters have been really great. The parents are really supportive,” Troutman said. “They've been great so far.”
Both soccer teams at Baldwin had successful campaigns a year ago.
The Highlanders finished 10-8 (8-4 in section play), and was the only WPIAL boys' squad to miss the playoffs with a winning section record.
The Lady Highlanders ended up 12-7 (9-3 in section play) after bowing out in the first round of the WPIAL playoffs.
Obranovich remembers that Baldwin wasn't always known for soccer, but now the soccer program draws as many players as football does.
“As far as I knew, Baldwin was a football school,” Obranovich said. “We actually had more kids than the football team did (last year.)''
A total of 17 seniors graduated from last year's team, including eight starters, but returning are such key players as Brandon Thompson and Jon DeGregorio.
“We're looking for them to make a big splash,” Obranovich said.
For the Lady Highlanders, there are seven players back for their senior season, including goalkeeper Liz Spegar, forward Lydia Fennell and defender Sam Yule.
“They have the talent to win section, and all these girls will play a role in that,” Troutman said.
But the first step to a successful season starts in camp and scrimmages.
Both teams started preseason camp this week, and Saturday's scrimmage will be the first game-like action.
Both Obranovich and Troutman hope a solid turnout for the intrasquad scrimmage creates a game-night atmosphere.
“Hopefully, we get some people in to the stands to create that atmosphere,” Troutman said.
Obranovich said: “It's like picking up an additional scrimmage. It's a lot different atmosphere than just being at a practice.”
The first scrimmage starts at 5 p.m. with the girls' varsity against the girls' junior varsity, followed by the boys' matchup at 7:30 p.m.
The first 100 fans will receive free “spirit” gear compliments of the boosters.
Both varsity squads also will hold a youth night — the boys on Sept. 24; the girls on Sept. 25 — during the season.
The Highlanders are scheduled to open their schedule Aug. 30 in the intersection kickoff tournament at Seneca Valley.
The local squad's home opener will be at 7:30 p.m. on Sept. 5 against Section 4-AAA foe Albert Gallatin.
The Baldwin girls are scheduled to start their regular season Sept. 3 in a nonsection matchup at Norwin.
The Lady Highlanders will play Seton-La Salle, another nonsection foe, in their home opener Sept. 7 at 6 p.m.
Justin Criado is a freelance writer