Pine-Richland’s Caroline Vidic helps club soccer team reach nationals
For the third consecutive season, the Northern Steel Soccer Club’s 2004 Girls Fire team won the Great Lakes Alliance league championship, clinching an automatic berth for the National Premier Leagues Finals from July 11-15 in Commerce City, Colo.
The 2004 Girls Fire is composed of local players 15 and under. This marks their second straight appearance in the NPL Finals. Before that, the team qualified for the U.S. Soccer Club finals in 2017 after winning its first GLA league title.
“It’s really nice to have that consistency, to prove year after year that it’s not an accident, and you didn’t just get a lucky bounce or two. We’ve shown we can do it,” 2004 Girls Fire coach Blair Gerlach said.
“It’s difficult. In the Pittsburgh area, there’s so many club teams, and everyone’s trying to differentiate themselves, but we’ve been on a path for the last couple of years and we believe in it. This tournament gives the players an opportunity to be challenged. The kids are committed and dedicated. They love to play together.”
Pine Township resident and Pine-Richland rising sophomore Caroline Vidic has played an instrumental role for the team. This year, she has continued her strong play at center back.
“She’s played for us for years, and since then, she’s developed into more of a vocal presence and taken a leadership role,” Gerlach said.
“Ever since she started playing center back, she’s been very comfortable there. Her and the other center back, Syd Shuster, form a great pairing. Caroline just has the vocal leadership you want at that position, and she’s very good at winning balls out of the air. She has that physical, enforcing type of aspect to her game, too.”
Vidic is the only Pine-Richland player on the 2004 Girls Fire roster. The team has a number of players from Mars, including Aly Cooper, Eva Ranalli, Jenna Jedry, Madeline Wolf, Leana Cuzzocrea and Olivia Wilson. Shuster represents Butler, along with Jess Mohney and Mackenna Yaracs. Other players on the team include Alaina Althouse of Seneca Valley, Devyn Bailey of Mercer, Olivia Murphy of North Allegheny, Sophia Palermo of North Allegheny, Zofia Lamory of Hampton and Emily Ehrman of Seneca Valley.
“It’s a big deal for these kids. They’re either adjusting to high school, or they’ve been in high school for a year or so and they’re flying across the country to play in a national event that they qualified for,” Gerlach said.
“It’s not like they just signed up, and they’re here. They had to work to get there. So I’m very impressed at the fact that they’ve been able to do it three times.”
Kevin Lohman is a Tribune-Review contributing writer.