Baldwin girls soccer looks to improve in season unlike any other

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Sunday, September 27, 2020 | 11:01 AM


Baldwin second-year coach Tom Dongilli is looking for continued growth by the girls soccer team.

The Highlanders finished 3-12-1 overall and 3-11 in Section 2-AAAA last season. Dongilli is seeking improvement in 2020

“We are still evolving,” he said. “I am encouraged at what we are doing, our work efforts and our commitment. We should see more success than previous years for sure.

“If you look at the wins and losses (last season), you could be deceived. In coming to Baldwin, I wanted to create a system, an infrastructure for growth and development. That is going to take some time.”

Like every team in Western Pennsylvania, the coronavirus pandemic has had a direct impact on the Baldwin squad.

“The big changes are in our processes,” Dongilli said. “We take extra efforts to assure our players and coaches remain safe from the time they arrive to when they leave.”

However, the Highlanders were able to play just one match before the covid-19 virus shut down the program. One team member recently tested positive.

“Playing a sport during the covid-19 pandemic immediately set us back since we were not able to begin any captain’s practices until mid-July,” said senior Elena Zandier, one of four co-captains. “When we first began practices in July, we could not scrimmage because of close contact. We could not even pick up the balls. Since then, practices began to look a bit more normal, but we continued to follow the health guidelines of our district, which of course includes wearing masks and practicing social distancing when possible.

“Unfortunately, we are all (now) quarantining from soccer and school to ensure the health and safety of our fellow athletes and classmates.”

When the regular season resumes for Baldwin, Zandier and senior Makenzie Auel are expected to have integral roles on defense.

“Makenzie and Elena are among the best defensive players in the league,” Dongilli said. “They play the game with a high level of skill and knowledge. They always make the correct decisions and never stop leading on and off the field.”

Baldwin’s early season starting lineup consists of Zandier at center back and Auel at left back as well as senior midfielders Adriana Marina and Addie Carr, senior defender Tori Dicesare, junior midfielder Megan Leary, junior defender Isabel Swanson, sophomore midfielder Olivia Seiler and freshmen forwards Emma Lieu and Cate Skowronski. The starting goalkeeper is freshman Haley Nieman.

“The 2020 team is full of talent and most of us have been playing together since we were little,” Zandier said. “Most of our seniors have been gaining varsity experience since our freshman year and we’re really excited to be leaders and role models to the underclassman this season.”

Zandier’s weighted GPA is 4.4. She is a member of the National Honor, National Art Honor and daVincian societies, the Mini-Thon program and serves as yearbook editor-in-chief.

“As a team, we are all very close and connected under one common goal,” Zandier said, “which contributes to how we work together on the field.”

Other players on this year’s team include seniors Roshna Bhattarai, Kelly Maloney and Elizabeth Deiley and juniors Morgan Woods and Kritika Timsina.

Along with Seiler, top sophomore prospects include Cadence Morton, Heidi Douglas, goalkeeper Adrianna Grande and defenders Samantha Rorison, Sara Scheeser and Gabriella Emiliani. Alexa Meyer, a freshman goalkeeper, rounds out the squad.

“We have (some) amazing freshmen we are excited about,” Dongilli said.

Leading reserves in the early part of the season consisted of Bhattarai, Maloney, Morton, Woods and Rorison.

“The girls have worked extremely hard,” Dongilli said. “The coaching staff and school are very proud of their dedication, commitment and hard work.”

On that coaching staff, Dongilli has four assistants: Christine Chiodo, Jessica Welka, Pat Maloney and Mike Evangalista.

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