From near and far, longtime coach shepherds Shady Side Academy field hockey program

Saturday, November 14, 2020 | 11:01 AM

Since the Shady Side Academy field hockey team first began WPIAL competition in 1993, it has been one of the most successful programs around.

The team has captured 17 WPIAL titles, winning at least three straight championships on five occasions. Shady Side also won WPIAL titles the first four years it was in the league.

Coach Betsy Gorse has had her hand in the team’s success in one way or another since 1988, when she first joined the school fresh out of graduate school and has helped the program reach its current heights.

After the team captured its 17th WPIAL title this season, Gorse said it’s been awesome to watch it grow over the years.

“I love it, and that’s why I’ve been doing it for so many years,” Gorse said.

She took over the varsity field hockey program in 1988 and coached the team until 1996.

In 1997, an opportunity presented itself that Gorse couldn’t pass up. Shady Side Academy had gone co-ed at the middle school level, and she was offered a chance to work and build the field hockey program at the middle school. Because of all the success she had, it was a tough decision.

“When I stepped down in ’97, it was really because of family,” Gorse said. “I was expecting my second child, and the number of hours with work were ridiculous. The opportunity presented itself to go down to the middle school and coach, and I really enjoyed it. It was tough initially, and I remember in ’97, I wouldn’t go to a varsity game because it was so tough to make that decision, but I followed them from the sideline.”

While she watched the program from afar, she built up the middle school program, which now acts as a valuable feeder program to the high school level.

The move also paid off for Gorse as she’s been able to watch girls grow from sixth or seventh grade and contribute to the high school program.

Between 1997 and 2018, Shady Side Academy won 10 more WPIAL titles, three-peating three times.

“I enjoyed working with the younger girls, but over the years, I got a little itch, but I never really said anything,” Gorse said. “Then there happened to be an opportunity in 2017-2018 when they were looking for another coach, and they had asked me to step in as the assistant to Valerie Lohr, who came in for the year, and she had the opportunity to coach at Allegheny College.”

At that point, Gorse said the team had gone through four coaches in four years, and when she was asked to take over, she couldn’t say no.

“They asked me if they could keep me around for a little bit longer, so it provided the team with a familiar old face to stay with them, and it’s really my favorite part of the day,” Gorse said. “To be with the girls, I work with them for a little over two hours, and it’s the favorite part of my day. As long as that love is still there, I’ll keep doing it.”

She has not only taken over the program again but is having as much success as ever. In her second stint, Shady Side has one three more WPIAL titles with the most recent one coming in a 2-1 victory over Ellis School on Nov. 2.

For the third year in a row, Shady Side lifted WPIAL gold. Gorse said the feeling never gets old.

“Every year, it’s great because you don’t take anything for granted because the teams change,” Gorse said. “It’s a different group where we lose a few, then a few more come in that are hungry and ready to go.”

Greg Macafee is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Greg by email at or via Twitter .


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