New coach excited to see how Pine-Richland girls progress

Saturday, December 3, 2022 | 11:01 AM

The first goal Gabby Baldasare wanted to achieve after taking the Pine-Richland girls basketball job in May was to establish what she wants the culture to be in the program.

She’s been pleased with the response and is looking forward to seeing how the team continues to progress now that the season is here.

The Rams are young with only two seniors and one junior, but they are also hungry.

And they expect to be competitive.

“We had a really good summer, had a great time at team camp and played in a fall league, and I think we’ve really turned the corner in the last couple weeks,” Baldasare said. “It’s exciting because it feels like things are coming together. There’s always bumps and growing pains along the way, but the girls have bought in and seeing the culture shift has been my favorite part.”

Baldasare played at Vincentian Academy, where she helped the Royals win the 2010 WPIAL title, before going on to play at Niagara. She was an assistant at Moon the last two years.

She’ll have two seniors on the floor in Sarah Pifer and Catrina Knox, who were named captains by the coaching staff.

“They’ve shown leadership since the first day that I got to Pine-Richland,” Baldasare said. “They were the first two to gravitate towards me and latch on to what we’re trying to do. They are the culture setters that are really helping shift the program to where we want it to be. I feel confident that they will leave a legacy after they graduate this year.”

The two seniors will be starters along with junior Madison Zavasky, sophomore Katie Pifer, who is Sarah’s younger sister, and freshman Cate Gentile.

Baldasare had heard good things about Gentile prior to getting the Pine-Richland job and what she heard was confirmed the first time she saw her in person.

“The first day I saw her in the gym, I said that there’s no way that she’s a freshman,” Baldasare said. “She’s 6-1 and I’m 6-1 and I did not look at her as a freshman. You can tell that she’s in the weight room training on her own and is well conditioned. She looks like some college players look, so just her physicality gave us confidence right off the bat, and on top of it, she’s a workhorse.

“Madison (Zavasky) has taken her under her wing. They have a good thing going. The growth with Cate from the first day to now has me hopeful for her future. She’s going to continue to grow and become something special.”

Other sophomores on the roster are Lorelei Lehman, Kylie Schneck, Maren Iski, Tiffany Gathers and Kiera Monroe. Emma Stillwagon, Aubree Bennett, Shea Best and Katie Patrick join Gentile as the freshmen on the roster.

The Rams were scheduled to open the season at the Moon Tournament pn Dec. 2-3. They were set to play Moon in the opener, meaning Baldasare’s first game as a varsity head coach came against the team she was an assistant the last two years.

The Rams are in Section 1 with Butler, Hempfield, North Allegheny, Norwin and Seneca Valley. The top four teams make the playoffs, which is a goal that they’d like to check off this season.

“We had a team meeting that we called a goal meeting,” Baldasare said. “We went through nonsection and into section and talked in terms of what our record could look like and what we want to accomplish.

“We have pretty high hopes for ourselves. We have a pretty strong nonconference schedule that will prepare us for section. I think the girls are feeling pretty confident. They seem like they are up for the challenge.”

Jerin Steele is a freelance writer


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