Pine-Richland field hockey goalie thrives in starting role

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Sunday, October 11, 2020 | 11:01 AM


Sadie Baratka knows what it’s like to face North Allegheny in overtime, and she made sure not to do it again.

With her team up 1-0 with four minutes to go, Baratka lost track of the ball, which was deflected 15 feet away to the waiting sticks of two Tigers in front of the goal. In a moment of desperation, she instinctively moved to her right and made a highlight-reel save on a seemingly wide-open net.

“The hardest shots to stop are in the air, and you have to dive,” Baratka said. “I surprised myself. I definitely thought it was going in.”

Baratka, a junior, has helped lead Pine-Richland’s field hockey team to an 8-0 record more than halfway through the season. She has five shutouts and allowed one goal in each of the Rams’ other three games.

For a goalie with a perfect record and a flair for stepping up in big moments — she memorably won a shootout against North Allegheny in the 2018 WPIAL Class AAA semifinals as a backup — Baratka isn’t often in the spotlight.

Her older sister, Abby, was front and center for three years in net, and Sadie patiently waited her turn, watching her role model lead Pine-Richland to three consecutive WPIAL Class AAA championship games and two titles.

“She’s my best friend,” Sadie said. “I was her ridealong and sometimes that probably annoyed her, but I truly look up to her. That’s one of the reasons I am confident. I learned from the best. She’s taught me everything I know about being in goal.”

Being the starting goalie, Sadie would be expected to be in the limelight more often.

She happens to play on a team that scores 9.75 goals per game.

“Sadie is the only goalie with varsity, and we do drill after drill with her, and we especially like to do a lot of one-on-one shooting drills with her,” assistant coach Laura Peery said. “It’s even harder in games, because she doesn’t get a lot of action. She has to stay mentally prepared for those rare shots that do come.”

The team’s all-out offensive philosophy and intense one-on-one drills are a result of how much coaches trust Baratka.

“Some teams will literally keep their backs in the circle, and other teams will put them on the goal line when you enter the circle,” coach Donna Stephenson said. “Having a goalie like Sadie allows us to play the style we want to play, which is to attack with our backs up and playing offense and one below the 50. If our last line of defense gets beat, and they’re one-on-one versus Sadie, we feel good about our chances.”

The defense rarely lets that happen.

“They are amazing, and I love them so much,” Baratka said. “They are constantly working. Elaina Camino is always in the right spot at the right time, same with Natalie Loftus and Danielle Deer and everyone else who plays defense. They’re each like a brick wall.”

On the odd occasion an attacker does get past the defense, Baratka has prepared for that, too.

“She’s always been eager to step in, I think,” Peery said. “She’s able to stay in the moment with any shot that comes at her. It’s nice she has her time to shine, too.”

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