Sidney Shemanski hopes to guide young Freeport girls soccer to section title
Wednesday, August 21, 2019 | 4:18 PM
Sidney Shemanski will begin the first leg of the three-part finale to her Freeport athletic career this fall with the girls soccer team.
It has been a decorated career in soccer, basketball and track and field for the reigning Valley News Dispatch Female Athlete of the Year. While it is her final act, a new era for the Yellowjackets is on the horizon.
Freeport has 17 freshmen on the roster, and the combination of Shemanski’s scoring prowess up front with the talented crop of newcomers could make the Yellowjackets a dangerous team in a tough Section 2-AA.
Shemanski has 54 goals and 51 assists in three years, including 24 goals and 18 assists last season. Freeport coach Brittni Grenninger is looking forward to having one last run with Shemanski and having her as an example for her younger group.
“As a program and as coaches, we’re really lucky to have Sidney,” Grenninger said. “She’s one of those once-in-a-lifetime athletes, especially at the high school level. Athletes like her don’t come around often.”
Freeport finished 11-7-2 overall and finished third in the section at 7-4-1. The Yellowjackets advanced to the playoffs for the sixth consecutive year. They lost 6-1 to eventual champion South Park in the quarterfinals.
Shemanski is one of only four seniors and six returning starters. The bulk of the gaps will be filled by freshman, but many of them have played club soccer and a few play in the U.S. Youth Soccer Olympic Development Program.
“We have more players this year that are playing club or ODP than we’ve ever had thanks to this freshman group,” Grenninger said. “We’re not going to be overly experienced, but we have the potential to be one of the best soccer teams we’ve had since I’ve been here.
“It’s just going to be a matter of playing together and meshing and getting used to playing at this level against other high school teams.”
Shemanski is a team captain along with fellow senior Kylie Hoffman, who is a center back. They, along with senior teammates Madeline Miller and Emma Miller, have taken on the responsibility of guiding their young teammates in early practices.
“They might be freshmen, but, like coach (Grenninger) has said, a lot of them play club and have played together for a while, so I think they’ll be a huge asset to our team” Shemanski said. “We don’t have many upperclassmen, but we’ve been taking them under our wing a lot.”
Hannah Thomas, a junior, is a returning starter on the back line. Sophomore Emma Check is a returning starter at forward, and junior Hannah Slaughenhoupt is the lone returning starter at midfield.
Last season was the first time since 2015 that Freeport did not win a section title, and the first goal for Shemanski is to get the section crown back. The second goal is a return trip to Highmark Stadium to play for a WPIAL title like she did when she was a freshman.
A speech by Grenninger on the first day of practice got her pumped for the season, and she is hopeful it had the same impact on her teammates.
“She gave me chills talking about playing with a ton of people there at finals and a huge student section cheering us on,” Shemanski said. “I really want it to happen again this year. That’s what we’re hoping for.”
To reach their goals, the Yellowjackets have to navigate a difficult section with reigning champion Deer Lakes and runner-up Burrell returning key players. Apollo-Ridge also made the playoffs last year and has been trending upward every year since starting the program five years ago. Highlands, Valley and East Allegheny also reside in the section.
“Deer Lakes and Burrell are going to be very good again this year, so those games are going to be fun,” Grenninger said. “Girls soccer is really picking up in this area. It’s going to be a fun year.”
Jerin Steele is a freelance writer