Baldwin seniors’ four-year plan results in WPIAL championship
When the Baldwin girls’ volleyball team won the WPIAL Class AAA title on Saturday, it was the pinnacle of a journey that was four years in the making.
As freshmen, Tori Dedig, Sarah Welsh, Tori Sgattoni and Delaney Kelly were inspired by the Lady Highlanders’ group of senior leaders at that time, and made a pact that they would do everything in their power to create the same chemistry and sisterhood.
The idea was that a strong bond shared by everyone would make the most ambitious of goals — like winning a WPIAL championship — possible.
“Ever since our freshman year, we always talked about how this was our goal and we wanted to do it,” Dedig said.
The Lady Highlanders (19-0) reached that milestone Saturday for the first time since 2003, taking a thrilling 3-2 victory from North Allegheny.
Each of the four Baldwin seniors served as a team captain this season.
“It was the perfect year,” Welsh said. “I couldn’t have asked for anything better.”
The score against North Allegheny was tight in the fifth set. The Lady Highlanders remained cool and leaned on each other like they had done all season.
“I looked at everyone else and everyone else was staying calm,” Dedig said. “Our teammates helped pull us all together.”
Each captain played an important role this season. Back row players Welsh and Dedig averaged 16.5 and 10 digs per match, respectively; Sgattoni, a middle hitter, averaged 5.5 kills and 3 blocks; and Kelly, a defensive specialist, averaged three digs as a spark coming off the bench.
The Baldwin co-captains did not yell or shout. There was no hazing or humiliating the younger classes.
Instead, they treated each teammate the same, thus building the team on a foundation of confidence.
“I really think you need that friendship on the team,” Dedig said. “What comes with trust is you play better together.
“I feel like all of us as a whole, we made sure there was no drama on the team. Really, it made us like a family.”
Hindsight, of course, has perfect vision, but it is a valid point to wonder if the team would have been as successful this season if not for the way the girls banded together. Talent is part of the equation that equals success, but so is chemistry.
“I don’t know if we could have had a season like we had without team unity,” Chris Kelly, Baldwin’s head coach, said. “I have to say that it definitely helped it turn out the way it did.”
The Lady Highlanders missed the playoffs the previous two seasons. Welsh said that was not a coincidence.
“Not having anyone to look up to kind of discouraged everyone,” she said.
Sgattoni’s younger sister, Maddi, a sophomore outside hitter, averaged a team-best 13 kills per game and swatted 28 in the championship match.
With the likes of Maddi Sgattoni, junior outside hitter Mackenzie Voelker, plus others, returning next season, Baldwin will have a talented team in 2015 as well.
What this year’s captains hope to leave behind is a legacy that talent does not always prevail.
Having superior skills without the right teammates and attitude can be akin to driving a sports car without brakes. But the right balance can result in a championship finish.
“I hope that they carry on what we did and include everyone and treat everyone as a teammate and a friend,” Welsh said, “and always strive to be your best.”
Ed Phillipps is a freelance writer.