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Lady Highlanders paved a road in 1989 for today’s Baldwin athletes

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submitted photo
Members of the 1989 Baldwin girls' volleyball team included, front, from left, Julie Snyder, Heather Lucas, Julie Fernacz, Cassie Bowen, Alicia Chico, Cindy May; middle row, Melisa Auen, Beth Ryce, Leann Pauley, Beth Collett, Heather Petras, Robin Collet, Danielle Demore; back, assistant coach Lynda Scahill, assistant coach Lynette Opel, Missy Vensel, Michele Cline, Sue Reiff, Mary Doerzbacher, Kelly Kovach, Laurie Flynn, Angie Tommarello, Sue Dewalt and head coach Paul Hindes.
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Philip G. Pavely | Tribune-Review
Former Aliquippa, Ambridge and Baldwin football coach Don Yannessa shares a laugh with members of Baldwin's 1989 volleyball team as the 2014 WPIAL Hall of Fame class was introduced in April at the Western Pennsylvania Sports Museum.
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Philip G. Pavely | Tribune-Review
The 2014 WPIAL Hall of Fame class is introduced April 9 at the Western Pennsylvania Sports Museum. The group includes, front, from left, Mike Vernillo, Alicia Chico (Baldwin volleyball), Julie Snyder (Baldwin volleyball), Kelly Deep Panucci, Julie Fernacz (Baldwin volleyball), Sue Suit and Bob Jacoby; middle row, Mary Doerzbacher (Baldwin volleyball), Missy Vensel (Baldwin volleyball), Cindy May (Baldwin volleyball), Paul Hindes, Tom Sankovich and Dave Meloni; back, Larry Maggi, Shannon Davis, Beth Friday Bovay, Don Yanessa, Eric Kasperowicz, Steve Higgins (Beaver Falls hall of fame) and Jim Carbone (Beaver Falls athletic director).
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Courtesy of WPIAL
The 1989 Baldwin volleyball team posed for a group photo at the WPIAL Hall of Fame induction ceremony. Team members lined up virtually in the same order as 25 years ago.

The 1989 Baldwin girls’ volleyball team ranks as one most accomplished squads in any sport in school history.

The Lady Highlanders rolled to WPIAL and PIAA Class AAA titles in 1989, dropping only two games all year and finishing 118-2 overall.

It marked the first of three state volleyball crowns won by the Lady Highlanders under the guidance of head coach Paul Hindes, the all-time winningest coach at Baldwin High School.

The 1989 team, which defeated Penn Hills in the WPIAL finals and Dover in the PIAA finals, recently was inducted into the WPIAL Hall of Fame during a ceremony at the Green Tree Doubletree Hotel.

“This is a team that truly earned and deserved that honor. They were willing to make the commitment and pay the price to go on a championship journey, and they were about as close to perfect on the volleyball court as you could possibly be,” said Hindes, who also is a member of the Pennsylvania Sports Hall of Fame.

“Interestingly, they also set attendance records as a team and for those who supported a team at the WPIAL Hall of Fame banquet. There were 100 Baldwin people in attendance, and the committee was so impressed that they made a public comment that this was in fact a record. That kind of support system from family and friends was a major factor in their successes. This was also an indicator of how close this team was, and those relationships continue today.”

There also was a high level of academic excellence among the 1989 team members, in addition to their athletic prowess.

“This team can serve as a perfect example of what can happen in Baldwin when great kids and great families are willing to put the pieces together to build a legacy,” said Hindes, a South Park resident who retired from teaching in 2005.

“That commitment to excellence continues today and their stories need to be known so that others can walk in the path they created.”

Baldwin’s starting lineup in 1989 consisted of hitters Sue Reiff, Kelly Kovach and Laurie Flynn; middle hitter Mary Doerzbacher; outside hitter Robin Collet; setter Julie Fernacz; and defensive specialists Cassie Bowen and Heather Lucas.

The Lady Highlanders’ top reserves included Heather Petras, at middle hitter; Angie Tommarello, at outside hitter; Alicia Chico, a setter; and Michelle Cline, a defensive specialist. They were complemented by Julie Snyder, Cindy May, Melisa Auen, Beth Ryce, Leann Pauley, Beth Collett, Danielle Demore, Missy Vensel and Sue Dewalt.

Reiff and Fernacz were first-team all-WPIAL players, Kovach was named to the second team, and Doerzbacher was an honorable-mention selection.

“There were 21 varsity players and that is unheard of today,” said Hindes, who was assisted in 1989 by Lynda Scahill and Lynette Opel. “Practices were competitive, goal oriented and under the pressure of game conditions. Every practice ended with a challenge match with varying scores as starting points, and if the second team won, they started.

“This team loved to compete, and they played tough, smart and together. They were beautiful girls off the court, but when they put on that Baldwin purple they transformed into a team totally focused on their mission and goals, and played with a killer instinct. Their skills, passion and intensity earned the respect of opponents and officials.”

Hindes now spends a lot of time with his family, including his three grandchildren, and continues to work on one of his pet projects, Family Tyes, along with “some interesting academic programs in Baldwin.” He has nothing but fond remembrances of his players and season of 25 years ago.

“The most meaningful memories really have nothing to do with their athletic achievements,” he said. “They were great kids, great students, great leaders and great role models. They were highly respected within the school and community. They packed the gym with fans and created a lot of excitement and school spirit. They were more like a family than a team. They had fun. They were everything you would hope your own daughters would be.

“This also happened to be Don Yannessa’s first year as (Baldwin) athletic director. He was a great supporter of women’s athletics and had a lot of respect for this team, and it was greatly appreciated.”

Most 1989 team members also played on Baldwin’s softball squad, also coached by Hindes, which won three WPIAL titles and finished second in the state twice.

Most also continued their athletic/academic careers — in volleyball and/or softball — in college. Bowen, Collet and Fernacz were teammates in the Duquesne University women’s volleyball program.

Still displaying a true team spirit, almost all the 1989 team members attended the WPIAL induction ceremony.

They are scattered throughout various parts of the country, although many still live in the region. The South Hills Record caught up with many of the team members, via email, to find out their current status, and to ask what being inducted into the Hall of Fame meant to each of them.

LAURIE (FLYNN) CORTAZZO

Laurie lives in Baldwin, near Baldwin High School, and is a social worker at Shaler Area Elementary School. She has two sons, Nicholas, 15, who is a musical theater actor, and Matthew, 12, a goaltender for the Pittsburgh Predators pee wee hockey team. Nicholas attends Pittsburgh Musical Theater and was involved in Baldwin High’s production of “Shrek” as a freshman this past school year.

Laurie played volleyball at Slippery Rock from 1991 to 1994, was named PSAC player of the year twice, and was inducted into the Slippery Rock hall of fame.

Induction:

“It is a great honor, as it includes the very best athletes that have played in Western Pennsylvania. To be included in this group is humbling. It was wonderful to see almost everyone from that team, especially those that I have not seen since graduating from high school. It was a great night.

“It was very special because my sister, Jennifer Flynn Oldenburg, was able to attend with her son and daughter. Jen was inducted into the WPIAL Hall of Fame in the inaugural class. Being inducted with this class was also special because of the connections I had with other inductees. Don Yannessa was our athletic director, I work with Eric Kasperowicz’s wife at Shaler, and the Courage Award winner, Bill Suit, was a principal at Shaler.”

Memories:

“We were much more than a team, we were a family. We had sleepovers almost every weekend. We had fun on the bus trips (singing and dancing) and in between matches. I also don’t think we ever had any disagreements between each other. We all got along, which was awesome.”

ROBIN (COLLET) JOYCE

Robin has been married for 14 years to Jim Joyce, and they live in Apollo in the Kiski Area School District.

The Joyces have two daughters, Sydney, 9, and Madeline, 7.

“I enjoy watching and supporting them in their sports and activities, and try to instill in them foundations of teamwork and sportsmanship with the understanding that you have to earn success with hard work and determination,” Robin said.

Robin played volleyball at Duquesne University and graduated with a master’s degree in physical therapy in 1996. She earned a doctorate of physical therapy degree from Chatham University in 2012, and works as a neurological physical therapist for UPMC Centers for Rehab Services in Greensburg.

Induction:

“One of the best parts was reconnecting in the weeks before (the ceremony). It was great seeing everyone together after so many years. It’s hard to describe the feeling — so exciting and surreal — bringing so many memories back to the surface, the anticipation of seeing everyone, then actually seeing so many teammates, friends, coaches and many parents and family members all together. Many ladies traveled far distances to be there for that one night. Although it had been years for many of us since we’d seen each other, we had no trouble talking and picking up where we left off, and it was so nice to meet husbands, kids, etc. It was an honor.”

Memories:

“I remember lots of ‘team bonding’ activities — after-tournament sleepovers, team dinners at Coach Hindes’ house, followed by watching an inspirational sports movie such as ‘Hoosiers’ or ‘Rocky,’ and going as a team to support other Baldwin teams, usually at football games. I remember how amazingly supportive our parents were (and still are), playing Rocky music on the bus prior to games and tournaments, and staying at practice until 8 p.m. on more than a few occasions.”

DANIELLE (DEMORE) SOPP

Danielle graduated from Baldwin in 1991, then continued her softball career as a third baseman at Edinboro University. She married her best friend, Bill Sopp, who she met in college and now is a Navy lieutenant. The Sopps are stationed in Kingsbay, Ga., and have two children, Jake, 9, and Josey, 6, along with two rescued mastiffs. They are avid hikers of the Appalachian Trail, and enjoy going to the beach near their home.

Danielle has been teaching physical education for 14 years at Camden Middle School. She also taught for two years at Atlantic Community High School in Delray Beach, Fla. She also coaches softball and volleyball at Camden County High School.

Induction:

“It was a tremendous honor. It is nice to be recognized, especially a girls’ team being recognized for their hard work, accomplishments and tradition. It also was wonderful to see and catch up with my team members, coach and their families.”

Memories:

“Boy, there is a ton. I remember three-a-day practices in the summer; being encouraged by our coach and my teammates to strive to be the best; having to keep a notebook with my own personal goals and team goals in it and writing in it every day, reflecting on what I did in practice that was good and what I needed to do the next day to get better. That notebook was like our Bible.

“I remember countless dinners at coach’s house that his wife would prepare before every playoff game, and coach making us watch the USA hockey team beat Russia in the Olympics, and watching ‘Rocky.’ I remember chanting and singing on the way to and from games, ‘Eye of the Tiger’ and Queen’s ‘We Will Rock You’ and ‘We are the Champions.’ I still get excited and goosebumps when I hear those songs.

“Our team was more than just a team. We were a family; we did everything together, and for each other.”

SUE (REIFF) LOUKS

Sue has been married for 15 years to Matt Louks, and the couple lives in Roanoke, Texas. Sue works at Baylor Medical Center at Trophy Club in the business office as a lead office coordinator, and also is a scheduler for and runs King/Queen of the Beach leagues for Champagne Volleyball in the Dallas-Fort Worth area. She still plays volleyball, but it usually is in the sand.

Sue is a 1994 graduate of West Virginia Wesleyan College in Buckhannon, W.Va., where she continued her volleyball career and was inducted into the college’s hall of fame in 2012. She was the first women’s volleyball player ever to receive the honor at Wesleyan.

Induction:

“It truly is an honor. I also was a bit surprised, but at the same time we had an outstanding team and record. And I was amazed at how many of us were able to be at the awards ceremony. It was fun to catch up, and we even watched the finals of states again.”

Memories:

“For the number of players we had on the team, we were a pretty close team. The bus trips to tournaments were always so much fun, listening to music, dancing in our seats, getting all pumped up. We worked hard every day and pushed each other to be the best. And, of course, winning the state title and realizing what our record was is truly amazing.”

LEANN PAULEY

Leann lives in Virginia Beach and teaches sixth-grade history at Corporate Landing Middle School. She also coaches volleyball and track, mentors in the Robotics Club, and sponsors the school’s running club.

Induction:

“It was amazing when I was contacted about being inducted. It’s hard to put into words how it feels to be a part of such an amazing team. It feels good to have people 25 years after our accomplishment recognize us. I hope it inspires athletes at Baldwin to give their all and rock it out.”

Memories:

“Whether we were starters or second team, we all knew we were important and our success depended on that. I was second team, but I gave everything at every practice, knowing if I slacked it would affect the starters. Don’t get me wrong, I wanted to beat the starters and be in that starting position, but I knew pushing them would make all of us better. It’s easier for me to say that now that I am looking back … 1989 was an awesome year; I am so glad I was a part of it.

“My experiences at Baldwin and the relationships we built helped me become the person I am today. I love being involved, and feel making connections with kids will encourage them to be better people.”

KELLY (KOVACH) SCHOENLY

Kelly is married to Doug Schoenly, a Penn State alumnus and tennis professional. They have one daughter, Danielle.

Kelly has been head coach of the Ohio State University softball team for two years. She previously spent six seasons as head coach at Miami (Ohio) University, and was the program’s all-time winningest coach with 188 career victories, She also was an assistant coach at Penn State for eight seasons, and at her alma mater, Michigan, for three years.

During her collegiate pitching career at Michigan from 1991-95, Kelly earned numerous national awards, including 1995 NFCA First-Team All-America honors. A two-time Big Ten pitcher of the year and three-time all-conference selection, Kelly was a member of three conference championship teams. The 1995 squad finished seventh at the NCAA Women’s College World Series.

A two-time GTE Academic All-American, Kelly received her bachelor’s degree in elementary education in 1995. After receiving the NCAA postgraduate scholarship, she earned her master’s degree in elementary mathematics education from Michigan in 1998.

Induction:

“I thoroughly enjoyed seeing all my teammates. Although being recognized for what we won was fantastic, who we have become was so much more rewarding to see. And to sit around and still have that genuine love for each team member just made me reflect on how fortunate I was to come through Baldwin at that exact time with those amazing girls.

“It was especially rewarding to experience the Hall of Fame with all our families. It was fun for our kids to see their moms in that light, and fun for our parents to get back together with all the other families, just like when we were kids.”

Memories:

“I think I see things so differently now as a coach because I see what so many teams go through, and although many of the teams I have played on and coached later at the college level won championships, it is all about the journey and the experience.

“It’s about the people, and we had an amazing group to go through high school with. Winning championships was the end goal, but the journey to excellence is what we take away into our lives now — being excellent wives, business owners, moms, all of it.”

HEATHER (PETRAS) PRIMROSE

Heather has been married for 15 years to John Primrose, lives in the Shaler Area School District, and is a certified public accountant, employed as the assistant controller for Allegheny Technologies. The Primroses have three children: Carson, 12; Tyler, 10; and Blake, 8.

“My boys are heavily involved in athletics in the Shaler school district,” Heather said. “I absolutely love watching them compete in athletics, and helping them to get better and better at it.”

Heather played volleyball at Gannon University and recently was inducted into Gannon’s athletic hall of fame. She was an NCAA All-America second-team selection, broke various team records, and had her uniform number (12) retired at Gannon, which advanced to the Division II national finals multiple times during her career.

“I still have my retired jersey hanging in my house today,” Heather said.

Induction:

“It was truly an honor, especially with such a tremendous group of girls. Our team was truly one-of-a-kind, and it was so nice that the Baldwin girls’ volleyball legacy was able to be honored.”

Memories:

“Our team practiced extremely hard, and we would have summer camp several weeks before school started. We would practice literally eight to 10 hours a day during camp. The camp always started out with a morning at the track, which I will never forget. We would run the bleachers and the track until many of us were sick. But there was so much team bonding during that time — it was amazing, because we really had to help one another get through it.

“I will also never forget when we were invited to a national tournament in Chicago, and the hard work we put in to get ready for it. Also, all three years I was on varsity, we won both WPIALs and PIAAs. There was no better feeling than that victory, and that feeling never changed over those three years. The girls on that team were my best friends, and we worked together every day to achieve that tremendous goal.”

CASSIE (BOWEN) HERSH

Cassie is a pharmacist in Baltimore, Md., and married to Tim Hersh. Cassie and Tim have three children: Teagan, 13; Parker, 9; and Addison, 8.

“I love coming back to Pittsburgh to see my family,” Cassie said. “I enjoy going back to Baldwin and sharing stories with my children from those high school years.”

Cassie continued her volleyball career at Duquesne University.

Induction:

“It was an honor to be inducted, and that our hard work was recognized all these years later. It was great to see my teammates 25 years later, and how successful everyone has become professionally and personally. I believe the strong work ethic we all had then continues now in our personal and professional lives.”

Memories:

“I have never in my life been pushed more mentally and physically than I was playing for Paul Hindes. It was a great accomplishment winning states and working together as a team to reach that goal.”

MARY (DOERZBACHER) HANSEN

Mary has been married for 17 years to Michael Hansen. The Hansens live in Pine Township with their two children, Jacqueline, 14, and Sarah, 12. Mary, who played volleyball at California (Pa.) University, is a professor in the School of Education and Social Sciences at Robert Morris University. This past year, she coached a Beaver Valley Premier girls’ volleyball team.

Induction:

“I am honored that my team was inducted. I went to school with a group of motivated and determined student-athletes who have grown into amazing women, and I am humbled and honored to have been inducted with these ladies.

“It is gratifying that all our hard work and dedication to the Baldwin volleyball team has been recognized years later, and I am thankful for the Hall of Fame committee for recognizing the accomplishments of this team.

“It was wonderful to reconnect with these ladies and see all of their accomplishments today. Many of them are teachers and coaches who are sharing their experiences and philosophies with the next generation of student-athletes. Our experiences as members of the Baldwin teams under Mr. Hindes and Lynda and Mike Scahill laid the foundation for many of these coaching philosophies.”

Memories:

Mary submitted a list of some of her best Baldwin volleyball recollections:

• A focus on motivational quotes and poems to help us set individual and team goals.

• Bus rides to away games and tournaments, where the team sang and danced.

• Dinner and movie nights at Mr. Hindes’ house.

• Being not only teammates but great friends with the girls.

CINDY (MAY) BONETTI

Cindy has been married for 14 years to Baldwin graduate Jim Bonetti and lives in Whitehall. The Bonettis have two daughters: Lindsay, 11, who will be attending Harrison Middle School this year; and Lacey, 8, a Whitehall Elementary School student.

Cindy is employed by the University of Pittsburgh as the School of Medicine’s Executive Director for Admissions and Financial Aid.

“My hobby is cheering on my girls as they find their own success on the field and in the classroom,” she said.

Cindy played volleyball at Westminster College, where she majored in business administration, then received a master’s degree in business adminstration at Robert Morris University.

Induction:

“It is a wonderful honor; the ceremony and banquet were incredible. It was the team’s homecoming and reunion with 19 of our 21 players being in attendance, and 100 guests there to celebrate with us.”

Memories:

“There are so many from that time. I will never forget our team’s traditions. After every game or tournament, we would sing Baldwin’s alma mater when the bus pulled into the high school’s driveway. It is something that always comes to mind when I drive past the school, and I still know all the words!”

HEATHER (LUCAS) SCHEURER

Heather lives in Mansfield, Texas (south of Dallas), with her husband of 15 years, Larry Scheurer, and four children: Paxton, 14; Gage, 12; Garrett, 12; and Piper, 8. Heather is employed by General Motors, gives private softball lessons, and coaches Paxton’s 14U softball travel team.

She competed in both volleyball and softball at California (Pa.) University.

Induction:

“It’s truly a great honor, especially with this group of woman. We shared something special. We were more than teammates. We were friends, and I think that is what made us so special. We believed in each other.”

Memories:

“My fondest are of our sleepovers we had after our tournaments. We shared so many fun times on and off the court; it’s impossible to pick one.”

MICHELE (CLINE) DUMPMAN

Michele has been married for 10 years to Jim Dumpman and lives in Collier Township. The Dumpmans have two children: Ryan, 9, and Megan, 5.

“After 10 years of traveling and living in a hotel room working for Accenture Consulting, I now work part-time at UPMC in the information services department, implementing electonic medical records,” Michele said. “My other time is spent running my children around to baseball and dance class.”

Michele lettered for four years in softball at the University of Notre Dame.

“I’m forever grateful to Mr. Hindes, Bob Gnuehs and the late Frank Bargar for that stellar four-year opportunity that has since opened a lot of doors for me and for my family.”

Induction:

“It was an honor to become part of such an elite crowd of athletes from Western Pennsylvania; even more of an honor to see teammates I haven’t seen in over 20 years for some of them. Female athletes weren’t held in the same regard (back then) as today. We were breaking some new ground, and Paul Hindes was a tremendous coach who taught us not only about volleyball and softball but also about how to live your life. Paul was instrumental in allowing me to further my softball playing days at Notre Dame.”

Memories:

“The most vivid are not on the court and playing. The best memories are of the bus rides and singing, ‘We Are the Champions,’ as we would pull into the high school parking lot at the end of another successful game or tournament. Also, singing popular songs as we warmed up for games in a big circle.”

ALICIA CHICO

Alicia, a Whitehall resident, is a single mother with one daughter, Teia, 14, who graduated from St. Gabriel Elementary School and will be attending Baldwin High School in the fall. Alicia is a social worker at Allegheny Intermediate Unit. She recently returned from a job-related training session.

“I work in three programs. The Life Program is for students 18 to 21 with special needs. The program looks at each student individually and pushes them to their fullest potential in employment, the community and at home. I also work in the Duquesne City School District, providing post-traumatic stress therapy to students, and working with administration in programming throughout the school. Lastly, I work in the non-public schools providing behavior consultation and in-service trainings to their staff.”

Alicia coaches St. Gabriel’s girls’ junior varsity basketball team, and has coached AAU basketball for four years.

“In every aspect of my life I see the influence of my 1989 team, coaches and Paul Hindes,” she said. “We didn’t strive to be mediocre, we battled to be great. I believe we all should fight to be great, to be the best we can, and to exceed expectations whenever possible. This is the message I send to my daughter, my students and my players. I am not sure who I would be today without the Baldwin 1989 volleyball team, but I do know my team and coaches taught me to raise my expectations of myself, and to fight for what I believe.”

Alicia also played basketball at Baldwin but suffered a broken ankle during her senior year. She earned an undergraduate degree at Penn State, then a master’s degree in social work at Pitt.

Induction:

“When I first learned about the induction I thought it was exciting and an honor, but I had no concept of the true magnitude of this event. I was honored and overwhelmed at the ceremony, and realized how all our hard work, sweat and tears truly paid off. It was an evening I will never forget, and I was so proud to be able to share it with my team, my coaches, and especially my parents and daughter.”

Memories:

“I have many fond memories of that year and some not so fond. What stands out the most are the mental challenges that occurred that year. Every practice, Paul and Lynda would focus on a player and push them to perform both physically and mentally. At a point when you thought you would break, (Hindes) would look you with a mischievous smile and say something like, ‘That’s what it takes to be a champion.’

“Paul was able to see your potential and push you to reach it. In addition, during breaks your teammates would rally and support you, pick you up when you were down, and keep you going both mentally and physically. That year truly was one of the best in my life and shaped who I have become today.”

MISSY VENSEL

Missy purchased a home in Baldwin and lives next door to her parents. She attended Robert Morris University, where she played volleyball and softball and earned a degree in sports management. She was named Northeast Conference MVP in volleyball in 1992.

Missy went back to RMU for a master’s degree in business education, and has been teaching business education in the Pittsburgh Public Schools since 2002. She is a teacher at Westinghouse High School.

Induction:

“The ceremony was a great event. I was able to see my volleyball family. It was a great ceremony that we will always remember. We made great memories (in 1989) and to be able to see each other again and share them and laugh about them was priceless. I am very grateful our team was recognized. I hope that from this induction we are able to inspire many more people around us.”

Memories:

“I remember our early morning warmups on the track. We would go to the track and run a mile, then do our visualizations drill for hitting, blocking and setting. We then would run and jump the bleacher steps.

“Also, at the long Saturday tournaments, we would turn on the boom box and play the song, ‘Meeting in the Ladies Room.’ We would all stand in a circle and sing the song.”

JULIE (FERNACZ) SIMURDA

Julie has been married for 15 years to Kevin Simurda, and lives in Allison Park. Julie played volleyball at Duquesne University for four years, then in co-ed leagues after graduation, and has done some volleyball and softball coaching.

The Simurdas have two daughters, Kendall, 13, and Cameron, 11, both active volleyball players.

“As a mother, I have a strong feeling of pride watching them play, and really enjoy going to their matches and seeing them grow and progress,” said Julie, who is a substitute teacher during the school year.

“Kendall played at Deer Lakes Middle School this past year and I had the opportunity to serve as a volunteer assistant coach for her team. Cameron played at St. Bonaventure, where I also served as a volunteer coach for the past five years.

“I don’t play volleyball as much as I’d like, but still manage to get out with some of my friends during the winter and play in an adult league.”

Induction:

“Of course, it’s a tremendous honor to be recognized with some of the WPIAL’s best coaches and athletes. Listening to the stories and accomplishments of the other inductees, I was so proud of our team and coaching staff to be selected with them. It was nice to know that even after 20-plus years, our accomplishments still ranked near the top of so many other tremendous teams. It was a special group, and getting everyone back together to reminisce was a something I’ll never forget.”

Memories:

“Where do I start? It may sound like a cliché, but that group of Baldwin girls truly exemplified what it meant to be a team. We had a sense of unity and togetherness that was so strong, and every match we went out and played hard for each other.

“I personally remember the pressure I felt to not let my teammates down. Whether it was a section game in the middle of the week, a first-round playoff game, or the WPIAL and PIAA championships, we never let up and played like every game could be our last one.

“Of course, beating Penn Hills in the championship match was special, but to be honest, all the games and the rigor of the season sort of blended together. Coach Hindes and Coach Scahill always kept us on an even keel, never letting us take the highs too high, and always taught us how to learn from the mistakes.”

*****

The Lady Highlanders, who happened to be one of the shortest teams in the state, did not lose a match all year, ending up with a perfect 51-0 overall record en route to the WPIAL and PIAA championships.

“The championship journey process demands an extraordinary attitude and effort, with benefits that last forever,” said Hindes, a former social studies teacher who also is a member of the Western Chapter Pennsylvania Sports Hall of Fame. “The state championship was a one-day marathon. To be prepared for that challenge, our summer camp was the beginning of the process. There was no other experience during the season, including section games or tournaments, that demanded a team perform at its highest level for 10 to 12 hours.

“We were one of the shortest teams in the state, and that required we play at our peak level every point of every game. We knew teams would likely respond to playing us by either being in awe or playing their best game. We knew there would be days that you didn’t feel right or were tired or a little hurt, or maybe even wanted to give in a little. We knew this journey would demand that you deal with pressure, doubt, stress and fear in practice and in games. We also knew that when you paid the price, fear and doubt would be replaced by confidence and belief.”

Hindes also coached in the football, track and field, boys’ basketball, wrestling and tennis programs at Baldwin. He won 16 WPIAL championships during his distinguished coaching career — eight in softball, five in girls’ volleyball and three in girls’ basketball.

“In timeouts at critical moments of games, you could look this group in the eyes and tell them that their opponent did not work as long or hard as they did, that they didn’t pay the same price, and they knew it was true,” said Hindes, who served as head coach of the Duquesne University women’s basketball team in the early 1980s during the program’s transition from Division II to Division I.

“In volleyball, you couldn’t select who would get the ball or who would face the challenge of making a key serve, pass, block or hit, so everyone had to be prepared. The inner voice of this team could tell them that they could do it because they had done it thousands of times in practice, and they had worked too hard to give anything less than their best.

“We also knew the championship journey was a great way to prepare for the challenges and opportunities presented through the rest of your life. Life is difficult and filled with doubt, fear, stress and many things you can’t control.

“When you pay the price to do something special, and extend your limits do things that you thought you might not be capable of doing, you earn an inner strength. We called it, ‘The Champion Lives Inside You Forever.’ It is not an arrogance or ego. It meant that you could live your life with an inner confidence and belief that you had earned. It did not require that you won a championship. It only demanded that you were willing to pay the price every day to get better and work to be the best you could possibly be.”

*****

“The stories of this team will clearly indicate that they continued to do great things in college, their careers and their family lives,” Hindes said. “This was a special team that paved a road. What they accomplished was done again by teams that followed at Baldwin, and can be done again today.”

Ray Fisher is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at 412-388-5820 or [email protected].

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We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.