Beyond wins and losses: Fall sports athletes still find motivation, celebrate team bonding
October 20, 2021
While sports teams experience ups and downs each year, this fall sports season has proven to be more challenging than usual for Baldwin teams. Despite their win-loss records, though, these fall athletes are continuing to find inspiration and celebrating individual and team accomplishments.
Despite some lopsided losses early in the season, Assistant Coach Chris Reilsono said that with each loss the team grows and improves.
“I think with all these losses have come benchmarks on where we should be and what we need to do. We see where we are at and where we want to be. It’s a difficult process, but we’re learning, evolving, and coming out better on the other side,” Reilsono said.
Reilsono said one of the toughest challenges is how young the football team is. Many of the starters are sophomores, so they are challenged on the field by opponents who are older and bigger.
Senior Luke Kjelshus agrees.
It’s friendships. It’s family. If you’re going through a rough time, who better to be there than your family?” — Christopher Reilsono
It’s friendships. It’s family. If you’re going through a rough time, who better to be there than your family?”
— Christopher Reilsono
“I think we have a young team, so a lot of younger kids are going up against people who are older with more experience,” Kjelshus said.
Kjelshus said the loss to Bethel Park was the toughest defeat.
“We thought we would beat them, so we definitely underestimated them. It was really disappointing,” Kjelshus said. The football team is off to a 2-6 start this year, and the Highlanders have not had much playoff success in recent seasons. The players have become accustomed to hearing criticism, but they have learned to block out the negativity.
“It’s definitely teaching us to be resilient. The one thing I always say to my running backs is remember this but also understand that we don’t live in this moment,” Reilsono said.
Kjelshsus said it’s easy to ignore the criticism, as the team encourages each other despite the losses.
“The team has many close-knit friendships, so it’s easy to uplift each other,” Kjelshus said.
Reilsono said the team has bonded through the hardships.
“It’s friendships. It’s family,” he said. “If you’re going through a rough time, who better to be there than your family?”
The Highlanders cited the win against Norwin as one season highlight.
“When we beat Norwin, it felt amazing. When we went into the locker room during the half, we were down 10-0, but not a single person in the locker room didn’t think we could come back. We knew what we had to do and we did exactly that,” Kjelshus said.
Looking forward, Kjelshus thinks the seasons to come will be successful.
“I think the future looks good, because we have a lot of younger kids with a lot of talent. They just haven’t had a lot of varsity experience,” he said.
Girls volleyball is in one of the more challenging stretches in recent team history.
“We have had a rough last two seasons. We have lost our whole starting lineup and our team is mainly sophomores and juniors, but the team is playing much more consistently now,” senior Heidi Johnston said
For years, Baldwin girls volleyball made playoffs and challenged for the WPIAL title. Despite the tough season this year, though, the girls are still having fun.
“The bus rides are always fun despite the outcomes we have had. We always seem to have a good time no matter if we win or lose, which I think is a lot better than if we were to think about all of the mistakes we made on our way home,” freshman Avery Barrett said. The bus rides are always fun despite the outcomes we have had.” — Avery Barrett
The bus rides are always fun despite the outcomes we have had.”
— Avery Barrett
Although the girls are having fun, they are still focusing on getting better and trying to win.
“We are working our hardest and have had close games. We have been building the connection through the season by inspiring and motivating each other,” Johnston said.
“The Canon-Mac game was very fun, since it was one of our first games and we got to have the satisfaction of winning for the first time of the season,” Barrett said.
Because Barrett is a freshman, she will have more chances for a winning season.
“I think there is going to be a good team next year even though we are losing our seniors. Beginning a new team is hard at first, but I am excited to see what the future teams will be like,” Barrett said.
But for Johnston, this is her last high school season.
“I’m really upset about the season, but we are still having fun because every game is really close. I also know I can get a better season through basketball, though,” Johnston said, referring to her second sport.
After making the playoffs the previous two years, this season has been a letdown for the boys soccer team.
Since the majority of last year’s varsity players were seniors who graduated, the team has been struggling to rebuild. This has been a factor when Baldwin has played more experienced teams.
Senior Cole Thomas said that compared to his past two years on varsity, this year has been rough for the team.
“We lost a lot of seniors and pretty much the entire starting lineup last year, which hurt us a lot,” Thomas said. Last year we lost about nine starters, so a lot of the varsity team is inexperienced in varsity play time.” — Bobby Kosslow
Last year we lost about nine starters, so a lot of the varsity team is inexperienced in varsity play time.”
— Bobby Kosslow
Junior Bobby Kosslow agreed.
“Last year we lost about nine starters, so a lot of the varsity team is inexperienced in varsity play time,” he said.
One of the most difficult games they have had was against Peters Township, a team that has 16 seniors and that has won almost every game this season.
The Highlanders’ best game was their victory over Brashear. Avi Guatam scored in the first half while Thomas scored in overtime.
“Before we went to overtime, I was a bit worried. The coach talked to Cole and when he got the winning goal, we were all very excited,” Kosslow said.
As a junior, Koslow said he is looking forward to the underclassmen improving with time.
“We have hope for next year, since one of our biggest classes right now are sophomores. Once they have more experience on varsity, I’m sure we’ll do well,” Kosslow said.
But Thomas, who is a senior, will not be around for that.
“It definitely has been disappointing to not have a good last year, but the last two years were very good, so I try not to look at the negatives. It’s not about the record or the score anymore. It’s more about trying to keep your pride,” he said.
For now, the players are still making great memories and are trying to make the best out of this season.
“The bus ride is always good for team bonding because we get to talk and laugh,” Thomas said.
Having to compete each year against some of the strongest schools in the region, the girls tennis team has emphasized individual success stories and team bonding.
While the team lost standout graduate Beth Yauch last year, senior Olivia Penrod said other girls have stepped up. That means the team’s future looks solid.
“Our varsity lineup is really good, especially sophomore Gabi Moder and junior Emma Overlingas,” Penrod said. “It was fun to watch (Yauch) play, but now I just watch Gabi or Emma and I feel like I’m watching Beth again.”
Moder and Overlingas had a big moment this season, reaching the WPIAL doubles tournament. It was the first time in 20 years that Baldwin has had a girls doubles team make the WPIAL tournament. We have strong bonds and love playing the sport with each other, and we just have a great time playing as a team.” — Sara Luxemburger
We have strong bonds and love playing the sport with each other, and we just have a great time playing as a team.”
— Sara Luxemburger
Junior Sara Luxemburger said the team has had some difficult matches, especially against Fox Chapel and Oakland Catholic.
“All of them were challenging and close,” Luxemberger said. “We tried our best to keep up the whole time.”
However, the next day in practice was when they would work on turning things around.
“When we lose, we practice even harder the next day and work on what we need to do in order to improve our skills,” Luxemburger said.
Despite the annual tough games against top programs, the girls work together and get along well.
“We all work together as a team and have each others’ backs through every match,” Luxemburger said. “We have strong bonds and love playing the sport with each other, and we just have a great time playing as a team.”
“My favorite part of tennis is the team,” Penrod said. “It creates a great environment and it is full of positivity and laughter.”
The Baldwin girls soccer team has been struggling the past few seasons and this year has been more of the same. But the players continue to work hard and stay motivated.
Junior Olivia Seiler is in her third year on the team and she sees improvement, in both skill and fitness. She said she wishes everyone could understand all the hard work the team puts in, instead of only looking at their record.
“Although the results may not show it, we are doing a lot better,” Seiler said. I know the outcome isn’t going to be how we want it to be” — Megan Leary
I know the outcome isn’t going to be how we want it to be”
— Megan Leary
Seiler said she can’t wait until the team’s efforts and hard work finally show. Personally, her motivation always comes from the team.
“It’s pretty much my teammates. I feel like they keep me motivated and keep me happy,” Seiler said.
Senior Megan Leary, who is in her fourth and final season for Baldwin, agreed that the team bonds are important. Leary said the team trusts each other more than they ever have in her four years of playing.
“Our team is very close and I think that definitely helps with how we play,” Leary said. “We’re playing smarter.”
Baldwin’s section includes some tough opponents.
“We’re not a bad team. We just can’t compete with the teams we play against,” Leary said.
She said the close loss to Bethel Park was the toughest for the team so far. The Highlanders are looking forward to playing them again.
As a senior, Leary is in a leadership role, which has changed her perspective of the game.
“I know the outcome isn’t going to be how we want it to be,” Leary said of this season. “Just playing with my teammates for the last time is kind of what motivates me to keep going.”
Despite this struggling final season at Baldwin, Leary still loves the game and will continue playing soccer after she graduates in college.
The Baldwin girls and boys cross country teams are experiencing a little more frustration this year than they have in previous seasons.
With the boys team starting with a record of 3-5, and the girls team starting with a record of 4-4, — compared to previous records of 5-2 and 6-1 respectively — junior Emily Fowler said the losses could stem from the graduation of last year’s seniors.
“We lost some good runners last school year, so it was hard to get back the motivation we had from last year,” Fowler said. We lost some good runners last school year, so it was hard to get back the motivation we had from last year.” — Emily Fowler
We lost some good runners last school year, so it was hard to get back the motivation we had from last year.”
— Emily Fowler
Senior runner Bobby Konesky agreed, referring particularly to the loss of graduate Zach Wyse as a possible reason for the slow start.
Tough losses are another reason for the struggle this season.
“Chartiers Valley was a close meet, and we only lost to Peters by one point,” Konesky said.
Fowler cited some losses that she felt should have been victories.
“We lost to some teams we’ve beaten in the past and that has led to a loss of motivation. It’s been harder for some people to get back to what they have to do to win,” she said.
Konesky said one motivating factor for him this year is the friendly rivalry he has with senior Dom Ditoro
“I compete a lot with Dom Ditoro. My rivalry with him motivates me to run faster and better,” he said.
Both Konesky and Fowler said that pressure in the form of academics was affecting them.
Konesky, looking to run in college, said he feels a great deal of pressure with universities looking at him. Fowler said that a lot of her pressure has come in the form of balancing school and cross country.
She said she hopes that next season the teams can gain more runners.
“I hope that we gain a lot more people next year, so that we can get back to our better records,” she said.
Baldwin’s golf team made the playoffs the past few years, but this season they have missed out.
Senior Dominic Trimbur feels the main cause of their struggles is losing seniors who graduated last year.
“We lost a couple really good seniors, which really set us back,” Trimbur said. “I have hope for our team next year to get back on track and be a playoff team again.” I think we can be really good next year.” — Nolan Malloy
I think we can be really good next year.”
— Nolan Malloy
He said he considers golf to be more of a fun activity this year. With all the new players on the team, the Highlanders really couldn’t find a way to be at the top of their game.
“Team success in golf was never really a thought to me,” Trimbur said. “I just wanted to find a way to keep busy and have fun.”
Junior Nolan Malloy said Baldwin had a couple of crucial losses this year that caused them to fall behind the pack.
“We had a loss on our home course against Thomas-Jefferson that really put us behind,” Malloy said. “The loss kind of threw us off our game and it caused us to slowly fall down the ranks of section.”
The team feels in the next couple of years, they should be back on track as they have freshmen who should really help out in the future when they reach their full potential.
“I see a lot of potential in the newcomers and really hope they continue to get better and prove something about Baldwin golf,” Trimbur said
Malloy agreed and hopes that the golf team can overcome this season and get back to their form from recent years.
“I think we can be really good next year,” Malloy said. “We are building something really special again and we are all prepared to get Baldwin back on track in golf.”