Bryn Mawr – The Baldwin School soccer team is an experiencing a youth movement that starts right at the top with coach Adrian Cox.
When handed the reins last season, Cox’s plan was to change the culture and get the players to start competing and believing in themselves. Surrounded by a young nucleus combined with solid senior leadership, Cox was optimistic and confident that the program would take steps in the right direction.
In his first season as head coach of the varsity program in 2015, Baldwin’s overall record improved from 5-14-1 (2-10 Inter-Ac, seventh place) in 2014 to 9-10-2 overall (3-7-2 Inter-Ac, fifth place.)
When the Polar Bears opened the 2016 regular season campaign with a 1-0 overtime win over Shipley, eventual Friends’ Schools League champion, little did Cox or anyone involved with the Baldwin soccer program realize what was on the horizon.
With senior co-captains Jennifer Dietrich and Kahlaa Cannady playing a driving force in getting the entire team to buy into the coaching staff’s philosophy, Baldwin soccer was quietly on its way to a history-making season.
“Excellent leadership from senior co-captain Jennifer Dietrich (midfielder/defender) and senior co-captain Kahlaa Cannady (midfielder/defender) as well as fellow senior teammates Ryanna Neuman (midfielder), Joely Simon (midfielder) and Morgan Montoute (team manager) was displayed,” said Cox. “Dietrich and Cannady are four-year varsity players who did a great job of communicating, organizing and motivating the team. They are an extension of the coaching staff on and off the field.”
When the season came to close Nov. 10 in the semifinals of the Pa. Independent Schools tournament, Cox had piloted Baldwin (17-7; 6-6 Inter-Ac) to their best season in program history, finishing with the most wins (17); highest Inter-Ac finish (third place); most goals scored in a season by a Baldwin team (53); shutouts (11) and their highest seed (No. 3) and best finish in the Pa. Independent Schools tournament by advancing to the semifinals.
“To be honest I couldn’t have expected a better finish to my career,” said senior co-captain Jennifer Dietrich, following her team’s season ending loss to Westtown in the semi-finals of the Pa. Independent Schools tournament. “It has been absolutely incredible to see this program get better every year and to peak in your senior year is what you want. I was lucky enough to experience that.”
Sophomore Gia Vicari, who finished with a single season school record 27 goals this season added, “The seniors have been so helpful. They have been rocks for us including Jen (one of our captains). They have been a great help and great mentors.”
With the combination of youth and experience, Baldwin went undefeated (10-0) in the non-league schedule with key victories over Westtown (Friends’ Schools League and Pa. Independent Schools Tournament finalist); Delco Christian (PIAA District One Class A finalist), Archbishop Ryan (2012-15 Catholic League champions) and perennial power Lawrenceville (N.J.) before being dealt their first loss against league foe Episcopal Academy.
Following that defeat, the Polar Bears went through some peaks and valleys throughout the year before ending the regular season on a high note, defeating host Academy of Notre Dame 2-0 behind a pair of first-half goals from Dietrich.
“I am extremely proud of how quickly this team is maturing and developing in such a short period of time,” Cox said. “I have challenged them in many ways and they have embraced each challenge because they want to develop individually and collectively. They know Baldwin soccer doesn’t have a rich history and tradition and they want to leave a legacy and build something special for future players.”
“I definitely feel we (the senior class) set the foundation and we are only going to get better,” said Dietrich. “We have many talented underclassmen that bring a lot to the team on and off the field. It’s good that a group of them had worked with Coach Cox (who coached the middle school team in 2014) and they were familiar with his coaching style. It helped bring everything together.”
Vicari added, “The positivity the seniors had was a key to our success. Their mental toughness, courage and perseverance allowed us to get through tough times that helped us have a successful season.”