Bryn Mawr – The week before Thanksgiving was quite festive for the Baldwin School soccer team.
On Nov. 14, the Polar Bears played in the PAISAA championship final for the first time in program history; then five days later, a Division I college signing ceremony was held for three Baldwin seniors who played a large role in accomplishing that feat.
Gia Vicari, Baldwin’s first-ever soccer All-American and the Polar Bears’ all-time leading scorer, committed to Georgetown; Natalie Sgro, Baldwin’s second-leading all-time scorer; signed with College of Charleston; and Relly Ladner, like Sgro and Vicari a first team All-Inter-Ac selection, committed to Dartmouth.
The trio combined for 44 of the team’s 67 goals this fall, as well as 30 assists, and they have been an integral part of the steady improvement of the Baldwin soccer program during the past four years.
When Adrian Cox took over the Baldwin soccer head coaching reins in 2015, the Polar Bears were coming off a 4-16-1 record while placing seventh in the Inter-Ac (2-9-1). Two years later, Baldwin posted a 17-7 record and was fourth in the Inter-Ac (6-6); last year the Polar Bears were second in the Inter-Ac (8-3-1); and this fall, Baldwin posted a 16-5 mark, finishing second in the Inter-Ac again with an 8-4 record.
The Polar Bears earned the respect of the soccer world this fall, ranking 12th in Pennsylvania according to the final rankings (Nov. 20) in TopDrawerSoccer.com and 19th in the Mid-Atlantic Region. Four Baldwin players were named first team All-Inter-Ac this fall.
Leading the way for Baldwin was Vicari, who found out in late October via email that she was named All-American.
“When I got the email, I was at home, and it really was kind of surreal,” said Vicari. “It was cool – I showed the email to my parents and they were really excited, and so was I.”
Vicari lives in Reading and has made the 50-mile trip to Bryn Mawr for the past four years.
“Coach Cox was a big factor in me coming to Baldwin; he came to one of my games for Continental FC when I was in eighth grade,” said Vicari. “I really like the tight-knit community that Baldwin has; it’s something I won’t forget after I graduate.”
Vicari, who plans to major in sociology at Georgetown, scored 81 goals in 87 games during her Baldwin career, as well as 41 assists. A clutch performer, the three-time first team All-Inter-Ac selection tallied 24 game-winning goals during her Baldwin career.
Cox said, “Gia is a program builder and a real playmaker – she’s humble, quiet, creative, intelligent and a leader by example.”
Right behind Vicari on the Baldwin all-time scoring list is Sgro, who finished her Polar Bear career with 34 career goals scored. A multi-sport athlete, Sgro also plays lacrosse for Baldwin.
“When I think of Natalie, I think of the words athletic, spirited, fun,” said Cox. “She’s a lockdown 1v1 defender, and she’s a glue player. She played left back for us this season to help the team, even though her natural position is right back.”
After the ceremony, Sgro gestured toward the approximately 100 Baldwin students who attended and said, “I like the close-knit environment we have here. Everyone here I’m friends with, there’s no drama, we’re just so close and we can tell each other anything.
“Our soccer team has been so close-knit, I think it makes us succeed more than we normally would than if we weren’t as close. We do a lot of team-building here, we spend time with all of the underclassmen, we really just know how to work together.”
Ladner, who arrived at Baldwin in January 2017, played her freshman and sophomore years for the Westtown School, scoring the game-winning goal for the Moose in the 2016 PAISAA championship final. Ladner didn’t play for Baldwin during her junior year, when she was focusing full-time on the Penn Fusion Soccer Development Academy program.
This fall for Baldwin, Ladner scored eight goals and dished out 10 assists while playing multiple positions.
“Relly is gritty, tenacious, competitive, relentless, versatile and a winner,” said Cox.
Ladner said, “I really wanted to come to Baldwin; I played soccer with Natalie when I was 4 or 5 years old, and I knew a few other girls who went here. Baldwin soccer is more than a team, it’s like a family, being part of a family. Our team really bonded this fall, on and off the field.”
Ladner, Sgro and Vicari were three of the 12 seniors on the 2018 Polar Bear squad, and Cox paid tribute to the Baldwin soccer Class of 2019.
“I’m very proud of what the program has achieved in a short amount of time, and the rapid turnaround is due in large part to the talented 12 seniors who worked so hard together to create a positive, spirited and fun team culture,” said Cox. “All the girls in the program play together and are closely connected on and off the field. They put the team before themselves, and special things happen when you combine talent with hard work, confidence and selflessness. We are going to miss all the seniors but will carry on their legacy of excellence on the field, in the classroom and community.”
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