Baldwin boys soccer chasing 1st playoff berth since ’11
Dave Zinski’s soccer coaching career began at age 19 in a junior high program.
After graduating from Alabama at Birmingham with a degree in health and physical education, Zinski coached the Carlynton girls team for three years, followed by a one-year stint with the North Hills girls team. He also coached a boys Cup team for several years.
Zinski, 31, has been hired as the coach of the Baldwin boys soccer program. Zinski is a health and physical education teacher at Wesley High School in Baldwin.
“I am looking forward to continuing my coaching career at Baldwin,” he said, “and hopefully helping the team succeed in one of the tougher sections in WPIAL.”
Zinski was a four-year starter in high school at Carlynton, played club soccer in college, and also competed in Cup soccer. He spent much of the preseason working on changing the culture of the Baldwin program.
The Highlanders have not had a winning season in soccer since 2014 and have not advanced to the WPIAL playoffs since 2011.
“The biggest thing we worked on during preseason is changing the culture and the mentality of the players,” said Zinski, who is assisted by John Crawshaw and Justin McAtee. “We want to make everything competitive, and make sure all the players are working hard to earn starting positions. We have been working with the players on highlighting their strengths, and showing them how they can put all their individual skills together to improve as a team.
“Overall, I have been happy with the way everyone has been working and how they have bought into the new way of playing that my coaching staff has put together. They worked well together during our first scrimmage, and it seemed as though they were starting to get more comfortable with the new formation they are playing.”
The Highlanders are led by a strong group of senior players, consisting of goalkeeper Jackson Brandwene, midfielders Jared Bell, Ajet Subba and Liam Belan, plus defenders John Ziegler, Michell Kress and Austin Sabo.
Brandwene, Ziegler and Sabo are team captains.
Brandwene is a kicking specialist on the Fighting Highlanders football team. He booted two field goals and four PAT kicks in the season-opening 34-7 win against Fox Chapel.
Baldwin’s soccer team opened the 2018 campaign against Chartiers Valley in a kickoff tournament at Seneca Valley.
“I always tell the players that my expectation is not to win a certain number of games but to be competitive in every game,” Zinski said. “And that if we don’t win a game, we will make our opponents earn the win. I think if you set your sights on making the playoffs and you end up not making playoffs, everyone may consider the season to be a failure when in reality it still could have been a very successful season.”
The junior class on the team is stocked by midfielders Pasi Oswald, Ray Thomas, Michael Rector, Sujan Dangal and Tyler Zeman, along with defender Adam Goldsboro.
Sophomore players looking to make an impact include forwards Ricky Bandola, Bibas Rai and Joey Moeller, midfielder Zack Stewart, and defenders Joey Kosslow, Tia Guzzi and Kurt Schemm.
Cole Thomas, a forward, and Niraj Thapa, a midfielder, are top freshman prospects.
“I told the players that they all had a completely clean slate, and their status on the team from the previous season had no impact on their status this season,” said Zinski, who participates in various recreational soccer leagues.
“We are trying to create a competitive environment so every practice and game is an opportunity for each player to prove they belong on the varsity team or that they deserve to be a starter, so our starting roster could change each game.”
Baldwin is a member of Section 2-4A, along with Bethel Park, Brashear, Canon-McMillan, Mt. Lebanon, Peters Township and Upper St. Clair.