Last season the Bethel Park girls' soccer team had to wait until the 13th game of the season, played on Oct. 3, to win its sixth game.
This year the Black Hawks got to six wins as quickly as possible -- in their sixth game of the season on Sept. 17. They had a good chance to register win No. 7 Wednesday night when they were scheduled to play winless Albert Gallatin.
The difference between this year and last year's season is evident to coach Jon Gentile and it's not just in the "win" column.
"There is a difference in the attitude of how we carry ourselves," Gentile said. "We are just never going to give up."
That never-give-up attitude was on display in Bethel Park's non-section match against defending WPIAL Class AAA champion Upper St. Clair last Saturday. On the road against a Panthers team that won 3-0 in its meeting last season, Bethel Park found itself trailing 4-2 with 20 minutes left. It found a way to rally, tie the game and eventually win in overtime, 5-4.
"We had the better of the play even though we were losing," Gentile said. "We came back, tied it up and won it in overtime. We are just not going to give up, we are not going to get down on ourselves."
Along with the victory against Upper St. Clair, Bethel Park (6-0, 3-0 before Wednesday) also boasts a 5-2 triumph against District 10 power Mercyhurst Prep in the opening game of the season. The Bethel Park future non-section schedule includes matches against Class AAA playoff contenders Gateway, Peters Township and Chartiers Valley.
"These are non-section games but it still means something," Gentile said. "It is a good gauge to see where we are and where we are going to be. We go into the [non-section] games with the mentality that this is a team we could see in the playoffs, and as a coach I want them to remember us."
Seven starters returned this season for Bethel Park. A group that was mostly sophomores and juniors last year, the majority of the Black Hawks starters are now juniors and seniors. Overall on varsity there are 10 seniors and nine juniors.
Senior forward A.J. Baroffio led the team with 12 goals through six games. Through five games, she had been involved in more than half (16) of her team's goals (30) to that point. Baroffio netted a hat trick against Upper St. Clair and another on Monday in a 12-0 rout against McKeesport.
"She is distributing the ball much better this season," Gentile said. "And now because she is getting the ball to the outside, she is seeing a lot more balls coming back toward the middle."
Baroffio is one of a number of scoring options for Bethel Park. Through its first five games, 10 different players had scored at least one goal.
Sophomore Halle Hammer starts as an attacking midfielder and junior Tatianna Ruzzini starts as an outside midfielder, both playing behind Baroffio. After playing together last year the trio has developed a chemistry that makes them one of the more effective scoring trios in the section.
"Tatianna is really quick and creates a lot of stuff for us in the flank and brings it back for A.J. and Halle," Gentile said.
Junior center back Lindsay Boss is the leader on defense, in charge of organizing the back four in front of senior goalie Alexis Keibler. Baroffio and Keibler are team captains.
"Their leadership has really helped the team mold together," Gentile said. "They want to go out there and fight for each other."
Senior Alycia Jimenez is one of the more versatile players on the team. She usually starts as a defensive midfielder, but she can also play midfield, defense and she is the backup goalie.
Bethel Park has a major Section 3-AAA showdown looming on Friday when the Black Hawks visit Mt. Lebanon.