After tough sledding in Class AAA, the Greensburg Salem girls soccer team is feeling right at home in Class AA and feeling right at home as a contnder for the WPIAL playoffs.
The Golden Lions struggled mightily in Class AAA from 2003-09, finishing sixth or worst in Section 1-AAA every season and never winning more than five games in a season.
In their final season in Class AAA, Greensburg Salem went 1-12-2. The very next season in 2010 the program dropped to Class AA and turned things around, going 8-8 and reaching the playoffs.
Last season the program made it back-to-back playoff trips with an 11-6 campaign and another trip to the WPIAL tournament.
First-year coach Alaine Nativio is now tasked with keeping the playoff streak alive and getting beyond the first round.
"I think no matter what section you are in, the expectations and goals are always to win the section [title]," Nativio said. "Expectations are always held high and the girls are definitely holding themselves to that. They want to get beyond where they have gotten the last two years."
Greensburg Salem is on pace for another playoff trip. It was 8-6 overall and 6-3 in Section 1-AA heading into its non-section game Wednesday at Hollidaysburg. The Golden Lions started the season 4-1 and 3-0 in section play, but they were soon mired in a three-game losing streak, including section losses to Southmoreland and Yough.
"That [three-game losing streak] was tough for us," Nativio said. "We were in such a hole and it was tough, but it was a wakeup call. The girls realized they got into a slump there and it was a matter of pulling themselves out of it. It just comes back to talking and working together."
Through Tuesday Greensburg Salem was tied with Southmoreland (7-5, 6-3) for second place in the section standings behind Yough (11-2, 8-0).
Yough jumped on Greensburg Salem, 4-0, in the first half on its way to a 5-1 win, but Nativio saw some positives in the loss.
"Yough kind of got up on us in the first half but we held our own in the second half," Nativio said. "If we can play like we did in the second half [against Yough], we can play with anybody. We'll be ready for Southmoreland and Yough."
Greensburg Salem will get another shot at both when it visits its section rivals on Saturday and Monday, respectively.
Even though Nativio is in her first-year as varsity coach, she is familiar with nearly all the players on the team from her previous coaching stint as middle school coach.
"It is nice to have a familiar group," Nativio said. "This is a great group, they work well together, the girls are the ones making this happen."
Nativio inherited a team with seven returning starters including leading scorers, junior Kellie Hutchinson and senior Brittany Schaller who play atop the 4-4-2 formation. Hutchinson had scored 10 goals through 12 games. Nine players have scored this season for Greensburg Salem.
Seniors Jaydyn Morrison and Heather Dougherty and juniors Alexandra Sheffler and Samantha Allen start in the midfield. Allen and Dougherty are both new starters. Sheffler and Morrison had three goals each through 11 games. Sophomore Sydney Taylor rotates into the mix in the midfield, she had two goals so far this season.
The Greensburg Salem defense consists of juniors Ali Wilson and Sienna Shoup and freshmen Hope Cramer and Mary Markel. They play in front of senior goalkeeper Rachel Ott.