West Xtra: Langley girls teams finish on a high note
Share with others:
Pittsburgh Langley High School began the 2011-12 academic year with decreasing enrollment and was part of the Pittsburgh Public Schools financial struggles.
It's situation -- similar to several other City League high schools in recent years -- forced the Pittsburgh Board of Public Education into a difficult decision, to close yet another city high school.
In recent years, Schenley and Peabody were closed and now Langley joins Oliver on the list.
On June 13, Langley will shut its doors.
Although its athletic history is not quite as distinguished as some of the other City League schools that have been shut down in recent years, sports played an important role at Langley. That was especially true for girls athletic teams this past school year.
For instance, Langley's girls soccer team (10-5, 7-3) began the school year by making somewhat of a splash. The Mustangs' final regular-season league record was tied with City League Champion Obama Academy. Langley's Camille Redman scored 36 goals last fall and was third on the Post-Gazette's list of regular season scoring leaders.
Also, Kayla Bartok scored 16 goals for Langley and carried a reputation as the team's best ball distributor. Bartok recorded 11 assists during the regular season.
Junior Nicole Smith felt that her best Langley soccer memory happened in the 2010 season when the Mustangs gave City finalist Allderdice a tough match. Although Langley lost, 2-1, in the 2010 league semifinals, the Mustangs proved that they could contend.
Smith explained that the team's motto was "We are perfection." Written on the backs of the 2011-12 Langley team's T-shirts, the slogan reflected a team-wide focus on winning execution.
"We just aimed to be the best," said Smith.
"They knew that every day they strived to be 'perfect,'" explained Nicole Bobitski, the former coach of the Langley girls' soccer team. "And no one ever will, but they played so hard that they got so close to perfection."
The 2011 Langley girls' soccer team made it to the City League semifinals before losing, 1-0, to champion Obama Academy. But Langley's final year in sports was far from over. Many of the girls who produced that strong soccer season also played basketball.
For example, Bartok, a senior, went from being the soccer team's distributor to being the basketball team's point guard. Similarly, junior Shayla Fordham was the soccer team's sweeper as well as the basketball team's three-guard.
With scoring threats such as Desiray Weston and interior defenders like Jordyn Cunningham, the Langley girls basketball went 14-7 overall, 8-6 and in fourth place (out of eight teams) in league play. In the City League playoffs, the Mustangs lost, 42-40, to Brashear in the quarterfinals.
"I had a good group of seniors who are going out on a high note," said Mustangs girls' basketball coach Len Ferency.
He explained, however, that Langley's closure was making him lose the opportunity to coach the underclassmen again.
"It's just the finality -- that every sports season has come to a close and we're not going to start fresh," Ferency said. "It was a treat to coach the athletes -- we had a good group of kids. Maybe our paths will cross again."
This spring, softball coach Bessie Miller helped a roster of nine through a .500 league season. Miller is a 1980 Langley alumna who played on the 1979 City championship softball team, but some of her favorite Langley softball memories come from coaching the present-day team.
Miller recalled rejoining the Langley softball team to coach in the 2010-11 season.
One of Miller's favorite Langley softball memories was supplied by Elysia Williams. Williams is a student in the Life Skills program, which is designed for students with special needs.
"She hit the ball against Kaylee [Girdwood] from Brashear and [she got] on base," said Miller. "That was a moment I'll cherish."
Girdwood was probably the top pitcher in the City League this season. Miller said Williams' ear-to-ear smile that day earned her a team nickname: "Cheesy."
Smith, who had played soccer for Langley, is also the softball team's center fielder. She noted that her favorite thing about Langley athletics was simply playing sports with all of her friends.
Next year, Smith will attend Brashear High School where she will have to try out for teams for the chance to keep playing.
"I'll probably try out for soccer, and I'll probably try out for softball," she said.
Smith noted Brashear's prominence as a softball program and felt it would be difficult to make the team.
"But I hope to," she said.
The future will be a difficult thing for Langley's non-senior athletes to deal with, as they will have to prove their experience levels on new teams.
But in the case of softball, Miller notes the positive: "The girls are excited about playing for [Brashear] because that's a good program."
First Published June 14, 2012 12:00 am