By Jon Gerardi
The Daily Item
There wasn’t necessarily one specific play that defined Bailey Bzdak’s season. It was simply a continuation of what she exhibited on the field that kept revealing itself.
Wherever the Southern Columbia senior was needed, that’s where she played. If the Tigers needed a forward to push offensively and score, that’s what she did. If she was needed to stay back as a center-mid to strengthen the defense a little, she had no problem filling in.
“I would say (I’m) pretty versatile. I think majority of our team is pretty versatile, but it’s pretty cool to play wherever,” Bzdak said. “If they need someone to be that go-to person — they need a center-mid or whatever kind of team we’re playing — (it) was kind of nice to be that one that was picked to do those things.”
Bzdak’s versatility was a key to moving her around, and that versatility in turn helped Bzdak earn The Daily Item’s Girls Soccer Player of the Year honor for 2013. Bzdak, daughter of Brian and Andrea, becomes the first Southern Columbia player to earn the honor since Erin Snyder in 2000.
“I feel pretty honored; that’s pretty exciting,” Bzdak said of the award. “We have accomplished a lot this year. A lot of people on my team would deserve that kind of title or award and I found it fortunate to be the person that was picked for that.”
Bzdak eclipsed the 50-career goal milestone this season by scoring a team-best 24 goals — second only to Mount Carmel’s Ali Varano in the Valley — and also led the Valley in assists with 13. For her career, she notched 65 goals and 26 assists. Bzdak recorded three hat tricks this season.
The senior was a big reason why Southern Columbia earned its first ever PIAA girls soccer state championship appearance this year, as she was named first-team Heartland Athletic Conference-Division II forward in addition to earning an all-state nomination from the HAC-II.
“It’s pretty cool getting all these titles or awards and I get appreciation from it,” Bzdak said. “Great to get it all during my senior year.”
Bzdak utilized her speed, whether she was up top or playing defense, zipping in and out of traffic to attempt a nice shot, or staying back and chasing down an opposing player to prevent an easy look at the goal.
Opposing teams had to be aware of Bzdak’s offensive prowess, and her defensive efforts as well.
“No matter where you put her, she’s an impact player,” Southern Columbia coach Derek Stine said. “She lives for the game of soccer. She does a great job with it.”
Bzdak was essentially transformed into a forward, as Stine put it.
She began her soccer career as a freshman back, but a career-ending injury to Jordan Marks left an opening and Stine felt Bzdak was best suited to step in.
“I got time up top (after Marks’ injury) and kind of realized that was the better fit for me, better spot, but it’s nice to know (I’m) capable of playing either way,” Bzdak said.
“To be honest, she never really wanted to be a forward. We transformed her into a forward and it worked,” Stine said. “Every year, she got a little better and a little more confident.”
That confidence culminated, you could say, with her stellar senior year on the pitch.
Coach of the Year
It’s a sweep for Southern Columbia, as Derek Stine earned 2013 Coach of the Year honors after the Tigers’ tremendous run this season.
Stine led Southern Columbia to its first-ever PIAA state championship appearance this year. The Tigers went 22-2-1 on the season, winning Heartland Athletic Conference-Division II, the District 4 Class AA championship and falling by just one goal in the state title game to defending state champion Greensburg Central Catholic, 2-1. The Tigers led 1-0 at the half.
This marks the fourth time this century that the Player of the Year and Coach of the Year both are from the same school.
It’s the first Coach of the Year award for Stine, who became the Tigers head coach in 2006. Stine is also the first Southern Columbia coach to win the honor since Frank Fullmer in 2001.