ADAMS TWP — It required a 15-year journey, but 2004 Mars graduate Kara (Stroup) Sroka is back home.
And plans to stay there.
Sroka was a four-year catcher for the Planets, hitting .481 with three homers as a senior in leading Mars to a section championship.
Michele Goodworth was the Planets' head coach during that 2004 season. Mike DelDuca was her assistant coach.
Both are still in those roles — and Sroka has been yearning to join them.
“Those are my mentors,” she said. “I can't begin to tell you how much respect I have for those two.
“My goal has always been to some day coach with them at Mars. Michele and I even talked about that while I was still playing there.”
Sroka was inducted into the Mars High School Athletic Hall of Fame in 2014. Goodworth was inducted in 2010.
Sroka actually began coaching softball when she was 16. She coached the 10-and-under team in the Mars Recreational Fall Ball League for a couple of years.
“That experience convinced me that coaching was in my future,” Sroka said.
Of course, she wasn't done as a player yet.
Sroka went on to Saint Francis University and was first in career RBI, second in home runs and among the top five in numerous offensive categories with the Red Flash. All of her records have since been overtaken by many players.
“Records get broken in time,” Sroka said. “One of the girls I coached (Jordan Seneca of Plum) broke my RBI record in college. Her dad told me she eventually would.
“I loved it when she did.”
Sroka joined the Mars High School staff — including Goodworth and DelDuca — this past spring. She helped the Planets reach the WPIAL Class 5A playoffs with a 7-7 section record.
She made a few stops along the way first.
-She coached with the Pittsburgh Power Gold for three years, where she coached Seneca.
-She became head softball coach at Vincentian Academy — winning the WPIAL championship in 2010 — for three years.
-She spent three years as an assistant coach at North Hills, helping out a friend.
-She took over as head coach of the U-18 Team Pennsylvania squad and still coaches there.
Now, finally, she's back at her alma mater.
“This has been a dream for me,” Sroka said. “Michele Goodworth is an awesome coach. She is also a Mars graduate and is very passionate about that program.
“She won a WPIAL championship coaching softball there. Our goal is to win another one. We had a very young team last year.”
Sroka was a senior at Mars when standout pitcher Monica Glomb — who led the Planets to their WPIAL crown — was a freshman.
“We're thrilled to get Kara back in the program,” Goodworth said. “She bleeds blue and gold. She wants our team to succeed so badly.
“She lives right here in Valencia, so she's able to coach with us after school.”
Sroka teaches at the New Academy charter school in Pittsburgh. She's been there for four years.
She has been a substitute teacher at Mars before and yearns to become a full-time teacher in the district.
“That's my ultimate goal,” Sroka said. “That would complete the journey. Joining the coaching staff there is an important first step in that direction.”
Sroka doesn't plan on leaving the Mars program. Goodworth hopes she doesn't.
“Kara was a strong role model as a player and she's the same way as a coach,” Goodworth said. “She was always vocal behind the plate. She's always been a leader.
“She's already taught our girls so much and she's just beginning in that regard.”