It was a family affair Saturday afternoon as Archbishop Ryan High School visited St. Basil Academy in a non-league varsity soccer game.
Tensions are usually high between competing teams, but this time, it was personal.
Junior Scarlett Walsh plays for the Archbishop Ryan Ragdolls; her younger sister Bethany is a St. Basil freshman who plays for the Panthers. Not only are they on opposing teams, but Scarlett is a defenseman and Bethany plays offense — pitting the sisters head to head during the game.
This was the very first time the sisters faced each other on opposing teams.
“I’ve never played against her,” said Scarlett. “We played together on CYO. Bethany’s helpful when she’s on your team, but she wants to hurt you when she’s on the other team.”
Last week was a long one in the Walsh household.
“I kept saying we were going to win, and she was kind of scared,” Scarlett said, laughing. “When my friends come over she always says, ‘I’m going to beat you guys.’”
Soccer has become a way of life for the Walsh family. The oldest sister, Collette, played for Archbishop Ryan and in college. So when Bethany chose to attend St. Basil Academy, the pressure started building instantly.
“Everyone followed in my oldest sister’s footsteps, so there had to be a change,” explained Bethany. “Something different.”
The family joked that she would have to make the varsity team her freshman year, a feat both of her older sisters, Collette and Scarlett, accomplished with Archbishop Ryan. Bethany rose to the challenge and made Basil’s varsity squad as a starting midfielder.
“She’s always been a hard-working kid,” said St. Basil head coach Tim Curran. “She’s a pleasure to have on the team. She listens and she gets it. She’s only a freshman, but she blends in with the varsity team. Most people are surprised to hear she’s a freshman.”
In addition to playing for their respective schools, the sisters play for club teams. Scarlett plays for the FC Bucks Prowlers, traveling across the country 11 months of the year. Bethany competes for the Huntington Valley Soccer Club, and will begin traveling as often as Scarlett.
The youngest Walsh sister, Priscilla, is 11 and also plays with Huntingdon Valley.
So how does the family do it?
“It’s a lot of running,” said their father, Jim. “Most of our weekends are spent traveling. It’s trying to figure out how to get to all of these events, and trying to see everyone equally.”
Family and friends lined the field on Saturday afternoon as the sisters took their positions on the field.
Ryan got off to an early lead, 2-0, and held it through the first half of game action. The Ragdolls continued to dominate, with most of the second half played at the Panthers’ goal. Ryan piled it on and won the game, 5-0.
Senior Calin Blaney had two goals for the Ragdolls. Juniors Brittany Robinson and Lindsey Rodgers added goals. Sophomore Briana Egenlauf also contributed one goal and two assists for Ryan.
The Ragdolls stand at three wins and one tie.
“We didn’t know who to root for, so we stayed neutral during the game,” said the sisters’ father, Jim, with a laugh. “We knew Ryan was stronger going into it, based on previous games they played and other opponents. We were hoping it would go a little closer, but Basil’s will get stronger. They have a young team, too, so they’re doing well.”
The Panthers have yet to win a game this season.
“We have some tough competition,” said Curran. “Our league is very tough, and usually a representative comes out of our league to play in the state championship.”
“We’ll continue working on our midfielders and defensive backs,” added the head coach. “We are trying to teach the kids to be students of the game, and play the game properly.”
Curran is the first coach in four years to return for a second season.
“There hasn’t been a solid foundation,” he explained. “We have a lot of young players, and they are going to help the program improve. Players come to Basil’s for our basketball, volleyball and track programs, and hopefully soccer will be that way in the future.”
After the game, Scarlett waited for Bethany.
ldquo;It wasn’t that bad … we didn’t even come in contact at all,” Bethany said to her older sister.
“I was saying stuff to you, though,” Scarlett replied, smiling.
Although the game was over, the friendly sisterly rivalry was not. And that made for a long ride home.
“I actually drove her here,” laughed Scarlett. ••
Reporter Gabriella Sacidor can be reached at Gabriella.firstname.lastname@example.org