Ryan’s Egenlauf cherishes rivalry with Bambies

Arch­bish­op Ry­an’s Bri­ana Egen­lauf (No. 4) and Scar­lett Walsh cel­eb­rate the Rag­dolls’ 4-1 Cath­ol­ic League semi­final win over rival St. Hubert. MARIA POUCH­NIKOVA / TIMES PHO­TOS


On pa­per, last Wed­nes­day even­ing’s Cath­ol­ic League girls soc­cer semi­final match-up between top-seeded host Arch­bish­op Ry­an and St. Hubert didn’t ap­pear to be much more than a cham­pi­on­ship tune-up for the un­defeated Rag­dolls.

After all, Ry­an came in­to play with the league’s stingi­est de­fense. Led by sopho­more goal­keep­er Jazmin Gonzales, the Rag­dolls had only giv­en up a stun­ning five goals in eight­een con­tests. Of­fens­ively, Ry­an fea­tures sev­er­al play­ers with 10 or more goals, in­clud­ing team cap­tain and All-Cath­ol­ic mid­field­er Scar­lett Walsh, who con­tin­ues to set the pace with her out­stand­ing play.

But, as they say, that’s why they don’t play the game on pa­per.

When Ry­an and St. Hubert tangle, you can throw the stat­ist­ics, in­di­vidu­al hon­ors and team re­cords out the win­dow. This rivalry has heated up as of late. Last sea­son, the Rag­dolls knocked St. Hubert out of the play­offs. They fol­lowed up this year with a 2-0 shutout of the Bam­bies dur­ing the reg­u­lar sea­son.

The close geo­graph­ic­al loc­a­tion of the two schools adds to the in­tens­ity of the rivalry as both pro­grams are stocked from a sim­il­ar tal­ent pool. Many of the girls par­ti­cip­ate in CYO and club team soc­cer and are fa­mil­i­ar with each oth­er pri­or to en­ter­ing high school. Some are former team­mates.

Bri­ana Egen­lauf, a ju­ni­or for­ward for the Rag­dolls, grew up in Lex­ing­ton Park play­ing for St. Mat­thew CYO. She is friendly with nearly every mem­ber of the St. Hubert roster. The two-time All-Cath­ol­ic per­former chose Ry­an after look­ing at both schools closely.

“It was a hard de­cision be­cause I had a lot of friends that were go­ing to St. Hubert, but I just felt like Ry­an was a bet­ter fit for me,” Egen­lauf said.

Des­pite a slug­gish start for Egen­lauf and her team­mates on Wed­nes­day, Ry­an was able to strike first on a corner kick re­dir­ec­ted in by Walsh for a 1-0 lead. Later in the half, St. Hubert re­spon­ded when sopho­more Cas­sidy Ra­jkowski scored the equal­izer. Her goal en­er­gized the large con­tin­gent of Bam­bie fans that made the short trek north. The ty­ing goal was bit­ter­sweet for Egen­lauf.

“Cas­sidy is one of my best friends and it is al­ways fun play­ing against her,” she said.  “I was happy for her, but I had to con­cen­trate on help­ing my team win.”

Arch­bish­op Ry­an coach Ry­an Haney took ad­vant­age of the half­time in­ter­mis­sion to re­fo­cus his team.

“I let the for­wards know that they needed to pick it up,” a re­lieved Haney stated after the game.

The for­wards re­spon­ded in turn. Seni­or Gina Lu­ciano scored the go-ahead goal for the Rag­dolls less than two minutes in­to the second half. She later ad­ded a second in­sur­ance goal. The Somer­ton res­id­ent is en­joy­ing this sea­son-long run of suc­cess and at­trib­utes the team’s win­ning ways to the bonds that have been formed by the play­ers.

“This sea­son we have been closer off the field which has made us closer on the field,” Lu­ciano ex­plained.

Fel­low for­ward Brit­tany Robin­son also got in­to the mix, though not onto the score­board. Robin­son sparked both her team­mates and the Ry­an faith­ful with two tightly con­tested break­away shots on goal. The fans ap­plauded the ef­fort and the con­sist­ent pres­sure wasn’t lost on Haney.

“I love the fact that we re­grouped at half­time,” Haney said. “The for­wards really set the tone by ap­ply­ing pres­sure.”

Not to be left out of the mix amongst the for­wards, Egen­lauf con­trib­uted a second half as­sist as the Rag­dolls over­came a spir­ited ef­fort from the Bam­bies and came away with a hard fought 4-1 vic­tory.

For the sea­son, Egen­lauf has col­lec­ted 14 goals and 10 as­sists.

“Grow­ing up in Hubert’s ter­rit­ory, this was a big game for me,” Egen­lauf con­ceded. “Last year, I was in­jured dur­ing the play­offs and was forced to watch from the bench as we were elim­in­ated. It wasn’t easy.”

When asked to de­scribe the ex­per­i­ence of be­ing un­defeated, Bri­ana is quick to re­dir­ect the fo­cus. “We are hav­ing a lot of fun and get­ting a lot of no­tice in school; however, we have to fo­cus on fin­ish­ing and get­ting the job done,” she noted.

Mis­sion ac­com­plished, as the Rag­dolls knocked off Lans­dale Cath­ol­ic, 3-1, in Thursday night’s cham­pi­on­ship game. For­get about be­ing the best team on pa­per — Arch­bish­op Ry­an is the best girls soc­cer team in the Cath­ol­ic League. ••

You can reach at jfleming6@msn.com.

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