Last Wednesday’s contest between Penn State-Abington and Gallaudet University at Father Judge’s pristine new sports complex was a college women’s soccer match-up, but it almost could have been mistaken for a Philadelphia high school All-Star Game.
There were Abington seniors Brittany Palmer and Kaitlin Kozole, who have been teammates after being soccer adversaries during their time at Archbishop Ryan and St. Hubert. Then there were the youngsters who Palmer and Kozole have groomed to help take the reins of the Abington program: Ashley Quenzer, of Little Flower; Desirae Holmes, of St. Hubert; and the injured Shannon Brady, of Franklin Towne Charter. All three are freshmen, and all three have played a significant role on an Abington team that currently boasts an 11-6-1 record, with eight of those wins coming within the North Eastern Athletic Conference (NEAC).
And after a 6-1 thrashing of Gallaudet on Wednesday night that featured two goals from Holmes and one each from Kozole and Palmer on their Senior Night, all of the aforementioned teammates briefly shifted into rivalry mode. That’s because a St. Hubert-Archbishop Ryan girls’ playoff game was getting ready to kick off a few minutes away over on Ryan’s campus.
“Ryan … always Ryan,” Palmer joked while standing next to Kozole when asked for her prediction on the Bambies-Ragdolls match-up. “If the Bambies win, that’s embarrassing.”
And though Ryan did ultimately prevail, 4-1, there was no love lost for these sets of rivals now turned teammates.
Quenzer and Holmes, once in the throes of the ancient Little Flower-St. Hubert rivalry, now embrace the fact that they play for the same team.
“It was sort of an, ‘Oh my God, she’s on my team now!’ scenario,” said Quenzer, who has known Holmes for six years. “We were both really excited.”
“It’s very helpful to have each other, no doubt,” added Holmes. “We were put in a tough position to step in right away as freshmen, and that’s given us experience that we can only use to our advantage going forward.”
With Palmer and Kozole leading the way, Abington won its first NEAC title a year ago. With hopes of repeating still on their minds, the soon-to-be departing seniors have enjoyed their roles as mentors.
“All three of them have brought a lot to the table, and we’re very proud of them,” Kozole said. “They’ve helped our team a lot, and it’s not easy to come in as freshmen and contribute right away. They’ve held their own.”
Holmes leads the team with eight goals, five assists and 21 points; Quenzer, a hard-nosed defender, has a goal and an assist of her own. Brady has started 12 games herself, while Palmer and Kozole have compiled seven and four goals, respectively. The team has a solid mixture of veterans and underclassmen, many of who have been thrown immediately into the fire.
“Those seniors have helped us so much,” Holmes said. “As soon as I got here, Kaitlin took me under her wing and called me her Bambie.”
“I love Palmer,” Quenzer added. “We’re natural Ryan-Little Flower rivals, but we have this great bond. We talk about our high school days, and now here we are as teammates. We’re always together.”
And with Palmer and Kozole set to pass the baton to the freshmen, they couldn’t be prouder of their younger teammates.
“It has given us a little piece of the Catholic League to take with us, and it’s pretty great to see how it’s all come together as one,” Palmer said.
If anything, it allowed them to hold onto their roots for a few more seasons.
“The Catholic schools prepare you to accept others, which is why it was so easy for us to bond as one,” Kozole said. “I’d just tell them all to cherish it, because it goes by so quickly. I hope they get as much out of it as I did in my time here.” ••
Sports editor Ed Morrone can be reached at 215-354-3035 or firstname.lastname@example.org