Brittany Robinson remembers the conversation.
It was three years ago and she was a high school freshman at Archbishop Ryan. She and five of her classmates made a pact — that before they moved onto college, their legacy would be to add another Catholic League championship plaque to the school’s trophy case.
Last Wednesday evening, that legacy was fulfilled.
Behind three different goal scorers, a staunch defense and timely goaltending, the Ragdolls clipped visiting Lansdale Catholic, 3-1, and captured top honors in a league packed with legitimate title contenders.
“People talk about the Public League a lot and how they have great soccer teams over there,” Robinson said. “But I’d take the Catholic League any day. We were just saying the other day that this is probably the best year for the Catholic League because of how good everyone is.”
Before the playoffs began, Ryan (an astounding 19-1-3 record on the season) joined a five-team battle that included Lansdale Catholic, three-time defending champion Archbishop Wood always-tough Little Flower and pesky St. Hubert.
It would not have been surprising if any one of those teams had found a way to finish on top. However, to only one victor goes the spoils.
“We deserved this,” said Ryan senior Meg Manion, co-captain along with seniors Robinson, Lindsey Rodgers and Scarlett Walsh. “We never let up. We talked about it as freshmen because the graduating seniors had just won back-to-back (in 2007 and 2008), and we wanted to know what that felt like.”
Lansdale Catholic (14-5-2) was coming off a shocking 2-0 semifinal win over Wood, a victory that opened a lot of eyes and confirmed just how strong the league was this season.
Wood has been the Ragdolls’ nemesis since 2008, beating Ryan twice in the playoffs en route to Catholic League dominance. Although Robinson said it was refreshing to play a different team in the playoffs, she was a tad disappointed that Wood hadn’t reached the finals.
“I think we would have beaten them this year,” she said. “We have an attitude that we are not going to be denied. We’re very confident in each other.”
In the championship, Ryan survived a few close calls and grabbed a 1-0 lead on a goal by Walsh late in the first half. Early in the second half, sophomore Kaitlyn McFadden doubled the advantage.
A desperate Lansdale Catholic was able to cut its deficit in half, but as they have done when faced with adversity throughout this incredible campaign, the Ragdolls responded with smart defense and clutch goaltending by sophomore Jazmin Gonzales.
“I was talking with the defense when it was 2-1 and we reminded ourselves to stay strong and not to let up,” Manion said. “We just had to be smart, stay aggressive and play our game.”
With less than three minutes remaining, the Ryan crowd erupted when Robinson scored the all-important insurance tally. From that point on, it was just a matter of riding out about 180 seconds.
And in the grand scheme of waiting for four seasons, those 180 seconds were nothing.
“It was so great as it got closer and closer,” said Robinson, seen after the game in an embrace with the aforementioned captains and fellow seniors Gina Luciano and Tori Graham. “I don’t think any of us ever doubted we would make this dream come true.”
The next night, on Thursday, about 24 hours after they had reclaimed Catholic League glory, Robinson collected three goals and an assist as the Ragdolls throttled Public League champ Franklin Towne Charter, 7-1, to win the Class AAA District 12 city championship and qualify for the state tournament that began on Tuesday night against Central Bucks West at Northeast High School. CB-West won, 1-0, dealing the Ragdolls their first loss of the season, but that didn’t stop them from enjoying all they had accomplished during the 2012 season.
“I wouldn’t put anything past this team,” said Robinson, a first-team All Catholic selection along with teammate Walsh. “We just go out there and play hard and support each other.”
A championship recipe for sure. ••
Reporter John Knebels can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org