Ragdolls cap incredible season with a soccer title

The Arch­bish­op Ry­an girls soc­cer team cel­eb­rates a goal dur­ing last week’s Cath­ol­ic League title win over Lans­dale Cath­ol­ic. MARIA POUCH­NIKOVA / TIMES PHO­TOS


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 jknebels@gmail.com

You can reach at jknebels@gmail.com.

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