Toast of the Public League: Towne wins second straight title

The Frank­lin Towne Charter girls soc­cer team cel­eb­rates its second con­sec­ut­ive Pub­lic League cham­pi­on­ship last week fol­low­ing a 1-0 win over Cent­ral. PHOTO PROVIDED BY BRI­ANNA O’DON­NELL / FRANK­LIN TOWNE ATH­LET­ICS


It didn’t mat­ter that it was about 40 de­grees out­side and most of the spec­tat­ors in the stands were bundled up in sweat­shirts, gloves and winter hats in a feeble at­tempt to keep warm.

No, it’s nev­er too cold for a cus­tom­ary Gat­o­rade shower after win­ning a big game, in this case the girls’ soc­cer Pub­lic League cham­pi­on­ship.

Just ask Rachel Gil­borges.

In last Wed­nes­day’s title game, Gil­borges, a ju­ni­or cap­tain and goal-scor­ing ma­chine for Frank­lin Towne Charter, de­pos­ited her 37th — and most im­port­ant — goal of the sea­son in­to the back of the net. She scored off a re­bound with less than sev­en minutes to go in Towne’s even­tu­al 1-0 title win over Cent­ral. After Cent­ral had won eight straight soc­cer titles, Gil­borges and com­pany have now won the last two.

And for her ef­forts, Gil­borges was re­war­ded with gal­lons of freez­ing li­quid dumped on top of her, nor­mally an “hon­or” re­served for the head coach.

“They got me last year,” head coach Bri­anna O’Don­nell said. “I’m too smart for that.”

In fact, O’Don­nell was even in on the stunt, dis­tract­ing Rachel while two team­mates — twin sis­ter (and start­ing sweep­er) Re­becca and fel­low pro­lif­ic goal-scorer Stefanie Ulmer — did the deed.

“Becca said, ‘Let’s dump it on Rachel,’ and I was like, ‘OK, that’s per­fectly fine, as long as it’s not on me,” Ulmer said with a laugh.

Dead­panned Rachel Gil­borges, who was a good sport about her team­mates’ ef­forts to give her pneu­mo­nia: “I’m a little chilly.”

Ulmer star­ted the play that res­ul­ted in Gil­borges’ goal, which was no sur­prise to any­one who has seen this Towne team play. Both are cap­able of scor­ing goals in bunches, and usu­ally do; however, this night vic­tory was a little more dif­fi­cult for a team that had been ac­cus­tomed to win­ning a lot of games by the score of sev­en, eight or nine to zero.

Even though Gil­borges and Ulmer were pep­per­ing the Cent­ral goal all night, noth­ing was get­ting through. A small semb­lance of doubt began to creep in that the Towne girls would suf­fer the same fate as their male coun­ter­parts, who took a 1-0 loss to North­east im­me­di­ately be­fore the girls title game.

But ul­ti­mately the tan­dem came through, even if it took them longer than usu­al.

“Thank God she fol­lowed up is all I can say,” said Ulmer, who, like Gil­borges, was named to the All-Pub­lic first team. “I didn’t know where the ball was after I put it on net, but I wasn’t sur­prised. If I missed, I knew she’d be be­hind me. She al­ways is.”

Soc­cer at Towne, which sits on the edge of the Ta­cony-Brides­burg bor­der, has ex­ploded re­cently for both the girls’ and boys’ teams. The boys reached their first title game this sea­son, and O’Don­nell’s bunch went 13-0 in league play to claim their second con­sec­ut­ive crown.

“It’s a big deal that we got to ex­per­i­ence it with the boys team,” said Gil­borges, adding with a laugh that she’s “gotta wait a little bit” to poke fun at the boys for fall­ing short in their quest for a cham­pi­on­ship.

However, there will be no love lost. “We’re all friends,” Ulmer said. “We all know each oth­er from the neigh­bor­hood and have classes to­geth­er. It’s been an ex­cit­ing time.”

Things will prob­ably stay ex­cit­ing for the girls’ team, which will gradu­ate only two seni­ors. Most of the team, in­clud­ing Gil­borges and Ulmer, will be back for their seni­or sea­son, a scary thought for the rest of the league.

“I’m from North­east Philly, so I know how im­port­ant sports are to high school edu­ca­tion,” said O’Don­nell, also a teach­er and the girls’ bas­ket­ball coach at Towne. “We’ve been build­ing to­ward get­ting here, and to­night we had more fans than we’ve ever had at a game. If we keep build­ing, it will only keep grow­ing.”

The next lo­gic­al step for this team is to try to bridge the gap between the Pub­lic and Cath­ol­ic League. It didn’t hap­pen this sea­son, as Towne lost the fol­low­ing night, 7-1, to Arch­bish­op Ry­an in the Dis­trict 12 city title game, send­ing the Rag­dolls to the state tour­na­ment and Towne home. In fact, all of Towne’s losses this sea­son came at the hands of Cath­ol­ic pro­grams — twice to Ry­an and once to Little Flower by a com­bined score of 14-1. There’s still work to be done, which should keep this tal­en­ted group mo­tiv­ated.

“It’s harder com­pet­i­tion,” Ulmer said. “They work a lot harder than a lot of the teams we play all year, so it will take us push­ing ourselves 200 per­cent to get to that level.”

“We talk about it,” Gil­borges ad­ded. “People say the Pub­lic League is less tal­en­ted, but we want to show we be­long up there with them.”

For now, Towne will en­joy its second straight league title. The girls have ac­com­plished a lot these past two sea­sons, and they want to keep the ball rolling.

“We had to go out and get it and work for every inch out there,” Gil­borges con­cluded be­fore she raced off to try to find warmth. “And we did just that.” ••

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