Northeast Times

Down, but not out

With their backs against the wall, the St. Hubert soc­cer team re­spon­ded with a 3-0 quarterfi­nals win over Little Flower. The Bam­bie seni­ors reached the semi­finals for the first time, and a date with No. 1 Arch­bish­op Ry­an came next. AL­BERT SCHELL / FOR THE

— It’s been a strange soc­cer sea­son for the Bam­bies, who elim­in­ated Little Flower to keep their title hopes alive.

Start­Frag­ment

What was sup­posed to be a fest­ive oc­ca­sion had turned in­to a cir­cus, and even though they were the jesters, no one was laugh­ing.

In fact, no one was even talk­ing.

“We didn’t know what happened,” said seni­or Claire Al­minde. “Ser­i­ously, no one could ex­plain it.”

It was Oct. 16, and the St. Hubert soc­cer team had just lost its sea­son fi­nale to Lans­dale Cath­ol­ic by a seem­ingly im­possible 6-1 score, low-lighted by a five-goal out­burst in the second half. Not only was it on the Bam­bies’ home turf, but also the game took place on the much-an­ti­cip­ated Seni­or Day.

But in­stead of hanging around and tak­ing pic­tures after the game, the be­wildered play­ers and coaches col­lec­ted their be­long­ings and left as quickly as pos­sible.

This past Sat­urday, the scene was com­pletely dif­fer­ent.

Led by a bal­anced scor­ing at­tack, an all-around stingy de­fense and timely goal­tend­ing by fresh­man Emily Jef­frey, vis­it­ing St. Hubert de­feated Little Flower, 3-0, in a Cath­ol­ic League quarterfi­nal con­test and ad­vanced to the semi­finals to face top-seeded Arch­bish­op Ry­an, who blanked the Bam­bies, 2-0, on Sept. 24. The un­defeated Rag­dolls reached the semis with a 3-0 win over Arch­bish­op Car­roll be­hind seni­or Scar­lett Walsh’s two goals. (The game between Ry­an and St. Hubert was played on Wed­nes­day even­ing after the Times went to press.)

“I think our last two games mo­tiv­ated us com­ing in­to the play­offs,” said Al­minde, re­fer­ring to the Lans­dale Cath­ol­ic de­bacle and a 1-0 loss to Little Flower four days earli­er. “I don’t know if we could ever play as badly as we did against Lans­dale. I can’t even be­gin to de­scribe it be­cause it was that bad. We just didn’t do any­thing right.”

Seni­or de­fend­er Alyssa Bol­lard, a re­turn­ing second-team All-Cath­ol­ic se­lec­tion, ad­mit­ted she had been “thor­oughly em­bar­rassed” by how poorly St. Hubert per­formed against Lans­dale. Mickey Mc­Groarty said he had nev­er seen any­thing quite like it dur­ing his four dec­ades as head coach.

However, both Bol­lard and the long­time coach were con­fid­ent that the Bam­bies would re­group.

“It was an an­om­aly,” Mc­Groarty said. “Everything fell apart. We all talked about it. We just had to put it be­hind us.”   

Since she shares team cap­tain du­ties with seni­ors Al­minde, Jac­qui DeRocini, and Vick­ie Formica, an un­daun­ted Bol­lard felt it was her duty to in­still some oc­ca­sion­al verbal mo­tiv­a­tion dur­ing the pre-play­off prac­tices.

Bol­lard didn’t stop there. After goals by Al­minde and sopho­more Cas­sidy Ra­jkowski had giv­en the Bam­bies a 2-0 lead late in the first half on Sat­urday, Bol­lard col­lec­ted her team­mates for an im­promptu meet­ing.  

“I just told them not to let down even a little bit,” she said. “We didn’t want to give Little Flower any­thing. They’re our rivals and they’re a very good team. I just wanted us to make sure we fo­cused on de­fense and get­ting everything out of our end in­stead of try­ing for more of­fense.”

But more of­fense came any­way in the open­ing minutes of the second half when Al­minde helped set up ju­ni­or Car­oline Price for an in­sur­ance tally. While most of the plen­ti­ful fans in at­tend­ance prob­ably figured the vic­tory was se­cure, the Bam­bies were preach­ing just the op­pos­ite on the field be­cause noth­ing had been clinched quite yet.

Now in des­per­a­tion mode, Little Flower would surely play with reck­less aban­don for the fi­nal 40 minutes.

“I felt good about our situ­ation, but I wasn’t com­pletely con­fid­ent,” Al­minde said. “They can score in a hurry.”

Al­minde said the tri­umph avenged a still un­set­tling, 1-0 loss to Little Flower in the league quarterfi­nals back in 2011. It also al­lowed the St. Hubert seni­ors their first ever trip to the second round of the post­season.

Con­sid­er­ing that their high school was sched­uled for the chop­ping block in 2012 be­fore win­ning a re­prieve, the seni­or Bam­bies had much to cel­eb­rate.

“I have thought about how dif­fer­ent things would have been for all of us if we had closed,” said Al­minde, also a bas­ket­ball and soft­ball play­er and stu­dent coun­cil pres­id­ent at the school. “I’ve thought about that a lot. We re­ceived a second life, and it’s nice that we’ve done a lot with it and still have more to do.”

In a sea­son that has seen Mc­Groarty — the first and only head soc­cer coach at the school — col­lect his 400th ca­reer vic­tory, Bol­lard said she not only feels sat­is­fied about how well the Bam­bies have jelled, but also how strong the pro­gram ap­pears to be head­ing for­ward.

“I couldn’t ask any­thing more from my team­mates,” Bol­lard said. “I feel like when the seni­or class gradu­ates, we will be fine for the next few years.

“I’m happy for our coaches, es­pe­cially (Mc­Groarty). He star­ted Cath­ol­ic League soc­cer, so if it wer­en’t for him, maybe none of us would have ever had a chance to even play. I re­spect him a lot.” ••

You can reach at jknebels@gmail.com.

comments powered by Disqus