Fear the Tribe: Walsh leads Ryan athletic boom

With Scar­lett Walsh (right) lead­ing the way, the Rag­dolls feel strongly about bring­ing a girls soc­cer cham­pi­on­ship to Arch­bish­op Ry­an. RICHARD KAUFF­MAN / FOR THE TIMES

— Arch­bish­op Ry­an seni­or Scar­lett Walsh is at the fore­front of an ath­let­ics up­swing at the school.


Right now is a fant­ast­ic time to be a stu­dent-ath­lete at Arch­bish­op Ry­an, and Scar­lett Walsh loves the fact that she’s smack dab in the middle of it all.

Walsh, a seni­or mid­field­er and cap­tain for the Rag­dolls soc­cer team, has nev­er seen the school this ex­cited for ath­let­ics in her four years there. The Raid­er foot­ball team re­cently won its first Cath­ol­ic League game in five sea­sons, a 32-31 thrill­er over ar­chrival Fath­er Judge; also, the boys’ soc­cer team is back in the play­offs and de­term­ined to win a cham­pi­on­ship in long­time coach George Todt’s 44th and fi­nal sea­son.

Then there’s Walsh’s Rag­dolls, who haven’t lost a game all year. The top seed in the Cath­ol­ic League play­offs, they aim to keep it that way, and Sat­urday’s 3-0 quarterfi­nals win over Arch­bish­op Car­roll is proof in the pud­ding. After a bit of a slug­gish start, Walsh scored two late first half goals and Ry­an’s shut­down de­fense did the rest of the work, help­ing notch the team’s 13th shutout of the sea­son. In fact, the Rag­dolls have al­lowed just five goals all sea­son.

Not a bad time at all to be a Ry­an ath­lete.

“It’s really awe­some,” Walsh said after the win over Car­roll. “We have a new spir­it group called the Tribe, and they come to all the games to sup­port us and get every­one pumped up. There are an­nounce­ments in school let­ting people know about the games, people put­ting stuff up on each oth­er’s lock­ers … it’s get­ting all of us play­ers pumped up.”

Not that Walsh needs the ex­tra mo­tiv­a­tion. The stone-faced seni­or ex­pects per­fec­tion from her­self and from her team, and she’s not shy in say­ing so.

“I come out every game think­ing I’m go­ing to score goals,” she said. “I put pres­sure on every single de­fend­er and at­tack their weak­nesses. I ex­pect people to double team me; if not, well … I don’t know why they wouldn’t.”

Walsh is con­fid­ent in her abil­it­ies, and that’s rubbed off on the rest of her team, mainly a young back line of goalie Jazmin Gonzales and de­fend­ers Taylor Adair, Tayah Nau­dascher, Megan Man­ion and Kaitlyn Mc­Fad­den that has smothered op­pos­ing of­fenses all year, not once al­low­ing more than one goal in a game. Of that group, only Mc­Fad­den is a seni­or, so even when Walsh’s fi­nal sea­son ends, Ry­an will still have a stingy back line to lean on while it fig­ures out how to re­place her of­fens­ive out­put.

“Our de­fense is really strong,” Walsh said. “They work to­geth­er and com­mu­nic­ate to solve prob­lems. I know that as long as I get my team fo­cused and pro­du­cing our best, then our best will be bet­ter than every­one else’s.”

The Rag­dolls will need to con­tin­ue get­ting Walsh’s best, as the games will only get harder the fur­ther in­to the post­season they go. Next up will be a semi­finals clash against neigh­bor­hood rival St. Hubert, which elim­in­ated Little Flower with a 3-0 win on Sat­urday. To make mat­ters even more in­ter­est­ing, the Rag­dolls elim­in­ated the Bam­bies in last year’s quarterfi­nals. (Ed­it­or’s note: the St. Hubert-Ry­an semi­finals match-up was played on Wed­nes­day after the Times went to press.)

As far as the match-up with St. Hubert, Walsh can’t wait.

“We love to play our biggest rivals,” said Walsh, whose Rag­dolls de­feated St. Hubert 2-0 on Sept. 24. “We’d play them every game if we could. I really think our biggest com­pet­it­or is ourselves, and that if we get ourselves fo­cused, then we can beat every team out there.”

A close bond off the field has helped bring this Rag­doll bunch closer to­geth­er. Ac­cord­ing to Walsh, the en­tire team is best friends with each oth­er, in­clud­ing the un­der­class­men and most ex­per­i­enced play­ers. They all hang out to­geth­er, have pasta parties be­fore every game and con­verse in the school hall­ways on game day to make sure every play­er is in the right mind­set.

Ob­vi­ously, it’s worked, as the Rag­dolls have outscored op­pon­ents by an eye-pop­ping mark of 78-5. The Car­roll coach­ing staff ob­sess­ively tried to keep the ball away from Walsh on Sat­urday, and she still de­pos­ited two first-half goals. When they locked her down in the second half by double and triple team­ing her, Ju­les Blank wrangled free for a goal of her own.

From the start, this sea­son has just had a dif­fer­ent feel to it.

“This just feels like our year,” she said. “We have the ex­per­i­ence and we just really want to win.”

Her head coach has no­ticed the dif­fer­ence, too.

“Her (fear­less) at­ti­tude to­ward the game, as well as her drive and will to win,” Ry­an Haney said when asked what made Walsh such a game-changer. “She’s push­ing her team­mates to come up to her level. She de­mands their best. She’s been a starter since she’s been here, and since I first met her in eighth grade I could tell she was go­ing to be spe­cial. With her lead­ing the way, we feel good about our chances.”

And how could they not?

“I’ve been work­ing four years to get to this point,” Walsh said. “To win a cham­pi­on­ship, it’s all I’m look­ing for­ward to. I’m fo­cus­ing everything I have on get­ting us there. I’m very happy with where I’m at.” ••

You can reach at emorrone@bsmphilly.com.

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