As a senior on the highly-successful Archbishop Ryan girls soccer team that’s lost just one regular season game in the last two years, Briana Egenlauf doesn’t have much left to check off her bucket list before graduation.
She won a Catholic League championship in 2012 and is on the doorstep of another. Egenlauf can also check ‘playoff hat trick’ off after tallying three of Ryan’s four goals in Thursday night’s semifinals 4-0 win over Lansdale Catholic.
One of the few pressing issues still left to take care of is knocking off Archbishop Wood, a team that has become a pesky foil and nemesis to the Ragdolls. In Egenlauf’s four years, the soccer team has never beaten Wood, and the Vikings are the aforementioned one team to vanquish Ryan (not counting a state playoff loss to Central Bucks West last November) in the past two seasons, a 1-0 loss back on Sept. 5.
Now, Egenlauf and the Ragdolls will have another shot at Wood on the grandest of stages, as the two rivals will meet in Sunday’s Catholic League championship game at Ryan (tentatively scheduled for 2 p.m.). The Vikings nipped Little Flower, 1-0, in Thursday’s other semifinal contest.
“They’re the biggest rival for this team,” Egenlauf said following the victory over Lansdale Catholic. “I’ve never beaten them in my four years here. To be able to beat them for another championship in my senior year, that would be a huge accomplishment, and this team has the ability to do it.”
And what’s the secret, if any, to beating a team that has had Ryan’s number for so long?
“We just have to work hard and play how we played tonight,” said Egenlauf, whose team has won 18 in a row since the loss to Wood. “We have to be ready to come out strong, and I think we will.”
The Ragdolls certainly came out strong against Lansdale, as they are prone to do, usually striking their opponent early before smothering them with stingy defense the rest of the way. Egenlauf got her first tally of Thursday night not even seven minutes into the first half off a pristine cross from sophomore midfielder Taylor Woods. Roughly 20 minutes later, the Woods-to-Egenlauf combo struck again, this time on a pretty through ball that gave Ryan an all but insurmountable 2-0 lead at halftime. Woods scored the third goal of the contest early in the second half on a head ball off a Casey Rodgers corner kick before Egenlauf wrapped up her hat trick in the waning moments of the game.
Egenlauf is one of just four seniors on the Ryan roster, a stunner for a team that has dominated its league so thoroughly. Sophomores such as Woods, forward Jules Blank, Rodgers and defender Tayah Naudascher, as well as juniors Jazmin Gonzalez (who notched yet another shutout in goal over Lansdale) and sweeper Kaitlyn McFadden, who anchors a punishing back line that always seems perfectly in sync.
Egenlauf said it’s been an easy group to mentor, as the mature youngsters know what’s expected of them and what it takes to win in such a challenging league.
“They are hard workers and they love the game,” Egenlauf said of her younger teammates. “They understand what it takes to be successful. I know I can always count on them. Being a senior on this team has been pretty great. Everyone knows what type of atmosphere to expect, and how to handle the pressure that comes with it.”
The Ragdolls have maintained for close to two months that the regular season loss to Wood was an aberration, the byproduct of a young team still figuring out its identity. Now on a team full of interchangeable parts, each and every Ryan player knows her role, which has been bad news for the opposition ever since the Ragdolls trudged off the field following their lone defeat to Wood.
And it’s no secret that Egenlauf and her teammates are out for revenge. The loss has been on their minds all season, and they’re ready for payback.
“We definitely want revenge,” she said. “I think we just have to play confident. They’re a very good team, but so are we. We’ll be ready to play our game, and we’re not scared.”
The Ragdolls would like to wrap up head coach Ryan Haney’s fourth league championship in nine seasons and head into the state playoffs, where they hope to create more noise in 2013 than they did the year prior, losing in the first round to C.B. West.
Whenever the ride ends, Egenlauf will be forever grateful for her time at Ryan, as she and her teammates have brought sustained excellence to a school that has seen plenty of soccer accomplishments over the decades.
“It’s been the best time of my life,” she said. “It’s sad knowing it has to come to an end. Playing soccer for Ryan has been the best time of my life so far. I loved being here every day, and I wouldn’t change it for anything.”