Northeast Times

Girls soccer team talk of the Towne following three-peat

Three-peat: Frank­lin Towne Charter won its third straight Pub­lic League crown, a 5-1 win over Cent­ral on Monday night. ED MOR­RONE / TIMES PHOTO

With the wan­ing seconds tick­ing away in Monday night’s Pub­lic League girls soc­cer cham­pi­on­ship, a hand­ful of eager young male fans ran ex­citedly through the bleach­ers at North­east High School wear­ing just their un­der­gar­ments. After all that this Frank­lin Towne Charter group has giv­en the school the last three years, sup­port­ers must be run­ning out of ways to thank head coach Bri­anna O’Don­nell’s team.

Ec­cent­ric signs of ap­prov­al not­with­stand­ing, Towne did knock off Cent­ral, 5-1, to earn the team its third straight Pub­lic League crown. It was the fi­nal show of bravado for a re­cord-set­ting seni­or class that brought the school its first ever league title in the spring of 2012 be­fore blitzkrieging its way to the next two with dom­in­ant, bru­tish force. 

Seni­or Rachel Gil­borges scored her school-re­cord 84th ca­reer goal to open the scor­ing late in the first half. Her part­ner-in-crime up top, Stefanie Ulmer, ad­ded ca­reer goals 59, 60 and 61 to go with a pro­fes­sion­al-level cross to set up sopho­more Megan Stapf’s tally, the third of the game that put the Lan­cers away after they had cut the de­fi­cit to 2-1. And though the high-scor­ing duo was thrilled they would de­part Towne as seni­or cham­pi­ons, both ad­mit­ted sad­ness that their ma­gic­al run had come to an end.

“The three-peat is ex­cit­ing, but it’s our last one,” Ulmer said. “We won’t ever play to­geth­er again as a team. Half of us have been play­ing to­geth­er since we were 8. But to do what we did three times in a row … it’s un­ex­plain­able.”

Ac­tu­ally, Towne will play again Wed­nes­day night in the Dis­trict 12 city cham­pi­on­ship against Arch­bish­op Ry­an, but this is the one the play­ers really craved. Towne brought on a chan­ging of a guard in the Pub­lic League; pri­or to this seni­or class’ emer­gence, Cent­ral had ruled the league for nearly a dec­ade. Now, Gil­borges, Ulmer and com­pany hand the reins to un­der­class­men they be­lieve are ready to carry the torch after win­ning 58 games to­geth­er at the school.

“We didn’t want to end it any oth­er way,” Gil­borges said. “It’s ex­cit­ing to end it with a bang. Now, it’s up to the ju­ni­ors. We wish we could stay longer, but we pass it on.”

“We set the found­a­tion for the next I don’t know how many years,” said seni­or goalie Alivia Di­etsch, who made sev­er­al high­light-reel saves. “I hope it con­tin­ues. We are a proud group of girls … I’ve been with most of them since I was little, so it’s great to be able to look back and say, ‘Oh, we made his­tory.’”

Will it be easy to re­place 145 goals from its top two play­ers, as well as a start­ing goalie, sweep­er (Gil­borges’ twin sis­ter, Re­becca) and five oth­er seni­ors? For sure not, but Stapf (whom O’Don­nell raved about be­fore the game) and ju­ni­or cap­tain Devon Keller will be back, and O’Don­nell is ex­cited to see how the un­der­class­men re­spond to such a lofty pre­ced­ent set by the gradu­at­ing seni­ors.

“They took own­er­ship of it,” O’Don­nell said. “It’s been a treat to coach them. Look­ing at the score­board and the way we dom­in­ated the second half, I’m glad they got to show­case it, to prove they were the best team. They de­served it.”  ••

You can reach at emorrone@bsmphilly.com.

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