St. Hubert’s soccer season came to an end on Wednesday afternoon at the hands of Archbishop Ryan.
That Ryan emerged victorious, 4-1, in the Catholic League semifinal contest was not surprising. The Ragdolls haven’t lost a game all year and, even though Lansdale Catholic stunned the soccer world with a 2-0 win over Archbishop Wood in the other semifinal, Ryan will be the heavy favorite when the two squads face one another on Monday afternoon.
For St. Hubert’s, losing to Ryan ended a ride that began with much hope, picked up some mid-season momentum, and then reached its apex with a 3-0 victory over Little Flower in last week’s Catholic League quarterfinals.
“Getting past the first round was a big goal of ours,” said Hubert’s senior Claire Alminde, who scored the game’s first goal before sophomore Cassidy Rajkowski and junior Caroline Price added insurance tallies. “None of the seniors had ever won a playoff game, so that was a great hurdle to overcome.”
Making it more special for the Bambies was that their school had nearly closed at the end of 2011 before the Archdiocese of Philadelphia announced in late February that Hubert’s had survived what appeared to be certain curtains.
For then-juniors like Alminde and fellow team captains Jacqui DeRocini, Vickie Formica and Alyssa Bollard, hearing the great news at a school assembly will never be forgotten.
“It wasn’t only knowing we were staying open for the next year, it was knowing that we would be staying open for a long time to come,” said Bollard, a standout defender. “You always want to come back to your school after you graduate.”
While losing to Ryan in the semifinals was a difficult challenge, Ballard’s maturity is helping her adjust to the end of a sensational scholastic career.
Able to see the big picture, Bollard has “no doubt” that Hubert’s will remain a playoff fixture for the foreseeable future.
“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.
“We had a lot of really young players step up and do a great job for us. We would not have done as well without their contributions.”
For Hubert’s coach Mickey McGroarty, who is credited with starting Catholic League soccer four decades ago and earlier this season celebrated his 400th career victory, he can’t help but imagine how strong the Bambies might have been had there been no talk of Hubert’s closing its doors.
“Understandably, some families chose to go to a different school because there was so much uncertainly about our future,” said McGroarty, a 1961 Cardinal Dougherty graduate who was present with the rest of Hubert’s community for that awe-inspiring announcement this past February. “We definitely lost some talented players who are now at different schools.”
But McGroarty has never preached the brain-dead motto of “winning is the only thing” that matters. His resume includes eight Catholic League championships and 12 division titles, but it’s been his steady paternal influence that has mattered most to his players.
“He started Catholic League soccer, so if it wasn’t for him, maybe none of us would have ever had a chance to even play,” said Bollard. “I respect him a lot. All the girls do. He gives everything he has to us and the program.”
Some of the Bambie soccer players can look forward to a new athletic start. For instance, Alminde also plays varsity basketball and softball; the latter program will be defending a Catholic League championship.
Although she has much more to look forward to, Alminde is already satisfied with how much she has benefited from a Hubert’s education.
“I have thought about how different things would have been for all of us if we had closed,” she said. “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.”
Not so for the soccer team. But when you reach the league semifinals for the first time in a while and ultimately lose to an undefeated team, that isn’t so bad.
Not bad at all.
John Knebels can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.