Special to The CS&T

PHILADELPHIA — Cardinal Dougherty’s girls’ soccer team doesn’t exactly scare the stronger teams in the Catholic League.

But the Cardinals no longer represent a cakewalk to opponents, either.

“When you’re able to win games that you usually lose, I think your confidence becomes a lot higher and other teams start taking notice,” said Dougherty coach Theresa Martin. “Even if you lose, as long as you stay competitive, you at least can walk away knowing you gave the other team a lot to handle.”

For programs like Little Flower or St. Hubert’s or Archbishop Ryan, moral victories might not be cause for celebration. But when you’re an improving team like Dougherty, it’s important to recognize each and every step on the way to respectability.

If the first half of the season is any indication, the Cardinals have already reached that point, which is saying quite a lot when considering some of the one-sided losses they endured the past few years.

Last year did include several contests that ended in frustrating fashion. It was the proverbial “close, but not quite” routine. After a while, that can get old and tiring.

But the Cardinals, members of the PIAA’s Class AA, went 6-3 overall in the first half with a 4-2 spanision record. Their only league losses came at the hands of Lansdale Catholic, 3-1, and Neumann-Goretti, 2-1. Included in their non-spanision success was a 3-1 upset of Conwell-Egan.

“We’re playing with a lot more intensity, more than in the past,” said Martin. “The biggest difference is that we are starting to put the ball into the net.”

A 2000 graduate of Cardinal Dougherty and a St. Cecilia’s grade school product, Martin is one of nine children. So she is extremely aware of how important it is to have solid leadership for the youngsters to emulate.

Perhaps that is why Martin so appreciates seniors Katie Fitzmartin and Lauren Mowery.

“They are 100 percent behind the program and totally dedicated to what we are trying to do,” said Martin. “They’re always trying to improve. It has a carryover effect to everyone on the team.”

Mainstays include sophomore Caroline Hopkins, a sweeper last year who was converted to center and midfielder. Then there is sophomore sensation Mo Hawkins, a junior striker who has school officials trying to confirm where she stands in regard to the program’s all-time goal scorers.

Unfortunately, however, Hawkins might not be able to add to her impressive tally sheet. In a 3-1 win over Hallahan last week, Hawkins collided with the goalie and sustained an ankle injury that landed her on crutches the next day.

On Monday, doctors determined that she will be out for an undetermined length of time, hopefully not too long since the playoffs will begin in about a month.

Hawkins was surprisingly upbeat despite the malady and said she plans to do “whatever it takes” to return faster than expected.

“It will kill me not being able to be out there,” said Hawkins. “I love the sport. I even love practices. Whenever someone complains about having to practice, I don’t understand it.”

Martin verified Hawkins’ claim.

“She’s an amazing player for good reason,” said Martin. “I am not kidding around that if I said we were going to have practice at 7:00 in the morning on a Saturday, she wouldn’t have any problem at all with that.”

Apparently, Hawkins’ passionate willingness to improve is shared by her teammates, the results of which are reflected in the win column.

John Knebels can be reached at