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.” ••