HomeNewsRyan senior Rola ready for next step

Ryan senior Rola ready for next step

The boys soccer team has exactly what it needs in a leader in Chris Rola.

Chris Rola will play multiple positions to help the Ryan soccer team. SUPPLIED PHOTO

Chris Rola knows all about setting a good example.

Rola is a senior on the Archbishop Ryan High School soccer team and he’s been a role model for most of his life to his three brothers.

Peter, 14, is going into his freshman year at Ryan. His other brothers are Sean, 13, and Leighton, 3.

“I definitely try to set a good example for them and be there for them,” Rola said. “Peter is playing soccer this year, I don’t know what team he’ll be on, but they’re definitely all good kids. I think being around them has helped me with leadership.”

Then he paused, gave it some thought and realized what he does at home is exactly what he does at Ryan.

“It’s no different than the guys at Ryan,” he said. “I feel the same way about the guys on my team. We’re always looking out for each other and trying to help each other. It’s a family, and I love my family at home and at school.”

It sounds like the Raiders have exactly what they need in a leader this year.

Rola, who played defender most of his life, switched to center midfield last year when the Raiders finished Catholic League play in fourth place. That team was led by seniors Will Stackhouse and George Montag. Those two have graduated and are now playing at Holy Family, but they’ll still have a huge influence on this team through Rola.

While he had the leadership skills he developed as a big brother, and he learned plenty of ways to lead a team from his uncle and longtime Ryan assistant coach and soccer legend Walt Bradby, he gained even more tips from his older teammates a season ago. This year, he’ll use all the things he has learned from last year’s seniors to help this year’s squad.

“I definitely think they taught me a lot,” Rola said. “They were great. They were my best friends. We hung out at school, after school and we played soccer together our whole lives. I played at Philly soccer with them and I played against them. I was with them constantly.

“They were great leaders and definitely did a lot to help me. I learned a lot by playing with them, and they were good leaders. They knew what everyone was supposed to do and they were always there to help. That’s what I’m going to try to do this year.”

He believes if he does his job, the Raiders could be a force in the Catholic League.

Sure, it won’t be easy with the usual teams like Roman Catholic, La Salle and Father Judge brining a lot of firepower into the season, but Rola likes what he sees from his team.

It started out in the summer and it has continued right into camp.

“We played in the (Lower Moreland) summer league and we did pretty good,” Rola said. “We made it to the finals and lost to Abington, but they’re a good team, too. I think we showed a lot during that.

“It was hot all summer and everyone was playing great. And we started practice, so we were doing a lot of running and nobody looked tired or anything, so I think everyone came into the season in great shape. I definitely think that’s big. It will help. When you come in ready to play, you can start doing other things.”

Rola knows he’ll be ready. He’s just not completely sure what he’s ready for.

Last year, he switched positions because he was needed at midfield, and while learning the new gig was a challenge, it was also fun. This year, he’s ready to go back to defense if that’s needed, but he’s also happy to stay in the middle.

“I definitely felt it was a compliment when I was asked to move because we needed someone to play there,” Rola said of moving to midfield. “I think they put the there because I have decent vision and a good touch, so I was able to set everything up. It took a couple of games (to get comfortable), but once I did, I thought it went great.

“I would like to play defense again, but I would like to play center mid again. Whatever they need me to do, I’ll do. Where I play won’t really change what I want to do.”

That’s win as a team.

Rola has enjoyed success as an individual, but thus far during his career at Ryan, the Raiders have failed to win a playoff game.

A lot of that is because the Raiders have gone up against tough teams in the postseason, so the lack of playoff success shouldn’t be looked at as a failure, but this year Rola believes his team has what it takes to be among the elite in the Catholic League.

And they’re ready to show the rest of the league that they’re ready.

“I think everybody in the league is good,” Rola said. “But we’re up there with them. I think we definitely have a chance to win this year. I think everybody is about the same in talent, so that means whoever works the hardest will win. I’ll make sure we outwork everyone because I’m a senior and that’s my job.

“Coach (Ryan) Haney told us that we’re good enough to win. If he says that, he believes it, and if he believes it, we all should believe it. He knows what it takes to win, and if he says we’re good enough, that should be enough for everyone on the team to believe.”

Rola also hopes he gets the attention of a college, where he hopes to continue his soccer career after graduation. But he can figure that out after he wins a Catholic League championship.

“I want to win one before I graduate,” said Rola, who is undecided, but leaning toward majoring in business. “The goal this year is to win the championship. I definitely think it’s something we can accomplish. College is important, and I definitely want to go, but I’ll figure that out after the season.”

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