Judge freshman wastes no time in contributing

Freshman Brett Rajowski was a mainstay at Crusader soccer games to support his brother, and now found himself as a starter for every game in his first season.

Defensive midfielder Brett Rajowski started every game for the Crusaders in his first year. He expects big things next year. SUPPLIED PHOTO

Brett Rajowski became a Crusader at an early age.

Rajowski, now a freshman at Father Judge High School, would be a mainstay at Crusader soccer games when he was younger because his brother, Drew, graduated from the school in 2014 and was a key player on the team.

“I never missed a game,” Rajowski said. “They were really good, too. They won the championship his senior year. I knew I wanted to play there.”

Rajowski didn’t waste any time in getting on the field, either.

When he tried out for the team this year, he figured he might have a shot at becoming a starter on the junior varsity team. Best-case scenario, he figured, he would get some time late in games. But it didn’t turn out that way.

“I was really surprised when they said I was going to be a starter, I found out right before the first game,” said Rajowski, a Pine Valley resident who plays defensive midfield. “I had a lot of help, especially from the seniors. They really helped me a lot and taught me everything I needed to know about playing in the Catholic League. It’s so much different than playing anywhere else. It’s great soccer.”

The Crusaders played great soccer at times this year and the regular season ended with Judge in fifth place. That meant a trip to Temple University to play St. Joe’s Prep, where the two teams battled through a scoreless regulation and first overtime before the Hawks scored a goal late in the second overtime to win the game 1–0. Prep advances to the semifinals against Roman. The other semifinal features Archbishop Wood against La Salle.

Judge’s season came to an end in a game that could have gone either way. That makes the setback even harder.

“I’m really sad it ended, mostly because of our seniors,” Rajowski said. “They helped us so much this year. They were great leaders and great players. They really led this team and helped me so much.”

Rajowski is quick to hand out thanks to everyone who helped him.

While he entered high school an accomplished soccer player, he believes his teammates at Judge were a huge reason for his rise to becoming one of the top freshmen in the Catholic League.

He also credits his brother for helping him along the way.

“He always helped me, I always looked up to him,” Rajowski said of his brother Drew, who is stationed in Hawaii with the Army. “We would train in our backyard. He was a great player. He played center mid, which is a little different than what I play, I’m defensive midfield, but it’s the same thing.

“I usually talk to him after every game. He wants to know how we did. He’s always been really supportive.”

Rajowski might have had a lot of help to get where he is, but he’s certainly done a lot of the work himself.

A lot of that work came while he was playing for a soccer club based out of Harleysville, PA Dominion. Last year, he helped the squad win a state championship and advance to the regional tournament.

“We had a good year, but it’s a lot different than playing in the Catholic League,” Rajowski said. “There, I was playing against kids my age. At Judge, I was playing against some guys who were 18. It’s a big difference. But I did learn a lot and get better by playing club ball.”

The age of he players isn’t the only difference between club ball and high school soccer.

The atmosphere at Catholic League games can be intimidating, especially for a freshman. But Rajowski again credits his teammates for preparing him for the experience.

“We had 500 fans (at the Prep game), and we played a lot of games in front of a lot of fans,” Rajowski said. “It’s great, but I would get really nervous. It helped once the game started, and my teammates helped me.

“The Ryan game was the same way. It was great, even though we lost. There were so many fans there, and it’s the neighborhood rivalry. The atmosphere at some of the games is so much fun.”

Rajowski believes next year will be even more fun.

He was quick to point out how much the seniors on this year’s squad meant to the team and made a point to say they’ll all be missed for their play and leadership. But the Crusaders are a young team and they’ll come into next year with high expectations.

“We have a lot of good players on JV and they’ll help us a lot next year,” Rajowski said. “And there were a lot of juniors on the team. They’ll be seniors next year and they’ll be great players and leaders.”

And they’ll also have a younger guy who will be ready to take on some leadership responsibilities.

“I’ll help anyone I can,” Rajowski said. “The experience definitely helps. We’ll have great leaders, but if I can help anyone, I’ll do it.”