Ryan’s Phillips doesn’t want to wait for success

Joey Phillips has played every minute of every game at goalie for Ryan this year. CONTRIBUTED PHOTO

Joey Phillips isn’t a Catholic League soccer history buff.

But he knows the last time Archbishop Ryan High School won the Catholic League championship in boys soccer.

It was in 2003. And he also knows who was the goalie the last time the Raiders brought home the plaque. It was Zepp Mazzeo, when Ryan shut out La Salle to win the championship.

In that season, Mazzeo was a freshman, and it also marked the last time the Raiders started a freshman at goalie.

That changed this year when Phillips became the starter, and he’s hoping history repeats itself.

“I’ve been told that the last time we had a freshman, we won it all,” said Phillips, a Levittown native who has starred for Ryan thus far. “I don’t think about it too much. I just think about winning and helping the team. We have a really good team and we have a great defense, so I just work with them.”

Ryan has had a strange season this year, and Phillips is responsible for some of the great moments. The biggest was a 3-2 victory over Roman Catholic.

The Raiders also defeated the defending Catholic League champion Archbishop Wood 4-3.

But as some young teams will do, they have lost games they shouldn’t have, but that’s part of the growing process.

And now the Raiders are on a hot streak, going unbeaten in their last three en route to a 5-4-1 record. They still have winless McDevitt on the schedule and a game against La Salle, which is among the best teams in the league.

Ryan has hung tough against the best the Catholic League has to offer, so the Raiders still have a chance to move up the standings, which would put them in a better position come playoff time. Either way, Ryan will be in the postseason and once there, anything can happen.

It helps that the Raiders have a goalie who loves those situations. In fact, his favorite game this season was the Roman game, which was played on a Friday night in front of a packed house.

Some freshmen would shy away from the pressure, but Phillips loved it. And the louder the fans got, the more fun he had.

“I love listening to everything, I heard someone say it was going to be an easy win because Ryan’s goalie was a freshman,” Phillips said. “I loved it. It was a great atmosphere. I play better when I’m playing in front of a big crowd because everyone is watching. It makes it more fun.

“I didn’t get nervous at all. I’m used to playing in big games and I was pretty excited that we had that kind of crowd. The bigger the games, I think we play better.”

Phillips was huge in the game, knocking away a few of the Cahillites’ opportunities to tie it as the game came to an end. That wasn’t unique to that game.

He also played a big part in the win over Wood, in a shutout victory over Lansdale Catholic and a close loss to Father Judge.

But he’s quick to point out his defense has been just as important to the team’s success and he appreciates their help in big moments. And he credits Ryan star forward Sidiki Fofana with helping him get acclimated to varsity soccer.

“The defense is really good,” Phillips said. “We have younger players and older players back there and we all work really well together. They help me so much.

“Sidiki has been really helpful, too. We are really close friends. He helped me right when I started. I was told when I got here that I would have a chance to play, and then when I found out I was going to start, he really helped me.”

Phillips is no stranger to big soccer games. The former Calvary Christian student plays for Philly Soccer and also plays for the Eastern PA Olympic Development Program team. When he’s not playing for one of those teams, he’s typically outside playing soccer with anyone who will practice with him. If there’s nobody there, he’ll work on his game by himself.

“I just love playing, I’ll do it whenever I can,” Phillips said. “I will kick it and work on my punting. I just want to get better. Playing helps you get better, but I like just working hard and seeing if I can get better by myself.”

He hopes that improvement leads to a Catholic League championship.

With the young talent on Ryan, the Raiders will have a chance to win a crown over the next few years. But there’s no time like the present, and Ryan has proven it can mix it up with the best teams in the Catholic League, so Phillips isn’t ready to surrender the championship this year.

He’s just hoping that whole freshman goalie thing history repeats itself.

“I think we can beat anyone,” Phillips said. “We have a great team. We are young, but we have a lot of good players and we have great leaders. We can beat anyone if we play our game.”