MacWilliams, freshmen keep Raiders on track

Bobby MacWilliams helped Ryan defeat Father Judge to advance to the PCL semifinals. CONTRIBUTED PHOTO

Bobby MacWilliams didn’t need a lot of time to change his mind.

When he first started training camp this year, the Archbishop Ryan High School senior defender wasn’t very optimistic. He wanted his final high school soccer season to be a memorable one, and when he arrived at tryouts, there were a lot of young faces on the field with him. He was a little worried this was going to be a rebuilding season.

Once a ball was introduced to the mix, he realized things were going to be OK.

Or even better.

“I knew right away once we started playing that the freshmen were really good,” MacWilliams said. “Before you see them play, you think that because they’re freshmen, they’re not going to be good. But they were good. I knew right away after they started to play. I knew this could be a good year.”

It’s the best year Ryan’s had in eight years.

On Thursday, the Raiders knocked off Judge 1-0 in a Catholic League quarterfinal. Ryan will now play La Salle in the semifinals. A win would put Ryan back into the Catholic League finals.

The win over Judge was nice for many reasons. The biggest was that it sends the Raiders into the next round, but it also gives the Ryan a victory over their rivals, the Crusaders, a team that enjoyed a fantastic regular season.

And MacWilliams, a senior captain, is quick to point out the main reason Ryan is still playing.

“It’s the freshmen, definitely,” MacWilliams said. “They’re the reason. They just have such a passion for soccer and the will to win. They have been doing this all year. We’ll have some games where we make mistakes, but other games, when we’re playing our best, we’re a great team. It’s great to be part of it.”

He’s also happy he got to play his rivals one more time.

Ryan beat Judge during the regular season during MacWilliams’ sophomore and junior year. The Crusaders won during the regular season this year, but MacWilliams was on the sidelines with a foot injury.

Instead of helping Ryan on the field, he was on the sidelines wearing a boot.

“It was awful, it hurt so bad not being able to play in that game,” MacWilliams said. “But I’m 3-0 against them. They won when I was a freshmen and I didn’t play, and this year, I didn’t play.

“I’m not good friends with anyone on Judge, but it’s great to beat them. They’re a great team. They’re great guys. You want to beat them because of the rivalry, but they’re a great team. I’m really glad we beat them.”

MacWilliams is even happier the Raiders won because it means he’ll get to put on the uniform at least one more time.

Ryan has a rich tradition in soccer, but in recent years hasn’t been able to make the final four.

Two years ago the Raiders lost a tight game in the quarterfinals, but that’s the closest MacWilliams got to a championship.

He is confident the Raiders will be a mainstay in the Catholic League semifinals from here on out, and he’s happy he’s on the team that helped them advance that far.

“This is definitely the start of great things for the program,” said MacWilliams, who lives in Somerton. “I’m so glad I’m part of it. I really think this team is going to be really good for a long time and I’m happy that I’m still playing. This experience will help everyone.”

MacWilliams stays busy when he’s not playing soccer by playing other sports and helping people.

Last year he was a member of the track team, running short distances and throwing the javelin, shot put and discus. This year, he’s helping out with the Ryan thon, too.

“My good friend is running it and I wanted to get involved because last year we didn’t end up having it, so I wanted to help make sure we have it this year,” MacWilliams said. “It’s a chance to help people. We raise money for CHOP and help the kids. Some people shave their heads and donate their hair. We’ll have a dance, I think in March, to raise money. I just like to take part to help people.”

He also wants to do that for his career.

“I’m going to be a nurse,” said MacWilliams, who is leaning toward not playing college soccer, but could change his mind. “I like to learn about the body and I think the best thing would be having a job where you can really help people. That’s what I really want to do.”

After winning a championship of course.

“I think we have a team that can win,” MacWilliams. “Every team that’s left is good. There are great teams. But with our team, we can win it.

“It’s funny because when the season started, there were freshmen on this team that I didn’t even talk to. Now they’re my best friends. This year has been great, they’ve really made it a great senior year for me.”