Verello makes the right call at Ryan

Luca Verello scores about seven points a game for the Ragdolls. CONTRIBUTED PHOTO

Luca Verello has probably had a call go against her when it shouldn’t have. But you’ll never hear her complain.

Verello, a junior at Archbishop Ryan High School, plays soccer, basketball and lacrosse for the Ragdolls. When you’re competing that often, you’re bound to have a call from the officials go the other way. But you’ll never hear a word from here.

She’s been on the other side and she knows full well how tough the gig is.

“I did some refereeing for intramural soccer (in Parkwood) for little kids, and I like it a lot,” Verello said. “I love doing it, but it is annoying when you get yelled at by parents, especially when you get the call right! But I just let it go.

“I never argue with officials. They have a tough job and they’re just trying to do their job. I never say anything.”

She might not talk too much, but she does a lot in all three of her sports.

Verello is a starting midfielder during the fall on the Catholic League-champion Ryan soccer team. And because her team had such a long run in the playoffs, including a trip to the state semifinals, she didn’t have a long time to prepare for basketball season, where she starts at shooting guard.

The good news is it didn’t take her long to get down to business.

“I definitely think my shot was off because I didn’t have time to practice,” Verello said. “But because I didn’t have any time off, I really just had a weekend off before tryouts, I was in shape and ready to play. I missed some open gyms, but I was able to start when we started.

“Soccer and basketball are my two favorite sports. When soccer was over, I was ready for basketball. I like them both, it really depends on when you ask me. I love them both.”

Soccer was a huge success this year, but in basketball the Ragdolls are finding themselves in a position they’re not usually in. Ryan is 0-12 in divisional play, but that’s because of a new alignment in the Catholic League.

Ryan is in the Red Division, meaning it plays a hellacious schedule, including two games each against the likes of Neumann-Goretti, Archbishop Wood, Archbishop Carroll and surprising West Catholic.

The schedule doesn’t include an easy win, and it didn’t come at a great time for the Ragdolls, who have just two seniors (Caitlin Geiger and Gabriella Deluisi) and one junior, Verello, on the roster.

It would be easy to make excuses, but Verello couldn’t be happier about the new schedule and how the team has played this year.

“It’s great because we’re all so much better than we were when the season started,” Verello said. “You have a tough game every day. We knew it was going to be hard and we’re getting better as a team.

“We’ve had some games when shots weren’t falling, and we knew that we would get better there, but we decided to work on defense. Team defense. We’re doing that now and we’re getting so much better.

“You don’t like to lose, but it’s fun because we know we’re doing better. This hasn’t been a terrible year. We’re using the season to get better.”

Because of the way the divisions are aligned, the Ragdolls made the playoffs despite their record. And that gives Verello and her teammates a chance to pull off some  amazing upsets. Ryan started its playoff run before the Times went to press by hosting Conwell-Egan in a first-round game. A win there and the Ragdolls will meet a top-ranked team in a second-round game.

“We have nothing to lose because nobody expects us to win,” Verello said. “We have two very good seniors and just one junior, we’re really young. We’re getting better, and the freshmen and sophomores are just as big a part of the team as everyone. We don’t see us as upperclassmen or younger players, we’re a team. A close team. We just want to have fun and win.”

Verello hopes basketball season continues for a long time, but whenever it ends, she’ll stay busy. Not only will she have to prepare for lacrosse season, but she’s in a lot of activities in school.

The honor student is a member of the ambassadors club, students who welcome guests and future students to the school at events throughout the year; Athletes Helping Athletes, which pairs athletes with special-needs students; Catholic Relief Services; and the Interact Club, which provides service to the school and the community.

“We do things to help people, we’ve sent food to Africa and made goody bags for people,” Verello said. “My favorite one is Athletes Helping Athletes. I like doing them all.”

She’s also optimistic about the future success as a Ragdoll.

Next year, the soccer team should once again be one of the tops in the area, the basketball team will have a year of experience in the Red Division under its belt and she’s also looking forward to playing lacrosse for a second season after trying it a season ago.

“I like it, it’s my third sport,” Verello said. “I’m not sure what I want to do in college, but it will be basketball or soccer. I love them both.

“We’ll be a lot better in basketball next year, but we still want to have a strong finish this year. Nobody is expecting much from us and I think if we use what we’ve learned, we can surprise people. We’re a good team.”