Gontz hard work paying off for Ryan

Keri Gontz has been playing varsity since midway through her freshman year. CONTRIBUTED PHOTO

Some people got lazy during quarantine.

Keri Gontz did the exact opposite.

Gontz is a junior outside midfielder on the Archbishop Ryan High School girls soccer team, and when everyone else shut down, the Chalfont resident used the downtime to improve her strength, stamina and soccer skills.

She had to find innovative ways to do it, but she wasn’t going to let not being around her teammates stop her from getting better.

“I’m used to playing soccer all the time, so when we first stopped playing, it was really tough to get used to,” Gontz said. “But we were doing whatever we could, mostly working out individually, but we were doing as much as we could. Most of it was individual work, but then we were doing Zoom call workouts.

“We started working right after last year, so by the time (coronavirus) shut us down, we were already working out. We started the second after we lost in states. We thought we were going to have a great year this year, so we wanted to be ready. And we were.”

The Ragdolls, the defending Catholic League champions, will have to wait until 2021 to see if they’re still the best in the league. This year, the Ragdolls are playing just a regular season and when that is over, they’ll do their best to win a state championship.

It’s definitely a different way to approach the season.

Typically, the biggest thing the Ragdolls can do is win the Catholic League championship because to win that, they have to get past all their rivals. This year, that’s not the goal because there is no title to be won.

“We always want to win the Catholic League championship and the state championship, both mean a lot to us,” said Gontz, who has been a starter for the Ragdolls since midway through her freshman season. “Last year winning the championship in the PCL was big, and we were really happy about the state playoffs. Making it to the semifinals was good, but we really wanted to go further.”

Gontz believes she knows the reason for the Ragdolls’ success, both last year and this year.

It helps that the team has some of the best players in the area, but she believes the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.

“I think we play better than we are because we’re all such good friends, on and off the field,” said Gontz, who joined Athletes Helping Athletes to be with her teammates, and now loves the activity. “This team has been close the whole time I’ve been here. We are always talking when we’re not playing and on the field, I think we all play harder because we want to do it for each other.

“Talent has a lot to do with it and I think we have a lot of really skilled players, but I think we’re better than that because of how close we are. It makes it more fun and it makes us want to do better.”

Teammates love to play with Gontz because of her attitude on the field.

As an outside midfielder, she has a lot of freedom with the ball, and she takes advantage of it by using her talents to get her teammates opportunities to score. She has the ability to fill the net, but that’s not her role.

“I think the biggest thing that’s my responsibility is to find my teammates,” said Gontz, who has a handful of assists this year. “I like to score like anyone else, but I don’t have to score to have a good game. When I get my teammates involved, it’s like scoring for me. The only thing I care about is winning. It’s really the only thing anyone cares about. We just like to win.”

They’ve been pretty good about doing that since Gontz arrived at Ryan.

In her freshman year, the Ragdolls advanced to the Catholic League championship before falling in overtime. They corrected that a year ago when they won their second Catholic League championship in three years.

This year, the state championship is the goal because it’s the only crown they’ll be competing for. So far, they’ve played well, losing just one game, a one-goal setback to Archbishop Wood, the team Ryan beat in the championship.

The Ragdolls aren’t used to losing games, especially during the regular season, but it wasn’t a loss Gontz was too upset about.

In fact, it could turn out to be one of those things that they’ll look back on as a good thing.

“Honestly, we’re playing well, but we still can get a lot better,” said Gontz, who plays club soccer for the PSC COPPA Swarm. “This has been different this year, and we know we have a lot to do to get better. And we’re working on it.

“That’s the best thing about this team, I think, is the leadership. I remember when I started playing (varsity) freshman year, the older players were great about welcoming everyone and showing us how to play. This year’s seniors are the same way, they’re great leaders and they’re making sure the younger players are ready.

“I’ve learned so much by playing with them. I’m a lot more confident now because I’ve had so much help from the other players. We’re just really a close team, and that makes us better. It’s a lot about the leaders. And the coaches. Everyone wants to see the other people do well. It really helps you grow as a person and a player.”