Public League champs Central have Northeast flavor

The Central girls soccer team won the Public League championship and the District 12 4A championship. CONTRIBUTED PHOTO

One championship wasn’t enough.

The Central High School girls soccer team wanted two. And the Lancers had to work overtime to win both of them.

First, Central bested Franklin Towne Charter 2-1 in the Public League championship. Next up was a District 12 4A championship game against Archbishop Carroll, which finished 4-3-1 in the tough Catholic League. The Lancers won that one in overtime 1-0.

And while Central is located in Olney, this squad had quite the Northeast flavor with eight girls from our area.

Central’s roster includes seniors Kirsten Barth, a defender from Fox Chase; Gianna Iorio, midfielder from Tacony; Courtney McKenna, a forward from Rhawnhurst; juniors Evelyn Schmidt, a midfielder from Parkwood Manor; Sara Hogan, a striker from Holmesburg; sophomores Carley Gillespie, a fullback from Fox Chase; Ashlynn Colville, a halfback from Bridesburg; and Grace Dewitt, a freshman forward from Parkwood.

“Being Public League champions is an incredible feeling, but beating Carroll felt even greater because we defeated a team that thought very low of us coming from a Philly public school,” said Iorio, who hopes to play soccer next year at Rutgers. “We showed them that hard work beats talent. We feel very confident going into states because we know we can take any battle on and give it our all.”

“Winning the Public League championship along with the District 12 championship means a lot to me,” said Barth, who will attend Penn State in the fall to major in pre-med. “Being a senior, I can happily say my last year on the team was very successful. As a public school, many people believe that there is no way we could possibly ever beat a Catholic school. Winning districts proves all the soccer stereotypes wrong. It puts us at an advantage for states because other teams now know we are a lot more than your average Public League team.”

The Lancers are excited about what’s next, a matchup with Conestoga at the Germantown Supersite on Tuesday. But they couldn’t be happier about what they’ve already accomplished.

“This is the third year we have won the Public League since I have been on the team, and it is such a big deal for us,” McKenna said. “We worked and worked over the past few months for this game and our determination and hard work definitely paid off. We won the District 12 title in my freshman year and now again my senior year and I’m glad it’s an experience the younger girls on my team were able to experience.”

The Lancers have experienced a lot of good times this year. After an opening-day tie to Germantown Friends, they went 13-1-2 the rest of the way. The only loss, a setback to Philadelphia Academy Charter, they avenged in the Public League semifinals. They tied Franklin Towne Charter and Masterman during the regular season.

But when the stakes were raised, that’s when the Lancers came to play.

“Honestly, the championship wins are huge for us as a team,” Schmidt said. “It was like all of the hard work, time and effort we put into practicing had finally paid off.”

“After all of the hard work we put into our team, winning the Public League and beating Carroll felt like it finally all paid off and we all felt so proud of ourselves,” Gillespie said. “Both of these feats give us confidence heading into states because it proved with hard work, this team can really achieve anything together.”

The Lancers definitely put in the work to get where they are, but they also had to play big when it mattered most.

Winning overtime games show that the Lancers never let the bright lights scare them, and considering so many of their top players are underclassmen, they could make a habit of this.

Led by Rich Johns, who is in his ninth season as head coach, Central has enough firepower to make noise this year and beyond.

“Winning the Public League is a great feeling and winning the District 12 championship feels even better, it is a huge accomplishment that I am happy to achieve my freshman year,” Dewitt said. “I am just a freshman but I am very excited for my next three years here at Central and for this team. I hope we can make it this far every year.”

“Going into states knowing we won that game boosts my confidence knowing we have been proving people wrong all along and if we put in our dedication we can achieve those goals,” Colville said. “After making it this far this year, I can’t wait to play next year and be able to relive these amazing memories with all of my best friends.”

The players on the field certainly did their part. And the coach had them well prepared. But Hogan was unable to play in the District 12 championship because she had emergency surgery prior to the game.

But the team captain gave her troops all the support she could, and when it was over, she couldn’t have been prouder of her team.

“My role with the team is to be a team leader for the girls and be a good role model for my teammates and support all of them,” said Hogan, who also kicks for the football team. “If I work my hardest and give my all, it encourages everyone else to do the same and pushes everyone to their absolute best.

“Although I was unable to play in districts due to needing an unexpected surgery, winning the District 12 championship as major underdogs is an amazing feeling and a huge win for the Public League as a whole. I am beyond proud of this team for the pure grit and determination that we show every game. We are going to put that same effort into states and hope for the same results.”