Carly Walsh has turned a lot of people into Ragdoll fans.
Walsh is a senior defender on the Archbishop Ryan High School girls soccer team, and her family is full of Catholic Leaguers.
Her dad and older brother went to Judge, as did many of her cousins. Her mom attended Little Flower. She also has family members who attended St. Hubert, Dougherty, Roman Catholic and St. Joe’s Prep.
But Walsh is the first member of her family to attend Ryan, and that’s caused a lot of changes for her family.
“I found out really a few months before graduation I was going to Ryan, I was looking at all different schools,” Walsh said. “Everyone went to Roman, Judge, Little Flower, St. Hubert’s. I was the oddball out. I was going to everyone’s rival school.
“They didn’t care, they come to all my games, I have the biggest cheering section. My brothers came to the game. My older brother graduated from Judge. I told him he had to wear a Ryan shirt to our playoff game because it could have been our last game. He couldn’t do it, but he came and cheered, he’s one of my biggest supporters.”
Good news for Walsh’s brother. He has another chance to wear a Ragdoll shirt because that game wasn’t the final one in her Ryan soccer career.
Walsh and her teammates defeated Little Flower in the quarterfinals of the Catholic League playoffs. Up next is a game against Lansdale Catholic in the semifinals. A victory would send the Ragdolls back to the Catholic League championship game, a place they find themselves more often than not.
Ryan won the championship during Walsh’s freshman year, where she was a contributor. Sophomore year, the PCL championship game wasn’t played because of the pandemic. Last year, Ryan once again got back to the championship game, but fell to Archbishop Wood.
At the start of the year, it didn’t look like the Ragdolls would be a factor in the playoffs. An injury to franchise scorer Gianna Rivera left a huge void in Ryan’s offense. But after some growing pains and a few changes on the field, the Ragdolls are still in the mix, and could prove to be a tough out for any team in the tournament.
“We started off a little rough but we’ve grown so much closer as a team,” said Walsh, who played midfield last year but has settled in as a centerback this year. “We struggled a little, but the past few games have been really good. I’m so excited to play Lansdale Catholic. It’s going to be a really good one. I think we’re a whole new team. It’s a great group of girls. Once we work hard, nobody can really stop us.
“We lost last time, but we’re so much better now. We have a really good team. I’m really proud about how we are playing right now, especially on offense. Losing Gianna was really hard, she’s so great, but everyone is playing hard since she’s not here.”
The offense is doing its part, and Walsh is doing her part to lead the defense.
As the centerback, she took it upon herself to be the voice of the defense. As a four-year varsity player, she knows what to look for and she’s not afraid to let her teammates know what’s going on.
“I’m like a vocal leader, if the ball is up or I don’t have it, my job is to let everyone know what they should do,” Walsh said. “I’m the loudest one on the field, you can hear me miles away. I just say what’s in my mind, where the play should be, where the ball is going. I like that. It helps not only the team, but me, it settles everyone down and gets everyone comfortable in the game.
“I definitely grew into it. I was one of the quietest girls on the field freshman year. You wouldn’t find me talking much, but now, the girls hear me. I feel like it helps so much. I like when I’m on a team and girls tell me what to do. It feels like it calms down the game.”
Leading the soccer team isn’t the only thing Walsh does to stay busy.
She’s ranked in the top 20 of her senior class, she runs track, is a member of Athletes Helping Athletes, will participate in Mini-thon, a dance marathon that raises money for children with cancer, she’s on student council, National Honor Society and an ambassador for the school.
She also spends part of her day at Chestnut Hill College, where the diocesan scholar takes a class each semester.
“If I’m not home, I’m at school,” Walsh said. “Working, playing sports, hanging out. I love Ryan, and I feel like I’m always there. Always have something to do there, it’s like my second home.”
Next year, she’ll have a new home. She’s bound for Kutztown University, where she plans on majoring in Allied Health. Her goal is to become an occupational therapist. Unlike her high school, she’s following in her dad’s footsteps by becoming a Golden Bear.
“He joked about it, we traveled all over looking at schools and he said, ‘What about Kutztown,’ ” Walsh said. “He was joking but I signed up for a camp to check it out and I loved it. I loved the girls, I love the school, I love the coach, he’s amazing. I knew the day I went that I was going there and I committed the next day. My dad is excited because he played football there, he likes being on campus.
“I want to get my undergrad there and then go somewhere to become an occupation therapist. I just feel you can help change someone’s life. You help them get their motor skills back. You can give them their life back.”
Now Walsh wants to get the PCL plaque back. A win over Lansdale Catholic will put the Ragdolls back in the championship.
“We can be really good,” Walsh said. “We set a lot of goals to prepare for it, and going into this game, we’re hype and excited. If we work hard, and set our goals, nobody is going to stop us. I think we can go all the way and put up a strong fight. Maybe have a run in states again. Last year, we had a really good season.”