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Northeast girls help Central win titles

The Central girls soccer team, led by many Northeast-area players, won the Public League and District 12 championships this year. CONTRIBUTED PHOTO

Once again, the Central High School soccer team was one of the best in the city.

And once again, the team was made up of local players.

The Lancers, who won the Public League championship and the District 12 4A title, had some great players. The league MVP Sara Hogan was just one of the stars.

Center midfielder Ashlynn Colville (Bridesburg), goalie Emily Kuchar (Burholme), forward Grace DeWitt (Parkwood), midfielder Evelyn Schmidt (Parkwood), right fullback Carly Gillespie (Fox Chase), halfback Syriana Handal (Torresdale) and left outside midfielder Jaylin Slappy (Bridesburg) all had a lot to do with the success of this year’s team. So did coach Rich Johns, a Parkwood resident and St. Martin of Tours graduate, who has guided the Lady Lancers for 10 years, and during that time, a whole lot of success.

Johns, who also coaches bowling and badminton at the school, has coached his teams to six Public League soccer championships and four District 12 championships.

Every team is special, and this year is no different because the Lancers knocked off some good teams en route to hanging the banner. And earning banners was certainly the most fun of this year.

“The best memory was winning the Public League and District 12 championships,” Johns said. “We played our best in these two games, especially in the District 12 game. Even though we gave up two late goals that made the game close, we played our best game. It was the first time repeating as District 12 champions. Hopefully our success will continue in the future.”

The future is bright. And what was accomplished this year will only help.

“Winning the Public League championship and the District 12 title means a lot to me,” said Colville, a junior. “It shows the hard work all of us girls put in to achieve the outcome we were all looking forward to since August, during preseason, when we all tried out for the team.”

The hard work didn’t start at tryouts.

That work started when Johns took over the program. And every year, the girls work their way into being one of the top teams in the Public League, a league that has improved a lot in recent years.

“The Public League championship means a whole lot to me,” said Schmidt, who plans on playing soccer next year, either for a school or intramurals, while studying biology in college. ”This is our 3rd win in a row, and we absolutely dominated our season, the championship game included, so it just feels great to know that our team is still capable of winning games and bringing home trophies.

“Honestly, securing the district win was like the biggest cherry on top of my senior season, and I’m so proud of my team for accomplishing that goal.”

“My best memory of the season was winning the championship with these girls for the third time in a row,” Gillespie said. “It’s the most amazing feeling counting down the last few seconds of the game then running to hug all of your teammates. Nothing can compare to that moment.”

Well, almost anything.

Winning championships is fun, but it’s more fun when you do it with people you enjoy being around. That’s what made this year so much fun for the Lancers.

“Central’s girls soccer is one of the most welcoming teams ever,” Handal said. “No matter what mistake you make, there is never a judgment. This was my first year on the team and I have made some great bonds with most of the girls there. I’m looking forward to next season.”

“One thing I want people to know about my team is that even though we work very hard we manage to have fun and create lifelong friendships,” said Slappy, who scored the winning goal in the semifinals and another goal in the Public League championship game, but was unable to play in the District 12 championship because she transferred into Central this year. “Even though I didn’t get to play in the District 12 ‘chip, I was super excited to support my team on the sidelines.”

It was a great year, but it doesn’t look like the end of the road.

The Lancers have some serious talent returning to the field next year and they’re just as motivated to win championships as this year’s team was.

“As a freshman, playing and winning the Public League championship was a special moment that was unexpected, not knowing what high school had in store for me,” Kuchar said. “The girls were very supportive throughout the entire season, and I couldn’t have had a successful year without them.

“Our team is like a family, though this is my first year on the team, they welcomed me with open arms and have become some of my close friends.”

And while the underclassmen compete for a title next year, they’ll always appreciate what the seniors did for them, to lead them into the future.

“Being a sophomore I really wanted to win the Public League championship for the seniors and give them a good year,” DeWitt said. “My best memory of the season is senior day, a day when we celebrate and make posters for the seniors. Last year I became friends with most of the juniors so them being seniors this year, and being able to celebrate them was one of my favorite memories.”

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