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Central, led by NE natives, wins girls soccer crown

The Central girls soccer team won the Public League championship for the fourth year in a row. CONTRIBUTED PHOTO

If you’re a senior at Central High School, you have no idea what it’s like for your school not to win a girls soccer championship.

That’s because for the fourth year in a row, the Lancers girls brought home the Public League championship. 

And the team has quite the Northeast flavor to it.

This year’s team included centerback Carly Gillespie (Fox Chase), center midfielder Syriana Handal (Torresdale), forward Neomi Rodriguez (Fox Chase), midfielders Jaylin Slappy and Ashlynn Colville (both of Bridesburg), forward Grace DeWitt (Parkwood) and goalkeeper Emily Kuchar (Burholme).

Winning the Public League isn’t easy, and the Lancers have done well beyond the city league. They’ve also won four District 12 championships and have advanced to the state tournament four times as well.

Overall Central has 15 Public League girls soccer championships, but the fact this team won another plaque isn’t what makes them so special.

It’s the whole team.

“Playing soccer for Central means the world to me,” said Gillespie, a senior who was First-Team All-Public. “The team is like family to me and I don’t know where I’d be without it. I’m beyond grateful to be a part of such an amazing, talented group of girls, and winning year after year with them has been the greatest accomplishment. 

“Since this was my fourth and final year on the team, winning the Public League was super important to me. To be able to win the championship all four years is something I’ll never forget.”

Gillespie, who wants to play college soccer and hopes to study nursing, was a great leader for this team. But it also helped that younger players were quick to play the Central way.

“We are all devoted to our team’s success and it’s shown throughout all of our players,” said Handal, a sophomore. “With dedication it also should be known the love and support expressed in the team. For the past two years I have built so many amazing bonds with amazing players. When you’re on the Central girls soccer team it doesn’t matter what year you’re in because we all get along.”

The success certainly keeps the team bonded. But credit can also go to coach Rich Johns, who has guided the Lancers during this incredible run.

“Our team is built solidly around the connection between all the players,” said Colville, who plans to attend college next year and major in forensics. “We all are best friends, and it really shows when we are able to properly communicate on the field.”

It starts at the top and runs through the entire program.

According to the team, it doesn’t matter what year a player is, once they’re on the team, they’re a full member of the Lancer family.

“As an upperclassmen one of my main roles is to help the new players on the team and make sure they feel welcomed and play their best,” said DeWitt, a junior forward who was Second-Team All-Public. “Also being a junior means planning things for the seniors on the team and setting an example of what the underclassmen need to do when they become juniors.”

Whatever the older players are doing, it’s working.

The Lancers got key contributions from all classes, which not only helped this year, but will pay dividends down the line.

“As a freshman at Central High School, being on the soccer team was a way for me to create a community of friends before I even started,” said Rodriguez, a freshman forward. “We all support each other and lift each other up. Winning the Public League title this year was important because we wanted to maintain the legacy that has been established and we all especially wanted to win for the seniors so they could graduate from Central as the Public League champions.”

This was a great year for the Lancers, but the biggest win was the 2-1 overtime victory over Masterman in the Public League championship.

They then fell just short of winning another District 12 championship, falling to a good Archbishop Caroll team.

That would have been nice, but bringing the Public League hardware back to Olney was the accomplishment the players on this team wanted more than anything. But it’s the memories and bonds they created that ended up being the best part about the season.

“Playing for Centrals means a lot to me but most importantly it allows me to be the best player possible and pushes me to do better for my team,” said Slappy, who plans on attending college next year, but will focus on academics, where she will major in physical therapy to stay involved in sports without playing. “It was very important to win the Public League this year because it’s my senior year and was my last time playing soccer.”

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