Penn Charter #5 Brigitte Gutpelet (far left), goalie Mackenzie Listman and # 25 Hannah Fox (far right)
look to clear the ball as Archbishop Ryan # 7 Haley O'Neill presses on in the 1st half of the Penn Charter at Archbishop Ryan H.S. girls soccer game on October 7,
2015. (ELIZABETH ROBERTSON / Staff Photographer)
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Whenever No. 17 for the Archbishop Ryan girls' soccer team puts the ball down on the field for a set piece, there's a pretty good chance what happens next results in a goal for the Ragdolls.
Jules Blank, who wears the jersey in question, is a playmaker and goal scorer, but beyond her speed and finishing abilities, her biggest asset is how she can strike a service into the box.
Which is why it was so strange when the senior forward took a first-half corner kick night and it didn't go anywhere near the net, but rather landed out of bounds.
"I think I hit the ground - I don't know what happened," Blank said after Ryan's 2-1 win over visiting Penn Charter. "That was probably the first one I hit out all year."
"Possibly the second," Taylor Woods said.
"Maybe," Blank retorted.
More important than the number of times Blank has had a corner kick veer left or right of the net this year was what happened shortly after her rare misstep.
With less than six minutes remaining in the first half against the Quakers (4-2), Blank sent a great service near the 6-yard line. Woods got her head on it and sent it into the back of the net for the go-ahead goal. It was the 10th goal the Ragdolls (12-0-1) scored off a corner this season.
"It started at Little Flower - remember Little Flower," Blank said, motioning to Woods.
Two years ago, as sophomores, Blank chipped a ball onto Woods' head for a goal against Little Flower. Later in that game, they connected again, and ever since then, the duo has become quite the offensive threat.
"I think if the ball gets to my head I have a pretty good chance of getting it into the net somehow," Woods said.
Blank, who scored the first goal, and Woods have combined to score 32 of Ryan's 41 goals this season. Blank has registered a goal in all but one game this season, and has already reached 20 goals.
Woods' winner against the Quakers was her 12th tally in 13 games.
"As soon as I get the ball, it's a natural instinct to just look for Jules," Woods said. "Usually, nine out of 10 times she's open. I just try to play her the best ball I can."
Seems to be a strategy that's working out just fine.
Penn Charter 1 0 - 1
Archbishop Ryan 2 0 - 2
Goals: PC-Dom DeMarco; AR-Jules Blank, Taylor Woods.
Saves: PC-Mackenzie Listman 6; AR-Devon McDonald 5.
Ready for a repeat
By Joe Mason Sept. 9, 2015
At least off the soccer field.
McDonald is the sophomore goalie on the Archbishop Ryan High School soccer team, and she comes into her first year as the varsity goaltender with high expectations. She knows what she’s good at. And she also knows what she’s not good at.
“We’re getting ready to do our talent show, and our group is rapping,” McDonald said with a laugh during a recent practice. “I’m not a good rapper, but we have a lot of fun.
“What rapper am I like? I’d have to say Nicki Minaj!”
You could disagree with McDonald’s rapping role model, but it’s hard to argue with her helper on the field.
Last year, Jazmin Gonza-lez was one of the top players in the area and a key reason the Ragdolls won their third straight Catholic League championship. She didn’t allow a goal during the Catholic League season and allowed 12 goals in 23 games. For her career, she posted 55 shutouts.
But she also helped the team this year, too, by helping provide McDonald with a blueprint for success. Couple that with McDonald’s talent and work ethic, she didn’t leave a massive hole in the Ragdolls’ net as she left for Charleston South-ern Uni-versity in South Car-o-lina.
“Jaz taught me a lot,” McDonald said. “She was very helpful, she would tell me what to do, she would give me tips during practice. She was really good, so it helped having someone like that just give me tips and all. She was very helpful.”
So helpful, in fact, that McDonald is fully confident heading into her sophomore campaign.
It also helps that she has the full confidence of her teammates.
While the Ragdolls have a young, but polished, goalie, the rest of the team is full of upperclassmen. And those seniors and juniors have done everything they can to help McDonald get acclimated to the role of starting netminder.
So far, so good.
“They’re really helpful and have helped give me confidence,” McDonald said. “During practice, if I don’t call something out, which I’m supposed to do, they’ll tell me and it helps because next time I know what to look for.”
While McDonald is now a stellar goalie for both Ryan and her Hulmeville club team, she started out as a field player, and her cousin Kylie Quinn was the goalie. They changed positions, and it was for the better.
“My cousin didn’t play well at all, but we were really little,” McDonald said. “My uncle was the coach, so he tried me (at goalie) and I stopped the first shot with no gloves. Ever since then, I’ve been in net.
“And Kylie now plays for (Springside Chestnut Hill Academy) and she’s not a goalie, so she’s doing great, too.”
McDonald knows the Ragdolls come into the season with a target on their backs. When you win three straight league crowns, rivals start gunning for you. McDonald might be a sophomore, but she’s mature, and isn’t worried about November. She’s worried about the next game.
“She is coming in with wide eyes and she’s getting better every day,” said Ryan coach Ryan Haney. “She comes in with a soccer background, she worked out with Jaz and is very familiar with what we do.
“It’s a new era. There will be a lot of eyes on her, but she is confident and she is learning a lot. She is taking it all in stride and I believe she will continue to get better and her better days will come in October and as the season goes on.”
McDonald certainly wants to see the Ragdolls continue the success they’ve enjoyed the past few years, so that means she needs to put in a lot of work. Luckily, she loves soccer and loves playing with her teammates, so there’s no reason she can’t have some fun while focusing on the important things.
“It’s been a lot of fun,” McDonald said. “It really helps to have so many girls who were here before and who can help me when I need it. And they’re listening to me. Sometimes, I have to tell people what to do and where to go, and they trust me, so that means a lot.”
And she believes that trust could mean another crown for the Ragdolls.
“We want to win the Catholic League and hopefully win states,” McDonald said. “We have a lot of good players back, we just have to keep working hard and keep getting better, and play as a team. I’m really excited for it.”
Archbishop Ryan High School
11201 Academy Road
Philadelphia, PA 19154