A special champion defends its title and comes out of the battle victorious.
St. Anthony’s girls’ soccer squad did just that with a tempered tenacity, winning back-to-back CHSAA state championships.
But wait, there’s more.
The Friars have gone two straight seasons uncontested. They haven’t lost or tied a game since October 2016. That’s 34 consecutive victories.
“Coming into this season, we knew we had to rise to the occasion,” Brianna Jablonowski said. “We take pride in wearing our jerseys. We went into every game ready to win.”
Lauren Haggerty added, “We were strong last year and our goal this year was to be back-to-back champions.”
It’s hard to say which side of the ball the Friars play better.
Their closest game this season came in a 3-2 win over Sacred Heart, the team that handed the squad its last lost two years ago.
Other than that, the Friars (17-0) won by two or more goals all season. They racked up 76 goals, up 14 from last season, and allowed only nine.
Twenty-one of their goals came from Brianna Passaro and another 20 came from Jablonowski.
“There was a lot of pressure this year to do well,” Passaro said. “But the pressure is an honor. The team depends on us to put it in the back of net and that’s what we did.”
Jablonowski continued, “Bri and I worked really well together but it was a team effort. Our defense wouldn’t let anything pass them and always found a way to get the ball up top to us.”
While Passaro and Jablonowski led the offense, the back line held the team together.
Goalkeeper Kaitlyn Mahoney had 11 shutout victories, including the 3-0 win in the state championship match.
“You just have to play to your ability and have confidence,” Mahoney said. “The defense was great. I couldn’t have asked for a better back line.”
Haggerty added, “If I got beat in the middle, the line would be there. Besides scoring, we wanted to concede as few goals as possible.”
The squad’s cohesiveness will be tested next season.
Most of the defense, including Haggerty and Sophia Iaccino, are graduating. Passaro, who’s been the leading scorer the past two seasons also is graduating.
No one seems worried.
“Our wins may seem easy but it’s all because of our mindset,” Haggerty said. “It’s a huge part of the school’s culture to be so competitive.”
Added Passaro, “Every year we got stronger and stronger. I think we’re leaving behind a strong legacy and a good mentality. We worked together as a team, even the people on the bench. I think the program will stay strong.”
FRIARS' Road to the Championship
St. John the Baptis,t 6-0
Sacred Heart, 5-1
Christ the King, 6-1
Buffalo Nichols 3-0