There was no shortage of roadblocks along the route to a state championship for the Sacred Heart girls soccer team.
It all started with the demoralizing feeling of walking off the field last season, falling to St. Anthony’s in the league final for the third straight season. Then the players had to adjust to playing for a new coach as Gabe Ramos took over for Peter Bralower, who led the program for nearly 15 years.
Once again, Sacred Heart found itself in a matchup with St. Anthony’s to decide the CHSAA league champion. Only the Spartans were without their starting goalkeeper, who suffered an injury days before the final. Sacred Heart turned to Emma Frohne, a forward with no goalkeeper experience, to patrol the net in the biggest game of the season.
“At first I was a little nervous, but then I knew I had to be brave,” said Frohne, a senior. “I wanted to win for my team and do everything I can and I just stuck it out and played my hardest.”
Ramos said he and the coaching staff quickly tabbed Frohne as a replacement because of her 5-10 frame and athleticism as a three-sport athlete. The coaches knew it was a difficult ask for Frohne, who understandably wanted to play her true position in what could be her final high school soccer match.
“It’s a testament to her character,” Ramos said. “It was a team-first mentality. She’s a senior who could have been playing in the biggest game of her four years against St. Anthony’s as a starting forward and she made the very, very difficult decision of putting the team first and stepping in as the goalkeeper. And honestly, she was tremendous.”
Frohne made 13 saves in a 2-0 win over St. Anthony’s and started the remainder of Sacred Heart’s run to winning the girls soccer CHSAA state Class AA championship, culminating with a 3-1 win over St. Joseph by the Sea in the final on November 12. But the goalkeeper position wasn’t Sacred Heart’s final injury hurdle during the playoffs.
Senior forward Mae Mullen dislocated her shoulder in the first half of the state Class AA semifinals. Her shoulder was popped back into place on the sidelines, but she remained in incredible pain. Yet in the final minutes of the second overtime period with penalty kicks becoming a near certainty, Mullen willed herself back on the field and scored the winning goal with 24.8 seconds left to send Sacred Heart to the state final.
“Honestly, at that point, there was nothing that was going to stop me from playing,” said Mullen, who also played in the state final. “We made it so far and people always say leave it all out on the field and that’s really what I had to take literally. There was no way I was going to stop playing in the final games of my last season, especially when we already made it so far and knew we could do something great.”
The challenges made winning the program’s first state title since 2016 more rewarding in a 10-3-2 season. Ramos implemented 7 a.m. weekend practices, something that wasn’t popular at first but it served as a reminder the team was focused on greatness.
“We were told all season it was going to take sacrifices,” Mullen said. “The 7 a.m. practices, it takes sacrifices to take the time to get up early, having your parents wake up early to take you to practice. But it was all worth it in the end.”
Sacred Heart's Road To The Championship
NSCHSAA semifinal: Def. No. 3 St. John the Baptist, 3-1
NSCHSAA final: Def. No. 1 St. Anthony's, 2-0
State Class 'AA' semifinal: Def. St. Mary’s (Buffalo), 2-1
State Class 'AA' final: Def. St. Joseph by the Sea, 3-1