The strength of Sacred Heart is its midfield with Natalie Cikos and Colleen Kavanaugh. But the secret to the team’s success has been the first-year players complementing them.
“We’ve had to battle through most games and fight for every win we’ve got,” Sacred Heart coach Peter Bralower said. “It’s really been about the group coming together and new players stepping up quickly.”
Among those new players are Grace Agolia (pictured), Brianna Coyle, Arden Etts and Christina Lampasi – four juniors called up from JV who have made an immediate impact – and also freshman Reilly Lucas. The group has led Sacred Heart to a 9-0-1 record in CHSAA and helped fill the void left by two Division I players in Meredith Speck, now at Yale, and Gabby Codispoti, now at Holy Cross.
Coyle became what Bralower called a, “mild scoring sensation,” after she scored six goals in six games and seven overall, including three game winners, to lead the team. She has been joined on the wing by a “forward-by-committee,” which includes Maggie Cash, who has come on strong recently with five goals and six assists since Sept. 26.
Etts had rotated with senior Gina Medayll at keeper to hold league opponents to six goals in ten games, including shutouts against favorites St. Anthony’s and Kellenberg.
Lucas, who is attending a U-14 national camp this weekend, has taken over at sweeper, which is no easy task for such a young player. She anchors a defense that also features Emily Paruch, who converted from forward to center-back after missing the first three weeks of the season to recover from a broken ankle. Thanks to Paruch’s versatile attributes and a plethora of forwards on the roster, Sacred Heart could afford to shift her to a position she had never played before.
“She’s pretty good in the air, tackles well, hits the ball well, she’s disciplined,” Bralower said of Parush. “The same skills she had as a forward, we are trying to translate to center-back.”
The first indication that it might be a special season came in just the first league game of the season. Sacred Heart managed a scoreless tie with perennial power St. Anthony’s for a hard earned point in the standings that also served as an early season confidence boost.
“We hadn’t gotten a point playing away at St. Anthony’s in at least five or six years,” Bralower said. “It showed the girls that if they work hard and follow the game plan, even when we may not be as talented, we can hopefully make up for it by playing intelligently and working hard.”
Sacred Heart will get an opportunity to earn more points against St. Anthony’s on Friday when they take on the unbeaten Friars at home. They then play at Kellenberg on Monday, making for back-to-back games that could determine the league champion.
If Sacred Heart does emerge with a league title, it will be thanks in large part to the presence of the D-I talent of the Northwestern-bound Cikos and Manhattan-bound Cavanaugh, but also because of the talented supporting cast that has been built around them.
“It’s really been an effort of 18 kids,” Bralower said. “Every game has been different kids stepping up.”