HOLLAND, Pa. – For most area soccer fans, the words success and Villa Jo prove synonymous. What is different is the definition of the word success. Certainly, the Jems have carted home their fair share of trophies and titles over the years. But the real success comes with the spirit and unity accompanying their winning ways.
All-state honoree and Harvard-bound Murphy Agnew recently summed up this spirit by saying, “I can honestly say it has been one of the best experiences in my soccer career. I think our team is so special. There are so many traditions that are carried on by each class. We have our cheering on the sidelines, different prayers we do, and heart stickers we wear on our sports bras every game. There are so many traditions I love about Villa.”
Just attending a Villa Jo game gives ample evidence to the talented captain’s words. When the starters are out on the field, the bench encourages them with a loud and diverse outpouring of songs. When the substitutes get their chance, the starters loudly reciprocate and scream, “We are the Villa, the mighty, mighty Villa.”
Murphy, along with the other three Villa captains Eva Ruppersberger, Casey Kilchrist and Shannon Coleman, all view their leadership role as maintaining this team harmony. “I am one of the four captains along with my friends Eva, Casey and Shannon. It’s definitely a big responsibility.
“We are the link for some of the girls who aren’t as comfortable talking to the coaches. We offer that connection. We are there for support. Anytime our teammates need to talk or have an issue or need someone to go to we’re focused on providing that support. This is especially true for the freshmen who are going through it for the first time.”
Though one of the most prolific scorers in the area and certainly a ‘marked man’ every time she steps on the field, Murphy remains most humble and team focused. “From my perspective I just try and play for my team. The big goal was to get to where we are now. We all want to get to that final game and that’s what I focus on.”
The trek to the big game, the state championship, started with a convincing 3-0 win over East Pennsboro. Murphy proved her usual sparkplug self pouring in two goals to add to her career total of 89.
The quarterfinal game brought up a rematch with Northern York, a team the Jems beat on penalty kicks in last year’s state playoffs. Murphy knew that the Polar Bears would present a challenge. “We played them last year in the first round of states. It was really bad conditions and rainy. We ended up tying and going to PK’s. We remember that they were a really tough team.”
This time round, the Jems were ready. Junior Madeline Jimenez came off the bench to score both goals to lead Villa to a 2-0 victory. Her first strike came 27 minutes into the game on a kick from 35 yards out. Her second tally came 9 minutes into the second half and iced the Jems trip to a semi-final matchup with Fleetwood.
In the semifinal tussle, Villa overcame an initial scare to take control 30 minutes into the game. Erica Behr scored the Jems’ first goal when she took an Eva Ruppersberger corner kick and headed the ball into the back of the Fleetwood net. Five minutes later, Madeline Jiminez took the ball up the right side of the field and crossed it to Murphy Agnew who booted it home. Jiminez would finish the scoring burst when she took the ball from a Fleetwood defender and drilled it by the Tiger goalie.
For Murphy, the Jems had finally hit full stride. “There was not one game where we necessarily came together and went from there. We definitely had some ups and downs during the season. We had a three game streak where we were playing really well and then we’d have a couple games where we weren’t connecting on our passes. Once we got to the districts, we started playing really well.”
The Jems had one more hurdle as they took aim at winning their eleventh state championship. Unfortunately, District Seven champion Moon Area proved too big an obstacle and defeated Villa 2-1 in the title game Nov. 18 at Hershey Park Stadium.