Gladwyne >> Winning by losing might sound like an old adage but it’s a lesson the Shipley boys’ soccer team will take any day.
After starting the season 0-4 thanks in part to a challenging schedule featuring losses to Inter-Ac foes Germantown Academy, Haverford School and Episcopal along with Catholic League power LaSalle College High School, the Gators stayed patient, stuck together through a season filled with peaks and valleys to rebounded from that tough start to defeat George School 4-1 in the Friends’ Schools League championship match Tuesday.
In the pre-season, Shipley played and fell to National Powerhouses Conestoga, Pennington (N.J.) and Archbishop Curley (Md.).
Since joining the Friends’ Schools League in 2005, the Gators have made 11 appearances in the championship game winning nine times.
“This win means everything,” said senior co-captain Ronan Higgins, who tallied two assists in the FSL final. “My freshman and sophomore year we won the FSL title and last year we took a huge step backwards and I think coming in this year our goal was to win the Friend’s School League title. Preseason all the way through the year we had some ups and downs but the main goal every day was to get to the Friends’ Schools League championship and get a win and we got that done.”
“This team made me dig deep into my coaching book and I couldn’t be more proud of what they accomplished today,” said Shipley head coach Thom Schauerman, referring to the way his team fought through the ups and downs this season to win the Friends’ Schools League championship. “I have never been part of a team at Shipley that started 0-4. Most teams that have that kind of start might crumble, might not win a league championship or rescue a season. Not only did this team not crumble, they won a league championship. It was phenomenal to see leadership come from different people. They challenged each other, asked questions which told me they were engaged. It was a unique process. It was a fun process.”
With a difficult non-league schedule, Schauerman never lost belief in his team. In fact, one of the tools he had to use was to find a way to get his team to believe they were in fact good enough to win.
“It was definitely a mental thing,” said Schauerman. “I realize it may sound like an old cliche but this team definitely learned from losing. They took positives from the loss and used it as a growth opportunity.”
“The tough non-league schedule definitely prepared us for Friends’ Schools League play and got us to where we are,” said Higgins, who has committed to play soccer at Dickinson. “We suffered some big losses but it really helped us find out who we are.”
All week leading up to the finals, Schauerman conveyed to his assistant coaches and his team that George was hot. After winning the play-in game between the fourth and fifth place team, the Cougars travelled to Germantown Friends where they topped the No.1 seeded Tigers in penalty kicks.
Schauerman knew a quick start combined with strong defense would be the key. Playing with confidence, the Gators did just that scoring goals in the first five minutes of each half and shut down a hot George team with stellar defense to come away with the hard fought victory.
“It all starts on defense with our sophomore co-captain Brian McDaid who plays alongside senior Zach Bradlow,” said Higgins. “They set the tone in defensive third.”
With the PAISAA tournament starting Nov. 3, the Gators will do what they have done all year, which is take one game at a time.
“The seniors have meant everything to this team,” said Lenart. “They are the leaders of this team and helped keep this team together. They showed the importance of staying calm and composed on the field and what it takes to win.”