It’s always sunny around the Spring-Ford girls soccer program.
At least it has been for the past four years and with good reason – the program has become the class of the Pioneer Athletic Conference, the area’s annual last team standing with trips to the PIAA Championships every season from 2013-15.
Nevertheless, entering this season it wasn’t a guarantee the brightness of the previous three seasons would have the same voltage.
Yet with a player like junior central midfielder Gabby Kane serving as the sun – in both disposition and on-field orbit – the Rams managed to shine as much as ever.
Kane was the ever-present playmaker in the midfield for a Spring-Ford team that exceeded the feats of past seasons by making an undefeated run to the Pioneer Athletic Conference championship and starting the season 20-0-1, ultimately falling just short of a PIAA Class 4A playoff berth in the District 1 fifth-place game and finishing 22-2-1.
Kane was recognized locally and beyond in the postseason as the Pioneer Athletic Conference Most Valuable Player, an All-PAC First Team and a PSCA All-State Team selection, a NSCAA Regional All-American and The Mercury All-Area Player of the Year.
Despite graduating an accomplished, star-filled class the year prior, this year’s Spring-Ford team found a way to make the whole greater than the sum of the parts.
Kane, who scored eight goals and had nine assists on the season, believed that would be the case from the start.
“I expected us to do well honestly. We’re a very close knit group of girls,” Kane said. “I personally thought we were going to go far, maybe even farther (than we did). We were so cohesive; even though we lost some major players, we still have a lot of good players and have a very deep bench.”
As the literal central figure of Spring-Ford’s deep roster that regularly had 20 players seeing playing time, Kane had many connections to cultivate. That’s more opportunity than burden for an affable personality like Kane.
“She’s extremely selfless, always looking to find the extra pass,” Spring-Ford coach Tim Leyland said. “You can even see it off the field, too. She’s always looking to talk with somebody different, building relationships with everyone. Her friendliness relates to how she plays on the field.”
“She meshes so well with everyone — they all do — but she really holds it together for us.”
Kane embraced the chance to work with so many teammates each game.
“I definitely feel at home in the midfield. Having all the different girls on the field at different times, they all bring something and it makes me better as a player because they make different runs and I try to adjust and make the right pass.”
The Rams hung their hats on their defense featuring All-Area first team selections Libby Andrews, Molly McHarg and Missy Moore, plus goalkeeper Amanda Byrd — Spring-Ford had 14 shutouts and conceded just 13 goals all year — which allowed Kane and the rest of the midfield and forwards a margin for error not afforded to every squad.
Kane has had an impact since starting as a freshman — she memorably scored the game-winning goal with 3 seconds left in the District 1 first round that season — and has grown in confidence in the two years since.
“I feel more confident. As a freshman I was nervous a lot, and I still am at times, but I’m a lot more confident on the field. I feel like a lot of the girls can rely on me,” Kane said.
Reliability is certainly a description worthy of Kane, who always seemed to have an above-average game. That was the case in the Rams’ marquee wins over PIAA qualifier Downingtown East (5-1 on Oct. 1) and eventual PIAA 4A semifinalist Cumberland Valley (2-0 on Oct. 15) as well as PAC playoff victories. Kane had a goal and an assist in a 4-1 semifinal win over Pope John Paul II and assisted KK O’Donnell’s pivotal goal in the Rams’ 2-0 win over Owen J. Roberts in the final to reclaim the league title after missing out in 2015.
“It was important to us to win it, because we lost it last year and we wanted to get it back for our team and our program,” Kane said.
The Rams reached the quarterfinals of the District 1-4A playoffs before running into a Conestoga team on its day and went to playbacks where they attempted reach the PIAA Championships as the district’s fifth-place team for the third time in four years.
Kane and company were a step away after handling Downingtown West 2-1 in their first playback. Against Downingtown East in the play-in game, the Cougars started on fire, forcing Spring-Ford to attempt to dig out of a 2-0 hole. It couldn’t come back, but not for lack of trying. It remains a spirited effort Kane holds close to her heart.
“We gave it our all. It was our last game with our seniors who we’ve been with a while. I’m close friends with Libby (Andrews) and that was our last high school game together; it was very meaningful.
“We went down a couple goals but we still kept trying. I love the team and we’re all very close. Even though we lost, after the game I think it brought us closer together. It was a very nice moment.”
With Kane back for her senior season in 2017, Spring-Ford girls soccer can expect more nice moments ahead.
“I definitely want to make people proud, my parents — I know they’re always proud of me no matter what — and (Coach) Tim (Leyland) because he does a lot for us. When we win it’s the best feeling because we did it together.
“I want freshmen to come in and look up to me in a way. I feel like I could be a leader, and I want to be.”
Kane already is, more than she even realizes.