Soccer Notebook: Haseltine leaving his bad breaks behind

BROOKHAVEN >> For the spectator in the sling, the comeback wasn’t so much rapturous as relieving.

Brit Haseltine was confined to the sidelines at Cairn University last fall, watching his Christian Academy team contest the final of the Tri-State Christian Conference tournament. Through an illustrious season, Haseltine and his 31 goals had played the “1B” to Evan Needs’ “1A,” but that ended in a thud in an academic regular-season finale. Haseltine scored that day, the only goal in a win over Gloucester Christian, but it was a pyrrhic victory thanks to a broken collarbone that ended his season.

The Christian Academy’s Brit Haseltine has bounced back from breaking his collarbone twice in the last year to lead the Knights to an 8-3 record this fall with 22 goals and 10 assists.  (Times Staff/Robert J. Gurecki)
The Christian Academy’s Brit Haseltine has bounced back from breaking his collarbone twice in the last year to lead the Knights to an 8-3 record this fall with 22 goals and 10 assists. (Times Staff/Robert J. Gurecki)

So many milestones built to that tournament: The Crusaders’ quest to leave the league on a high before transitioning to the PIAA; the search for an unbeaten season; Needs’ personal endeavor to leave TCA as Delaware County’s all-time leading scorer.

Even in Haseltine’s absence, each of those objectives were ticked off in succession, Needs tallying four times in the finale to help TCA erase a three-goal deficit and escape with a trophy.

“It was bittersweet,” Haseltine said last week. “Overall, I was super excited that we won. Obviously I would’ve been happy to be a part of it, but I was so happy that we won.”

The “bitter” portion would win out in the ensuing weeks and months for Haseltine. After being deprived the postseason payoff he helped his team earn, he set his sights on the next sports season … only to have his basketball campaign ended by another collarbone break in the first preseason game.

The winter came and went with Haseltine seeing the court just three times on a disappointing 8-17 Crusaders squad.
He salvaged something from his junior year by returning for baseball in the spring, going 4-4 with a 2.21 ERA and batting .451 with 12 extra-base hits. But it wasn’t until he returned to his first love, soccer, that he’s felt fully healed.

Haseltine has played soccer since he was 6. He recently committed to Division III power Messiah. The forward recognizes baseball as an interlude — it was some modicum of competition, a respite from the interminable bystanderism of the winter. But it wasn’t what he’d left.

Haseltine’s summer rehab plan amounted to, basically, running into stuff until he felt healthy enough to do it in a game. He’d work out with his father, TCA Athletic Director Rod Haseltine, testing the shoulder’s strength in collisions until it was time to get into games for his club, Rose Tree S.C.

“I think it was fear for a while, and then one time I got really hit hard and slammed into the ground and I got up fine, and that kind of switched it,” Haseltine said. “I was like, ‘OK, I can hit people now and I can play hard.’”

Toughness may underpin Hasletine’s approach, but there’s plenty of finesse and skill built in. He’s got 22 goals and 10 assists this fall for the Crusaders, who are adapting well to PIAA independence with an 8-3 record through Monday’s action.

If last year’s farewell to the TSCC was a capstone course, this season’s initial foray into the PIAA seems like the post-grad job interview, each of the school’s programs trying to demonstrate to a potential league suitor (the Bicentennial being the destination of choice) and local rivals that they are up to snuff.

For the inaugural sports season, Haseltine is the leader, a prelude to what he hopes to do on the basketball court, then the baseball diamond.

“I guess what I see it as is that we’re trying to accomplish great things,” Haseltine said. “We’re also trying to start a legacy of great soccer as a great soccer program. We’re trying to keep the middle schoolers here so they can have a good team. I think I speak for all of the seniors when I say that we’re trying to keep the level high so that for next year, there are high expectations going into it.”

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If the District One girls soccer playoffs had been set last Monday, only one Delco team would’ve been granted a home game: The Christian Academy.

In the district’s latest release of power rankings, TCA (8-1-1) slotted in second in the four-team Class A field. It’s the only Delco side in the lower two classes in position for the postseason.

In Class AAA, Strath Haven is the highest seed at No. 17, meaning the Panthers would hit the road for the first round in the 28-team field (top four teams gets byes, seeds 5-16 host first-round games). Haverford (22), Garnet Valley (23), Radnor (25) and Penncrest (27) would all sneak in, while Marple Newtown (29) is the first team out despite a 10-4 record. Sun Valley (34) is also in the picture.

Penn Wood is the last boys team in the Class AAA field this week. Joining the Patriots in the postseason, per the rankings, would be Springfield (10), Marple Newtown (13), Interboro (20), Strath Haven (21) and Radnor (22). Haverford (33) and Garnet Valley (34) have work to do.

The Sun Valley boys are seventh in the race for five Class AA spots, while TCA and Delco Christian are eighth and ninth, respectively, in the quest for seven Class A berths.

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A season ago, Penn Wood coach Ed Kramer counted Goodwill Agbaadem as one of many freshmen hoping to carve niches in a program flush with talent that requires time and discretion to sort through.

So Kramer got some help: A tip from a teammate of Agbaadem’s that maybe the skipper should try him in goal.

Kramer has rejoiced in the results. Agbaadem displayed his talent in last week’s 2-1 loss to Interboro, making a pair of sensational saves that gave his team a chance at a late equalizer. Not bad for a sophomore who could barely find his way into the lineup as a field player.

“He just knows when to dive for balls,” Kramer said. “He’s not afraid. That’s tough to teach somebody.”

For full Super 7s and stat leaders, visit Contact Matthew De George at, or follow him on Twitter @sportsdoctormd.

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