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What a comeback for Lenape's Rigby

She stars a year after missing season with an injury.

Lenape’s Katie Rigby (right) races ahead of a Ridge player during the state Group 4 final Nov. 19. Rigby scored a goal in the Indians’ 2-0 win; she had 21 goals and 15 assists overall. (Curt Hudson / For The Inquirer)
Lenape’s Katie Rigby (right) races ahead of a Ridge player during the state Group 4 final Nov. 19. Rigby scored a goal in the Indians’ 2-0 win; she had 21 goals and 15 assists overall. (Curt Hudson / For The Inquirer)Read more

Even after such a memorable comeback in such a distinguished season, Kevin Meder kept going back to one thing when thinking about Katie Rigby.

The image that seems ingrained in the Lenape girls' soccer coach's mind is that of an injured Rigby standing on the sidelines throughout her junior year in 2010, every bit a part of the team, every bit enthusiastic, and every bit the leader she would have been had she not torn a knee ligament before the season.

"It just speaks volumes about her character and about what this team means to her," Meder said. "Even when she wasn't on the field, she was such a tremendous leader and a tremendously positive influence. She would be with the team every chance she could - she would come to practice after rehab just to be part of the after-practice cheer.

"After watching how she handled herself that year, it's really hard to be shocked by any of the great things that she did this year. She's just that type of kid."

Therein lies perhaps the greatest testament to Rigby's poise and talent - that no one appeared the least bit surprised to see the forward seamlessly reestablish herself as the area's top player after missing her entire junior season.

For Rigby, this year's Inquirer South Jersey Player of the Year in girls' soccer, the fruits of a year of rehab were a comeback season in which she collected 21 goals and 15 assists and led the Indians to unprecedented fifth consecutive titles in both the Coaches and state Group 4 tournaments.

"One thing I learned from being injured is that every second counts, and you never get a moment back. You have to work hard every moment that you can," Rigby said. "So I tried to cherish every moment I had with this team.

"Since freshman year, I've basically grown up with these girls, and it's been an unbelievable experience. To win a state championship every year of my high school career, you couldn't ask for anything more."

On the field, Rigby combined sharp technical ability with as calm a demeanor as you will see on a high school soccer field.

Rigby said she learned to read the game differently during her season watching from the sidelines - she said she saw more players open, more opportunities, different ways to score.

She said all of it helped her this season, and, indeed, many times this year it looked as if the game was moving at a slower pace for Rigby than it was for other players, as if she saw things other players simply were not seeing.

The senior netted eight goals in the postseason, including two goals and an assist in a 3-1 win over Eastern in the sectional final and a goal in the Indians' 2-0 win over Ridge in the state final.

"Come playoff time, Katie just wasn't going to let the team lose," Meder said. "I think great players really rise to the occasion in the playoffs, and that's where you really saw her converting her opportunities."

Off the field, Rigby's even temperament translates into a humble attitude and modest assessment of her achievements.

"I know that I scored a lot, but I feel like it was the other girls who did it - like they did all of the work," said Rigby, who will move on to play for the University of Utah.

"Our defense killed it this year, our midfield was amazing, and I was just kind of there to finish the ball."

She has a point. Up and down the field, Lenape (24-2-1) was nothing short of a powerhouse this season.

But what Rigby is overlooking is how rare an ability it is to finish those opportunities, to make those moments of pressure look routine, to turn those chances into state titles.

And so many times this season, Rigby proved to be that rare talent, that player who wants to win more than anything and can make it happen.