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Ryan girls healthy at right time

Kaitlyn McFadden and Jules Blank were not accustomed to the feeling. McFadden and Blank, members of the Archbishop Ryan girls' soccer team, stood on the sideline as their teammates warmed up. They later stood in a line with the other Ragdolls and clapped as the starting lineups were announced over the loudspeaker, and they sat on the bench as the team played Catholic League opponents.

Archbishop Ryan soccer players Kaitlyn McFadden and Jules Blank. (Ron Cortes/Staff Photographer)
Archbishop Ryan soccer players Kaitlyn McFadden and Jules Blank. (Ron Cortes/Staff Photographer)Read more

Kaitlyn McFadden and Jules Blank were not accustomed to the feeling.

McFadden and Blank, members of the Archbishop Ryan girls' soccer team, stood on the sideline as their teammates warmed up. They later stood in a line with the other Ragdolls and clapped as the starting lineups were announced over the loudspeaker, and they sat on the bench as the team played Catholic League opponents.

McFadden, a senior defender, and Blank, a junior forward, sure weren't familiar with sitting back and watching, but over nine days in the middle of the season, they did just that.

For McFadden, a right-quad strain started in the preseason, during practice, and it got only worse as the season progressed. Blank suffered a pulled left hamstring in a game, and about a week later, it became apparent that the muscle wasn't going to fix itself.

Both injuries were exacerbated during a nonleague battle against Villa Joseph Marie, and it was after that one-goal loss that the Ragdolls coach Ryan Haney made a decision.

He was going to sit two of the players vital to Ryan's 60-4 record, three Catholic League titles, and two PIAA state-tournament appearances - so far - over the past three seasons.

Needless to say, McFadden and Blank weren't too happy about it.

"It was hard because I couldn't be the one out there scoring. I couldn't be out there with them," Blank said. "I needed to step back and do what was more important, which was taking care of myself to play later."

McFadden, a two-year captain, and Blank, who has scored 17 goals, each missed four games, spending practices with the Ryan athletic trainers to do physical therapy.

"I looked at it as we are going to need them if we are going to do anything later in the season," Haney said.

Looking back, both players acknowledge it was the best decision for everyone.

"It helped the team out," McFadden said, "and I'm sure we wouldn't be the same players that we are now if he [Haney] didn't make that decision."

Both players are dynamic. McFadden is the quarterback of the defense, stalwart on the back line, for Ryan (19-1).

"If the game is on the line, she is going to make the play," Haney said. "She's a gamer."

Blank is downright dangerous practically every time she touches the ball, but Haney has been especially impressed with the new distributing aspect of her play, and how good she is at checking back to the ball.

"Our offense goes through her. She's a pure goal-scorer," Haney said.

On Wednesday, Ryan will play Franklin Towne Charter in the District 12 Class AAA championship game for a chance to earn a state-tournament berth.

With six games under their belts since the break, McFadden and Blank both say they feel 100 percent.

It's a good thing, too, because the "later in the season" that Haney referred to has arrived.