The Country Day School of the Sacred Heart didn’t plan on needing a new coach so quickly.
After all, when the Lions had Meredith Rull take over just a year ago, they had to think that they had someone who’d be around for a while.
But when Rull abruptly left her post to move with her husband, it left Sacred Heart scrambling. Luckily for the Lions, though, they knew where to go to. Sacred Heart brought back Rory Callaghan, a 2002 alumna of the school and a former Lions head coach, for a second go-round as the Sacred Heart boss.
“I coached there for a year five years ago,” Callaghan said. “But then I was going back to school, and it would have been tough to coach and go to school at the same time. Now, though, I’m happy to get back into coaching. It’s a great program to come into as a young coach.”
And despite some key losses from a year ago, like top scorer Karleigh Carlin and goalie Taylor Brady, Sacred Heart should be competitive again. As the smallest school in the Catholic Academies League, it’s always tough for the Lions to match up numbers-wise, but Callaghan likes the roster she inherited.
“We lost a significant number of seniors, so we’re going to be a younger team,” Callaghan said. “But there’s a lot of potential, from the JV to the varsity, and there are a lot of players that I’m looking forward to building around.
That includes a talented group of juniors, including midfielder Gretchen Seifried and midfielders/forwards Kerri Shallow and Kelly O’Brien. Those juniors will be tasked with becoming leaders maybe a little bit earlier than most would be asked to, but they’ll have their chance to leave their mark on this year’s Lions team.
“I think everyone will be surprised with our junior class,” Callaghan said. “Gretchen has a lot of field sense and a lot of natural skill. I kind of see her as being among the backbone of our team. Both Kerri and Kelly have a natural finesses for the game, and they both offer versatility.”
Senior back Renee Rosenblum will be tasked with helping Brady’s replacement get her feet wet. Callaghan likes Rosenblum’s strength and leadership, and she sees her as someone whom the Lions can expect big things from. Callaghan thinks that her defense can be a strength in front of either senior goalie Kate Reilly or junior Tara Dougherty. Either way, though, it sounds like Sacred Heart should be comfortable with either goalie in the cage.
“We have two great prospects there, and we’re confident that we can play both and still win,” Callaghan said. “It’s always good to have two competitive goalies pushing each other for the spot.”
There’s the traditionally tough Catholic Academies slate, plus a big nonleague game against Central League power Haverford, for the Lions to prove their mettle this year. How good they can be, though, depends on if they can close out close games, something they struggled to do a year ago. How does that change?
“I think it’s just a question of fundamentals,” Callaghan said. “We’ll just try to teach, perfect, and build upon the basics, and see where it goes from there.”
For Sacred Heart and Callaghan, the options are limitless.