By Five Boro Sports
Victor Popovsky knew it long before Colleen Ryan ever enrolled at Fontbonne Hall, long before the sophomore scored against rival Bishop Kearney in a 2-0 victory at Verrazano Narrows Complex in Brooklyn on Monday afternoon.
“She started playing defense for me, but then I saw she had the ability to be a good forward,” the second-year Fontbonne girls’ soccer coach said. “I saw the talent, I saw that she has ability, the qualification of a good forward. She’s dedicated, she has the skills, she has the speed and she sees the game well.”
That was when Ryan was 7 and playing for Popovsky on the Brooklyn Celtics. For years, Ryan was a star on the Celtics’ Under-12 team that won a Cosmopolitan Junior Soccer League title. Now Popovsky is hoping Ryan can help lead the Bonnies to a fifth straight Diocesan title.
Fontbonne (12-0-0 Brooklyn) has cruised through the regular season, having yet to concede a single goal. Its stiffest test came Monday afternoon against a Bishop Kearney team anxious to rebound from its lone loss of the season, a 2-0 defeat to the Bonnies at Dyker Park earlier this month.
But after a scoreless first half, Fontbonne took over the game in the second half, thanks to Ryan’s speed down the right flank and quality service provided by Kelley Ryan, Colleen’s older sister.
“She feeds me the ball, we work together good and everything just flows,” Colleen said of Kelley. “It works well.”
It worked really well in the second half. After Kristina Padavona had a goal called back because the referee raised the offside flag, Colleen Ryan found space down the right on a counter and beat Kearney goalkeeper Jessica Gargano with a low shot inside the far post in the 53rd minute.
“It feels so good because all season we don’t really have that much competition,” said Colleen Ryan, who plays her club ball for the Brooklyn Knights. “To score against a rival like Kearney is great.”
After hitting the post on the hour mark, Katie Henderson scored an insurance goal for Fontbonne in the 67th minute.
“It was a tough, tough game, they challenged every ball, but I believe we dominated most of the game, especially the center of midfield,” Popovsky said. “We were strong up front, and we had a lot of chances. I’m happy that we were able to finish and score two.”
With her sister Kelley playing her behind the defense, Colleen was unlucky not to score two more goals in the final 10 minutes. But after stripping a Kearney defender, Colleen’s near post shot was parried away by a diving Gargano and two minutes later, she put the ball wide of the far post.
“We play good soccer,” said Kearney coach Charlie Candela, whose team fell to 10-2-0. “We don’t give up so easy, but once we get tired in the second half, that’s when they used their speed. That’s when they got most of the game.”