The Appoquinimink girls soccer team has given Haley Wahrhaftig a nickname.
They call her Mom.
“She’s so motherly and responsible, and everybody looks up to her,” said Adam Bear, interim coach of the Jaguars. “She doesn’t mind the name at all. It’s kind of right on.”
It’s the perfect moniker for a goalkeeper, the last line of defense on a soccer team. When all else fails, you can always count on Mom.
The Jaguars were 6-0 going into Thursday’s game at St. Thomas More, and no one had gotten a ball past Wahrhaftig.
Some of the games have been easy – she made a total of one save in wins over Hodgson, Glasgow, Delcastle and St. Elizabeth. But Wahrhaftig was pushed to the limit against defending state champion Padua, and she passed every test in a 1-0 upset victory on April 11.
“In our game, she was the difference,” Padua coach Joe Brown said. “She made some spectacular saves. If she doesn’t make those saves early in the game, it’s a different story.”
The Pandas outshot Appo 12-5 and earned six corner kicks while the Jaguars had none. But Appo’s Taylor Crofoot scored off an assist from Amanda Weiner in the 33rd minute, and Wahrhaftig made the lead stand up with 10 saves.
“She was amazing,” Bear said. “She made two or three fantastic saves that I don’t know if any other goalkeeper would have been able to make. That helped us out a ton.”
With a 30 mph wind howling at its back, Padua especially dominated in the second half. The Jaguars went into a defensive shell, with the ball rarely coming out of their zone.
“We came into it knowing that we had a shot, and if we played our best game, anything could happen,” Wahrhaftig said. “We had nothing to lose. … We were able to win the game, and it was great to get a lot of action and get a lot of work. I was excited about that.”
Seniors Alexa Smalley and Erin McGrath and freshmen Kelsy Fitzgerald and Erica Sieben form the back line for Appo. With Wahrhaftig behind them, they know they don’t have to be perfect.
“If you make a mistake as a defender, she has your back,” Bear said. “That helps your confidence. If it was a weaker goalie, if you make a mistake, they score. That can deflate you.”
Wahrhaftig made six saves in a 2-0 victory at Sanford on Tuesday. But even when she goes an entire game without seeing a shot, she remains focused. It’s the kind of discipline that will serve her well when she enters the United States Naval Academy later this year. She plans to go to medical school and serve as a Navy doctor or study engineering.
“I’m a very diligent person. I like rules, and I like order,” she said. “Just going into it knowing that is going to be there, and something great is going to come of it, I just know it’s the place for me.”
Wahrhaftig has been playing club soccer for Delaware Rush/Hockessin Blast since age 11, and she hopes to continue playing for Navy’s Division I soccer team, which went 19-2-1 last fall. But first, she wants to collect a state title at Appo. She knows the win over Padua raised some eyebrows around the state.
“It puts a big target on our backs,” Wahrhaftig said. “We’ll have to come into every game now with our best game. Everybody knows we beat the state champions, and they’re going to be after us. … Nobody thought that was going to happen.”
At the start of each season, Bear has his players vote for captains. Every one of the Jaguars voted for Mom.
“Haley is just an awesome kid. Her leadership is everything to us,” Bear said. “She’s tough. She talks. She does everything for us. She’s our captain, and she’s one of the best kids I’ve ever coached.”