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Cape May Tech builds girls soccer program

Cape May Tech builds girls soccer program CAPE MAY COURT HOUSE — The players on the Cape May Tech girls soccer team didn’t know they had a season until the first day of school. The news came as a surprise to team captains Joey Czarnecki and Madison Ruisch, especially because they didn’t know if they would have enough players to field a team. That day they took the field and defeated Pleasantville 2-1.

Since then, the Hawks are 1-6, but the record doesn’t matter to the players. They’re just happy to have their own team again. “I’m very thankful for the girls who came out and keep coming out,” said Ruisch, 17, of Middle Township. “It’s hard to come out and practice. We all have school work and our own lives. It’s nice to come out and be with your friends, even if you don’t know what you’re doing.” Cape May Tech decided days before the 2016 season started that it wasn’t going to field a girls soccer team. Czarnecki and Ruisch, along with goalie Casey Fry, were forced to play on Tech’s boys soccer team last season. While they praised the experience with the boys, it just wasn’t the same. They sometimes felt like outcasts because of the drastic differences between high school boys and girls. “It was really different because it wasn’t like a girls soccer team,” said Czarnecki, 16, of Dennis Township. “It wasn’t a ‘family family,’ but I still have a connection with all the boys. I really enjoyed it. I feel like my skills have bettered since then, and I improved as a person. They were just so close, and it was just so nice to be a part of a family like that.” Warren Wade saw what was happening from the sidelines last summer but couldn’t do anything about it. Wade, who teaches food production at Tech and is also the swimming and baseball coach, wanted to help the girls. At the same time, he wanted to see his youngest daughter, Rachel Wade, a 2017 graduate from Middle Township, play her senior season with the Panthers. Once all of his daughters, Brittany (27), Hailey (24) and Rachel (19), were finally out of school, he was able to come in and rescue the Cape May Tech program. “I got the girls to at least know who their coach would be,” said Wade, who also coached with Cape Express up until 2016, Rachel’s last year with the team. What he didn’t know was what the team would look like, or if there would even be enough girls for a team at all. “The scary part are the unknowns. You just don’t know,” Wade said. “A lot of these girls had no soccer experience and no sporting experience. Some have never played any kind of organized sport. So you’re basically starting from scratch.” Wade turned to his captains, Czarnecki and Ruisch, and they, along with a handful of other returning players from previous years, did their best to recruit their classmates to play. Around July, they had maybe six or so girls that would definitely play. Czarnecki remembers sending long text messages to her friends pitching the benefits of being on a team. But some of the kids said no because they were simply afraid of losing. “I remember just sending paragraphs and paragraphs to girls and was like, ‘being a part of a family is great. Just try it out,’” she said. Tech started the season with 18 players, but injuries quickly diminished their roster. Heading into Monday’s 4-0 loss to St. Joseph, the Hawks had just 12 players and lost another due to injury during the game. “We know we struggle, but we’re getting there,” Ruisch said. “At the beginning of the year most of them couldn’t kick the ball (a short distance). Now they’re crossing the field and people are getting up field or getting in front of players.” Wade is left with a lot of inexperienced players on the field now. Often times during Monday’s game, kids threw their hands up for an accidental hand ball, or failed to do some basic techniques like clear the ball properly. But with every swing and a miss, Wade gave them encouragement, not punishment. That’s because they’re giving him something in return. “These kids are special. They’re really good kids, not just normal kids,” Wade said. “When they needed someone to step up, I said ‘look, I’ll help you.’ “I love the game. I played it, I enjoyed it. When (Rachel) went to college, (coming back to coach) gave me an outlet. It’s worth it, more for me than them sometimes.”