Co-Captains Zoe Rockas, Meredith Tutun, and Maddie Childs
The championship Rye High School Girls’ Soccer team posed for a group shot after beating the Scarsdale Raiders in double overtime.
Rye High’s Top-Dog Girls’ Soccer Team Stayed “Together” and Pulled Out the Regional Upset
Rebuilding? That will have to wait. To paraphrase a Tom Petty song, the Rye High Girls’ Soccer team “has a room at the top and it ain’t coming down.”
Chanting “together” they did it; they won the Southern Westchester large school regional title.
They did it despite graduating nine seniors, three of whom won All Section and went on to play in college. They lost their starting All Section goalie. They took an unprecedented four freshman on varsity this year. They did it despite being told that competing in this year’s revamped Southern Westchester large school regional section would be tough.
But Rye had something in its favor. Co-Captain Meredith Tutun summed it up: “We love to play and be with one another. Together we are strong.”
After the second-seeded Garnets beat No. 1-seeded Scarsdale in a hard-fought double overtime battle November 23, and as the loud sirens and police escort ushered them all back to Rye High, it was clear these girls were a special crew and one to be celebrated. They’d won the Southern Westchester large school regional championship. These underdogs, the youngest team that the beloved and legendary Rich Savage has coached, had gone as far as they could go. They’d beaten a good team with some strong individual players who could go on to great college careers.
As Coach Savage put it, “We beat a good team sure, but we were a team. No selfishness. No focus on stats. Winning for each other. A different girl stepped up each game. From senior leaders like Meredith Tutun, Zoe, Maddie Childs, and Caroline Stevens to our amazing freshman core of Maddy Walsh, Sage Ruttenberg, and Isabelle Harvey the accolades could go on endlessly. Hannah Bertisch had the game of her life and, of course, Reilly was great all season long. I can’t say enough about how proud I am of all these girls!”
Four-year starter Tutun had seen Rye lose in heart-wrenching fashion the three previous years. Each time, Rye was the favorite but somehow fell short. “This time I wanted it to be different. To find redemption and win for this team and all the girls who came before us and just fell short. And I knew we could do it. Didn’t care who was ‘better’. Just knew it would come down to who wanted it more. Maybe them scoring first took the pressure off. We knew we had nothing to lose — and we just fought harder, were tougher mentally.”
As the game wore on, the tilt of the field seemed to slope back in Rye’s favor. Sage Ruttenberg made an incredible play to stop a sure Scarsdale goal. Isabelle Harvey took control of the defensive area and Rye forwards all started to possess the ball more. Rockas, Tutun, Thomas, and Walsh started to drive and create chances. The crowd even quieted down to a duller roar. Rye’s energy surged and Scarsdale’s seemed sapped. They hadn’t seen a team with this much drive, energy, determination, and heart all year. And suddenly it didn’t seem so easy for Scarsdale. Sure winners before, not so certain anymore.
As Rye battled fearlessly, withstanding elbows and trips, Scarsdale became frustrated and unhinged, drawing sloppy, aggressive penalties; the crowd loudly bellowing at every chance. Freshman forward Walsh was a distinct bright light for Rye; her spark up front became a big difference to offset the double and triple-teaming strategy Scarsdale had set up for Rye’s speedy outside wingers.
After the game, Childs said, “Once the Raiders started to try and get under our skin, we knew we couldn’t lose, that’s what got our backs up. Coach Savage kept telling us ‘Stay strong, keep fighting.’ In the end, the mental side won out. They were pretty tough, but we kept our poise.”
So, when the talented Walsh took a beautiful through ball pass from junior midfielder Hannah Bertisch, kept her poise, and deked the charging Raider goalie to tie the game halfway through the second half, the Garnets went from thinking they could do it to knowing they could. The surge of energy just intensified from there. Did the Doors’ song “Mojo Risin” actually start to play on someone’s car speakers? Surge after surge, battle after battle won. Bell Jackson making smart, aggressive plays, good saves; Traynor’s headers and passes making a huge difference; Rye clearing aggressively. Suddenly, Rye was getting more corner kicks; two came close, but Raider goalie Dylan Gross made great saves. Back and forth play ensued until the play ended in a tie; overtime followed.
The first overtime was a grind and ended scoreless. Just before the second OT started, Tutun shouted to her teammates: “This is our game. We have worked so hard, fought through so much to get here. Think of the pre-season sprints. Think of all the sacrifice! Think of Rye! Let’s take this now!”
Was senior captain Rockas’ gutsy, charging game-winning goal off a beautiful two-way feed from Traynor to Thomas pre-destined? Post-game she talked about chemistry and teamwork. But was this a team of fate? For now, we can leave that judgment to the gods, but Rockas’ clinching goal embodied the spirit, heart, and drive of this team where every player, from the starting 11 to the entire bench had a hand in the formation, character, and chemistry which will be the one and only team to ever win the southern Westchester school regional championship.
The last time Rye won the sections was 2010, before even former star goalie, now assistant coach, Maddy Eck, roamed the nets for the Garnets.
This team was truly special. Coach Rich Savage, aka “The Memory Maker”, created one unified squad. Long after they are done playing soccer, whenever that day comes, somewhere over the swamps of Scarsdale, their voices — the unified and spirited cheer “together” — will forever cling to the magical moonlight air and warm their souls.
Rye Record Sports staff