Springfield officials honor season successes by 3 Pope Francis teams
SPRINGFIELD, MA (WGGB/WSHM) - We always love hearing and telling stories about high school teams winning championships and getting recognized, but what about three teams from the same school in the same year?
It was a ‘sportacular’ day Wednesday for the Cardinals of Pope Francis Preparatory School. Not one, not two, but three teams received recognition and honors from Springfield Mayor Domenic Sarno and some of the athletes, like seniors Sarah Szalai and AJ Holl, could not hold back their smiles.
“We haven’t seen our coaches. We haven’t been together as a team since the season ended, so it was good to see the guys again and be together. It brought back some good memories,” Holl said.
“It’s been a dream since freshman year, since I have been playing soccer, to win a tournament this huge…Having the recognition and having our soccer day in Springfield, it’s just really special,” Szalai added.
Varsity girls soccer and boys basketball were recognized for winning the school’s first-ever western Massachusetts championships, while varsity boys hockey clinched their first Division I state title, the first western Massachusetts school to accomplish a feat in the sport since 1952. The hockey team also earned a key to the city before boarding a bus to Boston to be recognized by the governor. Senior ice hockey player Colin Foyle told Western Mass News this moment was special.
“It kind of just puts us on the map (with) all of our athletes doing well in the classroom and on the field. It’s awesome,” Foyle noted.
The sports programs were all affected by the pandemic, with some having only a few games during that period or having a championship game cancelled. Despite the uncertainty, that did not stop these athletes from training.
“We were just trying to get back there (the state championship), and it finally happened this year and made the most of it. It was amazing,” Foyle added.
“We had three games my sophomore year against the same team...The community that we’ve had has been so strong for the past four years that, I think, that’s what kept people coming back,” Szalai said.
After this year of firsts for Pope Francis athletics, these student-athletes will never forget their path to success.
“Just know deep in yourself that you can win something and accomplish your goal and stick to it and work hard at it,” Holl said.
All three teams said they will forever remember their accomplishments from this year and take away this phrase: hard work really does pay off.
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