Northeastern girls soccer hosts, "Abby's Practice" at Northeastern. Proceeds from the event will help build the Abby Osborn Scholarship Fund.
Every time the Northeastern girls' soccer team needs to dig deep to find that little bit extra to get a desired result this season, it can look over to the sideline.
Sitting there will be a No. 20 jersey that won't ever again be worn by a Bobcat player. It will memorialize the loss of teammate and friend Abby Osborn, who was killed in a hit-and-run car accident this past April.
Osborn, who would've been a senior this year and going into her second season as a starting midfielder, will have her presence on the field greatly missed. Still, everything she stood for, and the way she played, will be close to Northeastern in spirit this fall — at every game and every practice — reminding the players why they're playing.
"We're using her as an inspiration this year," senior captain Brittany Arentz said during the inaugural "Abby's Practice" on Aug. 16. "So, if we're in a tough game, we're going to say, 'we're playing for Abby.' ... I think it gives us a little more motivation, even though it is hard for us to all get through it together."
Honoring Osborn: The plan for what the Bobcats will do this season to remember Osborn has already been set in place.
Aside from her jersey being with the team wherever it goes, the No. 20 will also be retired, so no player in the history of Northeastern girls' soccer will ever wear it again. On top of that, the team will wear black armbands for every match in Osborn's honor. The team warm-up shirts will be tie-dyed — one of Osborn's favorite things to do — with her name and number on the back.
On Senior Night, at the end of the regular season, Osborn will be honored and the Bobcats will begin the game with only 10 players on the field, with Osborn's spot left open.
"As her coach, I always admired her competitive spirit," head coach Diana Collier said. "One of my things that I strive for is that competitive nature. I've just always been competitive and some players have it and some players don't and she was one by far that had it. So, even though she won't be on the field, my expectation, and we already talked about it a lot as a team, is everyone else stepping up their competitive nature just to make up that we won't physically have her on the field."
Osborn's loss was already significant because of her presence in the midfield.
Things went from bad to worse for the Bobcats when Arentz, the team's three-year starter and leading forward, suffered a torn ACL during a preseason scrimmage. In her three years, Arentz collected 86 goals, including 35 in 2016, and is committed to Kutztown University for college.
So, the loss of both Osborn and Arentz put Northeastern's chances of repeating as co-York-Adams Division I champion in a real predicament right out of the gate.
Coming together: After last season's success, there was a lot of hope that 2017 would be even more of a breakthrough for the Bobcats.
With two glaring holes in its lineup, however, Northeastern might be up against it to contend in Division I with Dallastown, Central York and Red Lion all looking dangerous after being in the top four in 2016.
One thing none of those teams will have though, is a mindset of playing for something bigger than just a result.
"We don't really have the time to be upset," senior midfielder Gabby Versace said. "We just have to do everything for her. She's in our hearts and we just have to keep fighting and playing because that's what she would've wanted."
— Reach Patrick Strohecker at email@example.com