November 13, 2015

Inspired by parent’s battle with cancer, Brebeuf girls’ soccer team comes together to win state title

Members of the girls’ soccer team at Brebeuf Jesuit Preparatory School in Indianapolis pose with the state championship trophy. They beat Penn High School in Mishawaka on Oct. 31 by a 2-1 score. (Submitted photo)

Members of the girls’ soccer team at Brebeuf Jesuit Preparatory School in Indianapolis pose with the state championship trophy. They beat Penn High School in Mishawaka on Oct. 31 by a 2-1 score. (Submitted photo)

By John Shaughnessy

Her voice is weak and raspy—partly from a lingering cold she caught while coaching her soccer team in the rain, and partly from all her yells of excitement as her girls won a state championship in a dramatic, gritty, come-from-behind effort.

And now the voice of Angela Berry-White becomes even softer. That’s because the tears and the emotions begin to overwhelm her as she talks about the players on the girls’ soccer team of Brebeuf Jesuit Preparatory School in Indianapolis—and the woman who inspired them.

In this moment, she is recalling a scene that happened more than a week before Brebeuf won the Class 2A Indiana High School Athletic Association girls’ soccer championship—in a taut 2-1 game against the team from Penn High School in Mishawaka on Oct. 31.

The scene took place in an Indianapolis hospital just days before the semi-state round of the state tournament. Berry-White was talking with Stephanie Turner, the mother of Brebeuf’s goalkeeper, Lauren Turner. For five years, Stephanie Turner had battled breast cancer, and doctors expected her to die very soon.

“Just before we went to the semi-state, the doctors said she didn’t have much time,” recalls Berry-White, a mother of a teenager, too. “I told her we would do our part—we would get to the state finals—if she did her part to keep fighting and holding on. And she fought. She fought.”

In the rain on Oct. 24 in Evansville, Brebeuf won both its semi-state games, 8-0 and 2-0. And back in Indianapolis, Stephanie Turner fought and held on.

She made it to the state championship at Michael A. Carroll Stadium in Indianapolis, watching the game—and her daughter—with her family from inside a suite.

“To see her at the game was quite inspirational for our kids,” Berry-White says. “We’re a very close team. All the girls were affected by the news she wasn’t doing well. It gives you a perspective about life. I know what it’s like to lose a parent. I lost both my parents to cancer. So I know there are feelings of uncertainty, of why.

“As an adolescent, it’s very hard to understand. But the kids all came together. Some of the girls went down to the hospital with Lauren [before the semi-state.] She gave them a pep talk—that she was going to be a fighter, and that they needed to be the same thing. They played two fantastic games to get to the state championship.”

Yet two minutes into the state game, Penn scored first—and the 1-0 lead held up at halftime.

“It took a little time to get comfortable, but we gained some momentum and some opportunities. Our focus was to stay positive, to have them believe in themselves, to believe in each other, to work for a higher purpose,” says Berry-White, referring to Stephanie Turner.

Brebeuf tied the game midway through the second half. The team added the game-winner with about six minutes left. The yells that drained Berry-White’s voice followed as the game ended.

“It was just pure excitement for the kids. I was so happy to see their smiles and see them pile on top of each other in the middle of the field. It’s a game that should bring them enjoyment. For them to win it and do it in dramatic, come-from-behind fashion was just pure joy.”

The joy turned to an even deeper emotion as Berry-White watched Lauren Turner run up the stadium steps to the suite where her mother watched the game from a wheelchair. Just behind Lauren were her teammates, racing to join her.

“The coaches and her teammates were always asking about her well-being,” Berry-White says about Lauren. “She was surrounded by great teammates who were there for her. It was like having a second family right there for you, helping you through a tough time. To have her ‘sisters’ there for Lauren was a big help.”

In the suite, tears and hugs flowed between mother and daughter, and between Lauren’s mom and Lauren’s teammates.

A short while later, Stephanie Turner was on the field in her wheelchair, watching her daughter and the other team members receive the championship trophy.

“I saw her when we had the trophy presentation. I basically told her we did it and so did she,” the coach recalls. “She was all smiles, which was great. She was so elated she was there. And so were we.”

It was a moment that everyone connected with the Brebeuf team wished they could hold onto forever.

Less than two days later—on Nov. 2—Stephanie Turner died, surrounded by her family.

When the news reached Brebeuf that afternoon, school administrators pulled the members of the girls’ soccer team from their classes and had them come together in the school’s chapel. Berry-White and the school’s president, Jesuit Father Jack Dennis, were among the adults there to comfort the girls.

“It was hugs, just all hugs,” the coach says. “You can’t ease the pain, but you can share the pain. It was comforting to be together.”

It’s been especially comforting to have the memory of that state championship day—having shared that feeling of pure joy, of pure emotion after the game ended.

“When Lauren went to see her mom and the rest of the team went with her, it was a spontaneous act,” Berry-White says. “It was amazing to watch.

“For Lauren’s mom to be there, when we didn’t think it was possible, it shows the strength not only of her, but the power of God to let her be there. Being a mom and also losing my parents, it struck a chord with me. You know how precious life is. And to have these moments to share with loved ones—I can’t say enough about how wonderful it was.

“I still get choked up.”

Cardinal Ritter’s exciting soccer season

The boys’ soccer team of Cardinal Ritter Jr./Sr. High School in Indianapolis made an exciting run through the Class A state tournament before losing 3-0 in the state championship game to the team from Marian High School in Mishawaka.

After the game, Keith Owen of Cardinal Ritter received the 2015 Mental Attitude Award for Boys Class A Soccer from the Indiana High School Athletic Association.

A team captain, Keith is a member of the National Honor Society, a student ambassador at the school and a member of the St. Malachy Youth Council. A senior, he is the son of Everett and Paula Owen. †

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