Sports

STAN GROSSFELD

‘We’re going to win it for Em.’

Ball and goalie are airborne at the Boston Beach Soccer Tournament Series at Nantasket Beach.
Stan Grossfeld/Globe Staff
Ball and goalie are airborne at the Boston Beach Soccer Tournament Series at Nantasket Beach.

HULL — Jess Delaney, goalkeeper for the Field4Hull team, stood in front of the net on Nantasket Beach, gazed up at the heavens, and predicted a victory in the championship game of the high school girls’ division of the recent Boston Beach Soccer Tournament.

“We’re going to win it for Em,” said the 17-year-old Delaney. “Guaranteed.”

On Oct. 28, 2016, Emma Ryan, an honor roll student and three-sport athlete, was playing soccer for Hull High School. She went to bed that night and never woke up. She was 15 years old, dead of natural causes.

Advertisement

Her sister, Caitlin, 17, the Hull High School athlete of the year, wasn’t about to lose a charity tournament for her younger sibling.

Get Sports Headlines in your inbox:
The Globe's most recent sports headlines delivered to your inbox every morning.
Thank you for signing up! Sign up for more newsletters here

“Yeah, we were going to do it for her,” said Caitlin. “That was our mind-set.”

It didn’t matter that the opponent, Galway Rovers, a younger team of South Shore teenagers, had already defeated them in the two-day round-robin tournament.

The Hull players had Emma’s name and her number 20 emblazoned on the front of their shirts, and they had love in their hearts.

The tournament raised several thousand dollars for the Emma Ryan Memorial Scholarship Fund.

Advertisement

Two hundred fifty players competed for 28 teams. The rules were different from regular soccer. Teams played five-on-five on four shortened fields, with conditions varying according to the tide. Each half was 12 minutes, and there was no offsides, which resulted in some high-scoring games. Dribbling was difficult on the sand, so there were many passes in the air.

Goalies had it the toughest.

Fallon Ryan, 10, the youngest sister of Emma, looks for a rebound against goalie Adrianna Ruiz of the Boston Scorpions.
Stan Grossfeld/Globe Staff
Fallon Ryan, 10, the youngest sister of Emma, looks for a rebound against goalie Adrianna Ruiz of the Boston Scorpions.

“It’s a lot of fun, but when you get sprayed with sand, it feels bad,” said Lochlan Steinmeier, 11, a goalie for the Sandsharks. “It hurts, and sometimes it gets in your mouth.”

In some respects, it was a show of strength for soccer in old baseball territory. Few know that baseball history was made in Hull on Sept. 2, 1880, when two Boston teams competed in the first night baseball game, playing to a 16-16 tie.

During the beach tournament, a father and son played Wiffleball while they were waiting for the next soccer game. Nearby, a few Red Sox fans complained about the tournament taking up too much real estate.

A goal is scored.
Stan Grossfeld/Globe Staff
A goal is scored.
Advertisement

Most of the kids playing in the tournament wanted nothing to do with hardball.

“Baseball?” said Jason Job, 12, of Marlborough. “No, no. I don’t play baseball. I think it’s boring. Soccer is more exciting.”

Although there were many close championship games, none was as emotional as the Field4Hull-Galway Rovers final. And no one played better than Caitlin Ryan, who scored three times. Playing barefoot, with her ponytail bobbing back and forth like a metronome, she dominated in her team’s 5-3 victory.

“It was very special,” said an emotional Caitlin, who plans to play soccer for Franklin Pierce in the fall. “There are not really words to describe it. I think about [Emma] every day and every moment.”

Caitlin Ryan of Hull controlled the ball against the Galway Rovers.
Stan Grossfeld/Globe Staff
Caitlin Ryan of Hull controlled the ball against the Galway Rovers.

The Ryan Fund awarded $5,000 in scholarships to five Hull High School seniors, and it hopes to help other Hull organizations as well.

For the Ryan family, the tournament was healing. Emma’s youngest sister Fallon, 10, was dancing with a huge smile during warm-ups.

Emma’s mother, Kerrie Ryan, said, “I am feeling the love today and all the support from my community of Hull and many other clubs to honor Emma.”

Ryan still grapples with unanswered questions about Emma’s death.

“They found nothing abnormal,” she said. “Her autopsy states cardiopulmonary arrest. She stopped breathing, her heart stopped beating.

“She had the biggest heart. A smile that would light up the room. She was kind to everybody and a friend to all.

“I honestly feel like she was there with us and enjoying every moment of it. Her spirit was there for sure.”

More photos from the tournament:

Alex Rabb, Jeannette MacDonald, Lisa Canavan, Maggie Canavan and Jess Delaney.
Stan Grossfeld/Globe Staff
Alex Rabb, Jeannette MacDonald, Lisa Canavan, Maggie Canavan and Jess Delaney.

Field4Hull goalie Jess Delaney made a key save as Sammy Roman of the Galway Rovers swooped in behind her
Stan Grossfeld/Globe Staff
Field4Hull goalie Jess Delaney made a key save as Sammy Roman of the Galway Rovers swooped in behind her.

Socks, mud and soccer.
Stan Grossfeld/Globe Staff
Socks, mud and soccer.

Adults played an exhibition game.
Stan Grossfeld/Globe Staff
Adults played an exhibition game.

Pedro Vidal (center, with trophy) and his Gremio USA teammates celebrate after winning their division.
stan grossfeld/globe staff
Pedro Vidal (center, with trophy) and his Gremio USA teammates celebrate after winning their division.
Gremio USA, a collection of kids some with Brazilian ancestry, posed with the trophy for their proud families and friends.
Stan Grossfeld/Globe Staff
Gremio USA, a collection of kids some with Brazilian ancestry, posed with the trophy for their proud families and friends.

Stan Grossfeld can be reached at grossfeld@globe.com.