By Steven Hoffman
No one would have blamed Rachel Boohar for growing discouraged.
As a high school freshman four years ago, Boohar was inserted into the Oxford girls' soccer team's lineup as the starting goalkeeper. It was a young team coming off three straight winless seasons and, in most games, Oxford was simply over-matched. Boohar was constantly under fire in goal.
During an interview last week, Boohar, now a senior, recalled a game against Sun Valley during that freshman year when she recorded an astounding 74 saves. Her team still lost. There were other games when opposing teams fired 50 or more shots in Boohar's direction. She met the challenge with gritty determination. Even though the team didn't win a game that year, Boohar was a star in the making. She was a Second Team All-Ches-Mont League selection. Her immediate success as a high school player surprised no one who knew her.
“Many things stand out to me about Rachel,” explained Paul Oechsle, who has coached her for the last five years. “She is such a competitor and works so hard to be the best at what she is doing, whether it’s academics, music, singing, or her part in a play. It is no different with soccer.”
Soccer is a year-round passion for Boohar. She started playing the sport at the age of 5. By the time she was 10 or 11, she was almost exclusively a goalkeeper, which is a natural leadership position. She joined the West Chester United Soccer Club travel team and received instruction on how to play the position by noted goalkeeper coach Todd Hoffard.
“He really helped me a lot,” explained Boohar.
Oechsle said that Boohar has all the qualities that a coach looks for in a goalkeeper—and in a team leader.
“She is a strong personality and very good leader,” he said. “As a soccer coach, I will tell you that the goalkeeper position is a leadership position by nature and it takes a person with strong leadership traits to be successful and play at the level Rachel has been able to achieve at that position. She leads by example through her focus, work ethic, competitive attitude, great abilities and constant communication with teammates.
“Because the goalkeeper position is a leadership position by nature, I typically don’t name my goalkeepers as team captains, but I made an exception with Rachel because of her leadership and soccer abilities, which earned her the respect of her teammates.”
By the time she joined the Oxford girls' soccer team in 2010 she already had a lot of experience in goal and stepped right in as a starter.
“Because I played on a club team,” Boohar said, “I was accustomed to higher level of competition.”
The Oxford girls’ soccer program was at a low point, and with no junior varsity squad to support the varsity many of the young players were learning on the job against very good Ches-Mont League squads. Boohar found herself constantly under fire in goal.
“As a goalkeeper, you have to have a short memory,” Boohar said. “Starting off, it was a little rough because I wasn’t used to that, but I got so much better because of it. I got everything good out of it that I could.”
By the time Kevin Lentz became Oxford's coach in 2011, Boohar was more than just the most naturally talented player on the team. She was a true leader on and off the field.
Lentz described Boohar’s style of play. “She is an unusual mix of competitive spirit and technical prowess,” he said. “In other words, she treats every play like it is her last, and she has the skill and ability to make the correct choice for each situation.”
During her sophomore year, Boohar actively recruited some of the best female athletes in the school, hoping to turn the soccer team around. She even encouraged Oechsle, one of her coaches from the club team, to assist with the Oxford squad.
Boohar said that Lentz and Oechsle are both fantastic coaches who helped improve the Oxford program.
“I’ve had such a great relationship with them,” she said.
Lentz brought with him a wealth of coaching experience. He helped the players improve their technical skills. Boohar would diagram plays and discuss strategies with her teammates, speeding up their growth as players. Oxford still lost all of their games in 2011, but they were getting more competitive against even the strongest Ches-Mont League opponents. Lentz said that Boohar’s play in goal was the biggest reason why Oxford was more competitive in many of the games.
In Boohar's junior season, Oxford showed marked improvement again thanks to the arrival of several talented freshman players. Boohar said that the team committed itself to playing outstanding defense, which reduced Oxford’s goals-against total by half and kept the games close—but still the team couldn't score a victory. It was Oxford's sixth consecutive season without a win, but everyone involved with the program knew that better days were right around the corner.
A nucleus of players that included Mary Williams, Bridget Burnett, Erin Anderson, Meghan O’Connor, and Allison Quesenberry were building up to a successful senior season.
In the winter of 2012, Boohar and several of her Oxford teammates played in a six-on-six indoor soccer league. The team walked away with the league championship, which was a tremendous learning experience for everyone. Losing can teach players a lot and it can build character, too, but at some point winning has its own powerful lessons to offer.
“I felt a real attitude shift after that,” Boohar said of the win in the indoor soccer league. “We were at a turning point where we were going to be winning games.”
When the 2013 season started, Oxford again received an injection of talent from the freshman class.
“This year, we added some offense,” Boohar explained.
The long-awaited first win came when the Hornets defeated Sun Valley, 2-0 in early September.
Boohar said that she screamed about as loud as a person can after that victory. “After losing so much,” she said, “it felt really good to win.”
Oxford added victories against Elkton, Rising Sun and Coatesville as the 2013 season progressed. The latter victory came on Senior Night. Considering the long road to reach this point, it was a tremendous way for Boohar and the other seniors on the team to end their careers with Oxford.
“We won four games and that was incredible,” Boohar said.
Lentz credited Boohar’s leadership with helping the Oxford squad reach a major turning point in the program’s history.
“This year, Rachel helped see the girls to their first wins in at least 6 years,” he said. “While the other members of the team certainly deserve credit, they would likely agree with me that Rachel's leadership and ability have helped guide the team's recent growth.”
Oechsle talked about Boohar’s exemplary play. “She attends every event with a strong work ethic, focus, and competitive attitude, which is why she plays at such a high level,” he said. “I think one of the things about Rachel's soccer play that stands out the most for me over the years has been her ability to continue to find the next level of play. She has improved so much each year that I've coached her. Each year, when it looks like she may be ready to reach her peak, she finds a way to take her ability to another level. Her drive and the ability to continue to push herself to the limit and find new levels of ability over the years has been impressive.”
Boohar’s entire soccer career at Oxford is an illustration of the power of perseverance. Her school spirit was also demonstrated when she agreed to serve as the placekicker for the Oxford football team during her junior year. She was the only female on a Ches-Mont League team at the time.
“I had never kicked a football before in my life,” she said with a laugh as she recalled how she was recruited to kick for a team that didn’t have anyone else to handle the kicking duties.
Even though she could practice only an hour a week, her skills kicking a soccer ball translated to the new sport. She was consistent on point-after attempts throughout the season, including a game where she went five-for-five on the extra points. She was satisfied with the results, but decided that one season of football was enough. She has spent her senior year focusing on soccer and preparing for college.
When Boohar’s soccer career at Oxford concluded in November, her résumé was full. She was named the captain of Oxford's soccer team for the last three seasons and was MVP all four seasons. She was a First Team All-Ches-Mont selection during the last three years with Oxford.
The accolades are nice, and Boohar appreciates all the recognition that she has received. But the best part of her high school soccer career, she said, is the teammates that she played with. The core players who are seniors this year helped turn around a program that needed a new start.
“I was definitely in that group that got to experience that turning point,” Boohar explained. “I love the girls so much. They are all amazing people.”
She said that she formed a close bond with two center defenders, sophomores Erin Oechsle and Cora Baughman, who really helped stabilize the defense.
“The two years with them have been so fantastic,” Boohar said.
She has been a mentor to her two “soccer sisters” Sarah Shirk and Rachel Rogevich, helping them through their first season with the varsity squad.
As hard as Boohar works on the soccer field, she matches that with her accomplishments in the classroom. Her weighted grade-point average stands at 4.27. Her favorite classes are math and French. She’s the president of the Tri-M Music Honor Society and the French Honor Society. She’s involved in numerous extra-curricular activities, including the Select Choir. She had the lead in the “Snow White” musical in her junior year, and she just found out that she will have a lead in the senior musical, “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat.”
Boohar has approached the college search process with the same level of preparedness that she strives for in the soccer field.
As a sophomore, she took part in a one-week U.S. Naval Academy STEM Program and as a junior she took part in the U.S. Coast Guard Academy AIM Program.
“I absolutely loved it. It was the most intense experience,” Boohar said of the AIM Program, which introduced students to what life in the Coast Guard Academy would be like. She is interested in studying engineering and her top choice is to enter the Coast Guard Academy. She should find out around Christmas whether she has been accepted into the academy or not.
When the Oxford soccer team takes the field next fall, it will be the first time in four years that the team won’t have Boohar’s leadership.
“As to what she has meant to Oxford soccer, it would be hard to overstate her impact,” Lentz said. “Although I’ve only been coaching the team for the past three years, and the program is also relatively young, I would find little opposition to the argument that she is the best player to ever come out of our program.
“It’s no coincidence that the growth and improvement of our program has come during Rachel’s years of play. The impact that Rachel has left on the program will only truly be measured when we start our next season without her. She will be extraordinarily hard to replace.”