Riana Matkowski is a student, an athlete and sometimes a recruiter when needed.
The Neumann-Goretti High School senior wanted to make sure she’d be playing softball this spring. But when the Saints had only eight girls show up for the first practice of the season, Matkowski relied on one of her best attributes — her charm.
“I recruited our third baseman (Lea Urick) because she sits at my lunch table,” said Matkowski, who lugs the equipment as the team’s catcher. “I said we only have eight girls and we need a ninth to have a full team and she said OK and she came out to practice. Since then, we’ve built a nice bond with her and she’s stuck with us.”
And they are glad she did. Not only does Urick help fill out the roster, but she plays a good third base for a relatively new team that is starting to play some good defense. The Saints rejoined the Catholic League last season after the program took a two-year break from competitive action during the pandemic.
The Saints received anything but a warm welcome back last year from their opponents as they ended up winless in the PCL standings. And this year figures to be a challenge, too, as the Saints graduated their entire infield from last season except for Matkowski. But don’t take them lightly, as there are some good pieces in place to play the role of spoiler on any given day.
“It’s a fun team,” said sophomore center fielder Caitlyn Coghlan, who smashed a triple in the Saints’ PCL opener against St. Hubert. “The teammates, the coaches, the environment, it’s all fun.”
And Matkowski is one of the players who makes it fun. Never shy to induce a laugh from her teammates, Matkowski has a way of keeping things light when things aren’t going smoothly, whether it’s playing softball or volleyball for the Saints.
“You can’t win them all,” said Matkowski, who lives in South Philly’s Whitman neighborhood. “It matters more if you’re having fun, than always feeling like you have to win and losing your love for the sport. The more fun you have with it, the more love you have for it. And having fun can also cause you to win games.”
The wins will come. Neumann-Goretti has some potential behind the strong pitching arm of Savanah Pacetti and some pop at the top of the order with Matkowski, shortstop Mya Grinnell and Coghlan. As the season progresses, the Saints should find some success.
“It feels good to be a part of this because next year we’ll have more players,” Coghlan said. “And we’re just going to improve every year.”
Until then, the Saints will play ironman ball, with just enough to field a team.
“It’s a little different because you do want to work with a full roster with 12 or 13 girls,” Matkowski said. “But we work with what we have and they pour all their effort in and that’s all that really matters.”