Dedication pays off for St. Al’s Ranager

Published 7:58 am Sunday, March 18, 2018

In the summer of 2015, Mary Ranager was playing for her club soccer team when she tried to make a cut and heard a pop in her knee. There wasn’t a lot of pain, but it also didn’t take long to realize she had suffered one of the most dreaded injuries an athlete can have — a torn anterior cruciate ligament.

The injury cost her a full season of her high school career. It happened to be the season everything clicked for her longtime teammates at St. Aloysius and they won the MAIS Class AAA championship.

“It was really hard just to watch and not feel like I was a part of it. But I know that I was. When I was in seventh grade, all of those girls I had played with were graduating and that was really hard,” Ranager recalled.

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Ranager refused to be a bystander, or let her injury derail a promising soccer career. She spent that 2015 season as a dedicated team manager, attending every practice and game while doing her best to help her teammates succeed by supporting them behind the scenes.

Once she got back on the field in 2016, Ranager got back to making the Lady Flashes a success on the field as well. The senior midfielder scored 36 goals over the past two seasons and had 21 goals and 11 assists this season while leading St. Al to the Class AAA semifinals.

She was an MAIS All-Star, signed to play at Millsaps College and, now, is also The Vicksburg Post’s girls soccer Player of the Year.

“I feel honored, because I wasn’t expecting it at all. I’m really happy about it,” Ranager said. “I’m proud of what I’ve done, and I’m looking forward to continuing it. Seventh to 12th grade, I’ve had three different high school coaches and every single one of them has taught me something different. I’m very grateful to every one of them.”

The last of those coaches, Scott Mathis, said Ranager’s work ethic and dedication made her a unique talent. He pointed to the 2015 season that she missed, as much as anything she did on the field, as proof.

“Even with her knee, she was the first one to practice. The last one to leave. She was out picking up stuff when she didn’t have to do any of that. I’ve got players now that, if they’re out for the season, you won’t see them until it’s over,” said Mathis, who won The Post’s Coach of the Year award. “Mary wanted to be a part of that and we made sure that she was. She was there every step of the way, even though she wasn’t on the field. She helped us get to that stage.”

Ranager has indeed been an integral part of all of the Lady Flashes’ success since she first stepped onto the field as a seventh-grader. She finished her high school career with 74 goals and was the team’s only senior this season. St. Al finished 9-4 and lost to Park Place in the Class AAA semifinals.

Although they didn’t win a second state title, Ranager said she was happy with her senior season.

“I’m happy with it. We didn’t make it to state, but we were really, really close,” she said.
Since the Lady Flashes’ season ended in October — the MAIS girls soccer season is played in the fall — Ranager has stayed busy. She practiced with St. Al’s boys team to stay in shape as she prepared for her college career.

“Playing with the guys has helped me, because they’re a lot faster-paced with keeping touch on the ball and staying in shape. From our season to now I wouldn’t have had anything because the select teams take a break,” Ranager said.

Mathis said that is just one more example of Ranager’s dedication to the game and her craft.

“It’s rare. It’s dedication. That’s what she has,” Mathis said. “You don’t see that very often anymore in high school.”

About Ernest Bowker

Ernest Bowker is The Vicksburg Post's sports editor. He has been a member of The Vicksburg Post's sports staff since 1998, making him one of the longest-tenured reporters in the paper's 140-year history. The New Jersey native is a graduate of LSU. In his career, he has won more than 50 awards from the Mississippi Press Association and Associated Press for his coverage of local sports in Vicksburg.

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