Hannah Milbert personified toughness as Avonworth’s goal keeper last year. Throughout the course of the season, different bumps and bruises showed up all over her body, the telltale signs of diving for saves, never shying away from a 50-50 ball and generally giving it her all on the pitch.
That kind of toughness and perseverance was contagious and made the team surrounding Hilbert better. That kind of toughness and perseverance is what the team needs most right now. Hannah Milbert died tragically in an accidental house fire this past January. The blaze occurred at the Ohio Township home that Milbert shared with her parents, who survived.
The initial shock of losing Hannah was tough on the entire school, especially her soccer teammates. Now, they must find the delicate balance between moving on with a new season and never forgetting their teammate. Playing hard night in and night out as a team, they decided, is one of the best ways to honor Milbert, who was a high honor student and a Girl Scout.
“We know what she brought in training sessions and how she was also such a good friend to all of them,” said Avonworth coach J.C. Mahan. “There was no holding back or taking a play off. We want to honor that every practice and every game.”
The Antelopes will eulogize Milbert in other ways. They will wear black armbands with Milbert’s No. 5 stitched in bright lime green, the same color as Milbert’s goalie jersey. The annual soccer tournament that occurs every Labor Day weekend was renamed the Hannah Milbert Memorial Cup.
One of the most difficult parts of getting back to soccer was gazing into the empty goal and wondering who would take Milbert’s place. Mahan said a few girls raised their hands and said they wanted to play goal, creating a competition that would have made Milbert proud.
Miranda Chrvala eventually won the job and assumed the difficult task of filling in between the posts. Milbert was an all-WPIAL performer as a sophomore.
“I don’t want to put any pressure on our goalkeeper, because that’s going to be there,” said Mahan. “She definitely feels some pressure to fill Hannah’s spot. Not just emotionally, because Hannah was an excellent player as well.”
Chrvala will certainly be playing for Milbert this year, along with returning all-section player Abby Wert, and the entire team. And as tough as it will be to start over literally and metaphorically this season, the toughness and perseverance that Milbert instilled in her teammates will help them get through it.
“We know she’s going to be with us this year,” Mahan said. “She’s always going to be with us. The things that you take away from people in your lives, you remember the good things about them and they help you become better people.”