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Guardian Angel

All across the sports world through the pandemic, athletes have had to convince themselves that although they might not be able to see their fans like they had become accustomed to, those same fans are still rooting for them as much as ever before from wherever they are.

Westfield-Brocton senior goalkeeper Angel Busch is no stranger to that position. Growing up as the daughter of a single mother, there were plenty of times that Busch was playing a soccer game or sharing her passion for music at a show when her mom couldn’t attend.

“Being raised by single mom was tough, but she was my biggest role model,” Busch said. “Even when she couldn’t be there physically for my games or shows, she always supported me 200 percent.”

Then in March of 2019, Angel’s life changed forever when her mother passed away.

“It has not been easy to say the least,” she said.

Angel then turned to her two passions — soccer and music — to help her cope with the loss of her mother.

“With soccer, sometimes I can get rid of some of the anger I feel. Sometimes I can step back and not focus on it,” she said. “With music, I can put it out there and tell my story for others to hear. I channel what I’m feeling and express myself more… Maybe I can help others who might be going through something similar.”

Whether on stage or between the pipes, Angel has been hitting all the right notes. A year ago, Angel’s performance on the field for the Westfield-Brocton Lady Wolverines earned her All-WNY Honorable Mention and Fourth Team All-State honors, as she helped guide the Lady Wolverines to a Section VI Co-Championship.

“She’s just one of those kids you root for. I can’t help but root for her,” said Westfield-Brocton head coach Neil Huber.

A year after her stellar 2019 season, Busch is every bit as important this season for the Lady Wolverines. Since the departure of 2019 CCAA Central Offensive Player of the Year Katie Bodenmiller and defensive standout and captain Laura Johnston, Busch has been relied upon even more this season to carry the team.

“The pressure was on her even more to step up this year — and she’s been great,” said Huber. “We will go as far as she takes us this year.”

Westfield-Brocton currently sits in second place in the CCAA Central this season at 5-1-1, trailing only Frewsburg, with four games remaining. Busch has allowed six goals in seven games this season, with four shutouts.

Not only has Busch’s performance between the pipes been crucial for Westfield-Brocton’s success, but so has her leadership for the blue and white.

“She’s always willing to help people. She has gone above and beyond to make this easier on everyone,” said Huber. “Those are the things I look for in Angel. She really has embraced that leadership role this year. She’s found her place here and it shows.”

Huber points back to a game during Busch’s sophomore season — a year where she finished as CCAA Central Defensive Player of the Year — as the turning point in her career.

“Her sophomore year, when we went to Frewsburg and won 1-0, that was a turning point for us, not only for Angel but for all of us,” said Huber. Since that victory on October 5, 2018, the Lady Wolverines have had a 24-5-1 record, including an 11-0 start to the 2019 season.

In the 2019 Section VI, Class C title game against Frewsburg, Busch didn’t allow a goal through 110 minutes of action, in a game played in such unbearable, frigid temperatures that the officials nearly called the game. Despite a consistent freezing rain that turned to hail, Busch never wavered. She shouted words of encouragement to her team the whole time, and she pulled her teammates close in tight huddles to stay warm after each break in play.

“Those were the worst conditions I have ever played in by far,” Busch said of the Sectional Final in 2019. “I just kept trying to get to the next break so I could run over and huddle with my teammates to stay warm.”

When it comes to describing Angel Busch, regardless of who is being asked, it’s never the statistics that are pointed out first. It’s not that she only allowed seven goals in the 2019 season, including not a single goal in any of the three postseason games until penalty kicks decided who would ultimately advance past the Sectional stage.

Angel Busch second team. Wow, a Ridiculously great save percentage and add that to the number of minutes in goal – it’s better than last year when she got First Team/Def POY. — WACS Girls Varsity Soccer Fans (@WACS_soccer) November 14, 2019

To her coach, it’s Angel’s presence on the team and her attitude that stands out most.

“As a leader, she’s that positive presence we need. She’s always willing to help people and step up for her teammates,” said Huber.

To her former captain, it’s Angel’s reliability that stood out the most.

“It was awesome playing with Angel. She was one of the only goalies I have trusted behind me as I played the last line of defense. Whenever the ball got by me, I could trust her to fix my mistake,” said 2019 Westfield-Brocton captain Laura Johnston, who now awaits the start of her college soccer career at Alfred State.

Busch, a captain herself, has clearly had her impact on not only the past stars of the program, but also the young players who represent the team’s future.

“Her raw talent and leadership to young players is awesome. Her love for the game is infectious for them,” said Lady Wolverines assistant coach Brandee Mortimer.

The same girl that shouted out encouraging words to her teammates from the keeper’s box during the Sectional Final to keep fighting — despite conditions that left both teams nearly incapable of continuing — had plenty of moments away from the field where she struggled to keep fighting for herself. Angel credits the Westfield community and the family she’s found from it for getting her through all of her toughest times.

“With the support from Mr. Huber and so many other people in Westfield, I’ve been able to get by. This community has raised me. They haven’t given up on me. Even when sometimes I’ve given up on myself, people haven’t given up on me — and that means more than anyone could know,” she said.

Now, as Angel’s high school soccer career winds down, she doesn’t concern herself with the limited crowds to cheer her on in her final season. Angel knows that wherever her fans are, they’re still pulling for her — especially her biggest fan.

“Now she gets to watch me in my senior year,” Angel said of her mother. “This way, she gets to watch me at every game.”

Pictures by Braden Carmen

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