Jems' coach reported assaulted John McOwen says he suffered a head injury. A player's father is said to be involved.

Posted: November 06, 2003

As it pursues its fourth straight PIAA state championship, the Villa Joseph Marie girls' soccer team is coping with allegations that the father of two squad members struck head coach John McOwen after practice Saturday.

Arthur Rankin, father of Jems players Jenna and Lauren Rankin, allegedly struck coach John McOwen, according to an account of the incident John McOwen gave to his son, also named John.

"I sustained a head injury on Saturday after soccer practice that has given me a concussion and I'm unable to work because of it," the coach said, while declining to comment further.

The dispute allegedly involved playing time for one of Rankin's daughters during the Jems' 3-2 victory over Delaware County Christian in the District 1 Class AA championship game Friday night.

An incident is under investigation, Officer Martin Comyn of the Northampton Township police said last night. No charges have been filed.

McOwen, 63, underwent a CAT scan last night and has not returned to Villa Joseph Marie since the incident, his son said.

"In 23 years at the school, I've been out six days," the coach said. "For me to be out three days in a row is unheard of. I feel terrible right now. I have to defer to my attorney for any other information."

McOwen is represented by attorney Larry Sheetz.

Reached last night at home, Rankin said: "No comment."

Repeated calls to school principal Diana Koopman and vice principal Marissa Brown were not returned yesterday.

Because of the injuries, McOwen missed the Jems' first-round state playoff game, a 6-0 win over Southern Columbia on Tuesday night at William Tennent. Assistant coaches Craig Dorman and Gary Porter assumed McOwen's duties.

McOwen said he may miss the rest of the state playoffs. Villa Joseph Marie (19-3-1) plays its second-round game Saturday against Montoursville.

Jems players said they were unaware of the reported incident until Brown, the vice principal, spoke to the team's four seniors, Kelly Koreyva, Kelly Galen, Jackie Thomson and Katie Adams, on Tuesday afternoon.

"I haven't seen Mr. McOwen since we played against [Delco Christian] in the district championship game," said Galen, who, along with Koreyva, the team's captain, was on a college visit to Lafayette on Saturday.

"It's been pretty hard for us," Galen said.

The seniors said Brown told them that the school would handle the matter. The players said they were asked not to talk about the situation.

"We can't do anything about it, and we just have to let the school take of it," said Galen, a midfielder.

"We just know that when we step over the white line, it's game time and we have to be ready to play," said Thomson, a three-year starter at forward. "We have to keep playing, no matter who is coaching us."

Contact suburban staff writer Joe Santoliquito at 610-313-8028 or jsantoliquito@phillynews.com.

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