One of the cliché’s that you hear a lot when working with students is, “They grew up right in front of our eyes.” For me that happened last week with the girls’ soccer team. A week ago Friday, they had their senior night. They were also playing Dixie Hollins High School. I went to see the three seniors honored. Mia Gillespie, Maddie Krajeski, and Bobbi LaBrant are our only seniors on the team. Mia and Maddie were playing their last regular season game. Bobbi was already done due a season ending injury. I knew that their season had been successful so I was excited to see them play against the team from a much larger Dixie Hollins high school. Our girls dominated every part of the game. I was impressed.
This week began the district tournament. Our girls came in as the number 2 seed giving them a bye in the first round. This led to a match up with the number 3 seed Calvary. I remembered last year’s district tournament at Canterbury. We had to play Calvary in the semi-finals, just like this year. On a cold night, Calvary got the win and moved on, our season was done. So here we are with the same scenario as last year. It’s the semi-finals and we are playing Calvary again. There were two major differences though. First, the tournament was being played on our field. There’s no place like home. Second, we are a much different team this year than we were last year. Last year’s team had a record of 7 wins and 10 losses. This year’s team was going into the Calvary game with 12 wins, 4 losses, and a tie. That’s a big turnaround. We scored early to go up one to nothing. Calvary got a goal on a penalty kick just before half-time to tie it at one. The second half was scoreless. An overtime period is 10 minutes. With about 3 minutes left, Olivia Ross-Johnson got a clear shot from about 25 yards out and put it in the corner of the net. The Eagles were in the finals.
The finals Friday evening pitted us against Shorecrest, a perennial soccer powerhouse. They were District champions the past two years. I checked through our trophy case and found 5 trophies for Girls Soccer. Four of them were 2nd place and only one was the championship trophy (and that one was dated 2009). We would have our work cut out for us. Here is Coach Hayward’s brief description of the game:
“Alexis Gates scored the game’s only goal on the first shot of the game, 8 minutes in on an assist from Natalie Ellis after a cross by Olivia Ross-Johnson. After that a total team defensive effort lead by Kailea Aleksin, Amber Gessner, Olivia Street, Emily Carr, and Tiffany Byun kept the Chargers off the scoreboard. Laura Biernacki played a strong game in goal, effectively controlling her goal box and recording 6 game saving saves to earn her 5th shutout of the season.”
And may I say a few words about Coach Hayward. I got the opportunity to see him coaching up close as I volunteered to be a ball boy. Rich does a great job with the girls. He is positive and instructional. He helps them see the needs for improvement and he cares for them. I would have loved for my daughter to have been able to have Rich as a coach.
This Thursday the Lady Eagles will host Seffner Christian School in the first round of the regional tournament. We would love to see the stands full of fans as they cheer this record setting team on to victory. The game starts at 7:00 and because it is a Regional contest, admission is mandated by the FHSAA at $7 per person. Hope to see you there.