Heartbreak. Sometimes it disguises itself as a quiet, anticipation filled day.
9AM, Saturday, May 19th. Members of the boys soccer team begin to trickle into the locker room, a long day ahead of them. For the second round of the state tournament, the Wildcats have drawn Columbia River, located in Vancouver, WA, a three hour drive from Archbishop Murphy.
At 9:30 the boys load onto the buses, ready to hit the road after a quick stop at the local Albertsons for snacks. Two hours later, they stop for a bathroom break at a rest stop just outside of Olympia. Energy levels are low, mainly because it’s still morning and sitting on a bus for two hours isn’t the most exciting. The boys go back to relaxing or napping for the last hour of the trip.
Around 1:30, the buses pull into the parking lot of the middle school where they’ll be playing in a few short hours. No one can seem to figure out how to get down to the field without dragging the gear down a huge hill– which everyone agrees they don’t want to do. Some consideration leads to the decision to hit up the selected lunch spot–Jimmy John’s–and hope easier access to the field is available closer to game time.
Lunchtime is quick. Jimmy John’s does well on holding to their promise of “So fast you’ll freak,”, a slogan Coach Bartley finds funny. With the arrival in Vancouver and some more nutritious food in their systems, the boys’ spirits are high. Perfect for a quick trip to Target to finish killing time before the game.
By the time they arrive at the field, however, the post-lunch and 3 hour bus ride slump has kicked in, and most of the boys are slow moving, some even taking the extra time before the pre-game meeting and warm ups to take a nap on the field. Columbia River, who is 20-0 so far in the season, starts warming up and hour and a half before game time.
5PM. Game time.
I could give you a full game rundown, minute by minute of how Saturday’s game went down. I could tell you when the goals were scored, who had more shots, when each team subbed. However, telling that detailed of a story wouldn’t do the AMHS boys soccer team any justice. Because the truth is, they played their hearts out on Saturday. The boys came out harder in the second half than I’ve seen all season.
Despite that, the Wildcats lost 1-3 on Saturday against Columbia River, eliminating them in the quarter finals of the state tournament. And frankly, it was heartbreaking. Watching those boys stand in shock as the final whistle blew, watching them hug each other and their parents, taking all the gear back to the bus for one last ride. It was devastating.
But this is the new reality for the Wildcats. Winning state is no longer going to be a walk in the park. It’s going to be a fight. The Wildcat soccer team from the past three years, the team that won three state championships, they were incredibly unique. They came to AMHS already having played together, already having a chemistry that the new Wildcats haven’t developed yet.
That isn’t to say though that this new group can’t develop that chemistry. That the Wildcats will never again be state champs. That would be ridiculous. The team is still over flowing with talented players. Take Max Henderson for example, the team’s rock of a center back this season, and an obvious choice for team captain next year. Cole Lovell plays fast in the middle, and will become a threat in the air if he gains a few more inches in the next two years. Sully Hupp, who took over as goalie this year, has shown incredible potential. So have outside back Zach Sievers and winger Bryan Borque. That’s the benefit of having a young team. There’s so much room for growth.
Watching the Wildcat boys soccer team has been a huge part of my high school experience. And as much as it hurt to watch them lose this past Saturday, I’m incredibly proud of how hard they’ve worked this season, and the past four years. I can’t wait to continue following them even when I’m away at college.