The bus pulled up behind the two sets of bleachers and came to a stop as the excitement on the bus died down. This was it. One by one we all marched off the bus and walked to the bench while mentally preparing ourselves for the game that was about to be played. I sat down on the grass next to the bench and began to put on my socks and shin guards. It was a beautiful, sunny, and hot day. I wouldn’t have normally minded, but playing in a soccer game while it’s hot isn’t the most fun thing in the world. This was my first time playing in a varsity game and of course it just so happened to be the district final game. Since it was an away game for us, the other team had a bunch of students showing up to watch. There was so many of them I’m sure it had to be half of their school. They were already so loud and the game hadn’t even started yet. As the team warmed up and it became closer to the start of the game, my heart began pounding in my chest. I was so nervous, especially because I was the only JV player pulled up for districts that got to play in a game.
Soon, both teams lined up on the sideline to go over the team rosters. The time it took to get through every player seemed to go on for forever. I couldn’t wait for this to all be over so my nerves could die down. Then, the game began. I wasn’t expecting to play much if not at all so I was on the bench to begin. Within 5 minutes of playing, the other team scored. Their student section was cheering so loudly I’m sure I would’ve been able to hear it back at home. We couldn’t get down about it though because there was still plenty of time to make up for it. After a little while the ball going back and forth on the field and listening to more screaming and cheering from the student section, they scored again. It now hit our team that it would be a tougher game. The first half continued on and a minute before the half ended, once again, they scored.
Matt, our coach, talked to us at halftime. He kept talking about what he was seeing the other team doing during the first half that led to their 3 goals. He told everyone what to change out there and then one of the seniors who was sitting out spoke up. She talked about how it was the last game for the seniors and how we need to turn it around quickly if we want to even try to win. We walked back to the bench and we could hear the student section continuously cheering. Nothing could make them be quiet for even just one second. Thankfully, the same starting line-up ran out on the field so I didn’t have to worry about being in for the time. Only 45 minutes until I could be worry free about playing.
The whistle blew and the ball was kicked into play, both teams starting off more aggressive than before. Our team was fighting to score one or more goals and their team was fighting to keep the lead. Their aggressiveness beat out ours and they ended up scoring within the first 10 minutes. This made our team more angry, so we fought back even harder. You could tell that we were now playing to their level since we held them off from scoring for a while.
One of the forwards on our team was dribbling up when we saw her get thrown. The ref called a kick for our team from it, but you could tell it was worse than it looked. She was running around the field while holding her arm tight to her body. Everyone could tell something was obviously wrong, even though she claimed she was fine.
That was when there was 14 minutes left in the game when Matt called me over. I ran across the bench over to him and he told me to go in for her. I jogged over to the sideline to wait for the ball to be kicked out so I could go in. My heart was pounding so hard I thought it was going to burst right out of my chest. Time slowed down and it caused me to become even more anxious about going in. I could only think about everything that could go wrong where I would mess up enough to have no chance at making the team next season. In the middle of my thoughts, the ball was kicked out. The ref called over to the sidelines for subs and I ran in. I kept telling myself I would be ok as long as I played how I always do.
It all happened so quick. The ball was thrown in by the other team, but my teammate, Maddie, got the ball. She dribbled a short way up the field until she was close to the top of the box. I called for her to pass it to me so she did. With 2 defenders on me and feeling pressured by them, I didn’t really think about it when I kicked the ball in the general direction of the net. I started my usual chase towards the goal after a shot to be ready for a rebound when I saw the goalie dive for the ball but she wasn’t far enough to reach it. I swear everything went to slow motion as I watched as the ball go right past the goalie’s fingertips and into the back of the net. A smile immediately erupted onto my face. Everyone was silent except for the players on our bench and for our team on the field. Even the student section didn’t say a word. You could’ve heard a pin drop in their area. Maddie came over and high fived me and so did the rest of the team. One of the midfield players who I looked up to all season, Analee, came over and hugged me and she looked at me as she said, “You’ll remember this moment for forever, trust me.” It only took me 8 seconds of being in to score the only goal for my team of the game.
We played the rest of the 13 minutes and 52 seconds of the half with a little more power. Matt kept me on the field for the rest of the game, but after that moment, I wasn’t scared anymore. My head was fully in it and all thoughts of messing up were long gone. The ball mainly stayed on their half of the field and everyone on our team was fighting for another goal. More shots were made, but sadly, none made it in. As the final seconds were counted down, all the players were only on the field and passing the ball around because we couldn’t just stop. The whistle blew to end the game and everyone slowly jogged off. As I ran back to the bench, I was greeted by many high fives and “Nice goal!”’s. The excitement died down as we walked to the sideline to shake hands with the other team.
We all walked back to the bench to grab our bags and go over to the back corner of the field to talk about the game. All the seniors seemed a little down that the season, but they all still had smiles on their faces. Matt gave a typical end-of-the-season coach speech about how it’s been a great few months and he can’t wait what’s to come next season. He gave the captains a chance to talk, which got half the team to cry. Seeing how close all these girls were after playing together for just a short time made me want to be a part of this team even more. Even though we lost that game, our team knew the only thing that really mattered was that we were more than a team. We were a family.