story by Carina Leaman, Anna Maria Gardiner and Josh Imholte

After an undefeated season, the lady foxes have suffered their first and last defeat on the field.

The girl’s soccer team seemed to be unstoppable all year long; the senior majority gave the team experience and expertise. No one could stand in their way.

Until J.L. Mann High School hit in the semifinals of the Upper State Championship game, beating the Silver Foxes 2-1.

“Mann’s performance was just what we expected; their pace was very good, they were physical and played the wings a lot,” head coach Mike Mauldin said.

But for the team, the game began even before the first whistle. The girls prepared for the grueling hour and a half ahead.

“Warm up is the most important,” senior center back Mary-Jordan Hiller said. “You have to try to prepare your body to the best of your ability and get ready to play 80 minutes.”

Each player had their own strategies for the game.

“It was mainly getting over any nerves and to work extremely hard,” sophomore midfielder Brogan Brown said. “After our last game we had talked about trying to fill a gap between our midfield and our offense, so trying to keep an eye on that was also a priority going in.”

The team had every reason to be confident going in: an untouchable season had almost guaranteed the girls a spot in the final championship game.

“They’re all talented, so being on the team together makes them that much better,” senior spectator Andrew Brehmer said.

But even with Dutch Fork’s early goal, Mann took control of the game.

“After they scored the first time, it was less than a minute after our goal and felt like a slap in the face. We had managed to gain a lead and it had been taken away from us,” Brogan said. “The intensity changed at that point because we had felt the reassurance that we could win the game and we wanted it back.

Even as they fell behind, the team fought to the end.

“The turning point of the game was the last five minutes,” junior center forward Emily Jermstad said. “Every single person was giving 100% and we had many opportunities to score.”

Even with this loss, the almost perfect season will drive the team even farther during the next season.

They now know what it takes to be successful, and will not be intimidated by any of their opponents,” Coach Mauldin said. “These girls played at a high level this season and will start next season with a positive attitude, which will carry them a long ways next.