Story by Stephen Wise, Photo by Go Flash Win
For one last time, the seniors of Dutch Fork soccer will head into the playoff gauntlet, hoping to end their senior season with a state championship. After four years of practices, workouts, and game experience, it all comes down to a series of one-and-done games, with a loss meaning their career as Dutch Fork soccer players have come to an end. Playoffs are beginning next Tuesday, and the seniors are doing what they can to prepare the team for one final run.
“Knowing that it’s a one and done, lose and you’re out gives me a perspective on how hard we need to play,” senior Grant Wagner said, “Everyone realizes it and since we are so close it affects how hard we work together and it shows up in the game.”
The seniors have passed down knowledge and tips to the underclassmen with the hopes of preparing them for the intensity and pressure that comes with the postseason.
“Seniors encourage us and we know the seniors want to win, which pushes us to play harder,” sophomore Elliot Fish said, “they give us things from their perspective since they’ve been doing it for a few years and have been there before.”
For sophomore Damon Williams, his experience as a starter in his freshman year, as well as winning two games in last year’s playoff games, have helped to prepare him mentally for what lies ahead in the 2018 playoffs.
“My experience helps prepare me because I know what to expect and what is expected of me and my teammates,” Damon said, “I know that by me performing well in playoffs, that will boost my confidence and my teammates as we look towards a state championship.”
With each game potentially being their last, the seniors have made their intentions clear, that they will not be denied a chance at a state championship.
“My mentality going into playoffs is optimistic,” senior Taylor Baxter said, “This is my last year, last chance for success in the playoffs, but it is no easy task The end goal has been there since day one: to win it all.”
For one sophomore, the opportunity to play in the playoffs after spending most of the season injured is something he definitely will not take for granted.
“I’ve been doing physical therapy, practicing every day, doing everything I can to get back to 100% for playoffs. That means a lot to me to be able to play,” sophomore Mark Kasir said.
After struggling early in the preseason, the team had a players-only meeting led by the seniors, where an emphasis was placed on the importance of playing winning soccer this season.
“We had a pretty rough start last year and we had a rough preseason and didn’t have what we wanted and we got together earlier and talked about the goals we wanted to set, and now we’re one of the top teams in the state and want to keep it that way,” Grant said, “We gotta beat the best to be the best.”
In what is becoming a reflective time for the senior players before they head into their last round of playoff soccer, they appreciate what Dutch Fork soccer has done for them.
“To win in my senior year would be something special,” Taylor said, “but regardless, the experiences I have gained while playing at Dutch Fork will last a lifetime.”