The Spartans played their best game of the year to capture the Division A Championship. Their game tonight was simply, beautiful. They moved together harmoniously to control the flow and tempo of the game. The Spartans earned this championship with compassion for each other and confidence in their own abilities. Tonight, the Spartans fought to give their 8th grade teammates the best sendoff possible, while the 8th graders helped usher in a new era of Spartan soccer for our younger girls.
The game started with our veteran 8th graders receiving the honor as team captains for the evening. Together, the six players walked arm-to-arm to meet the referees at the center of the field. Each girl proudly represents the qualities that make this team great, and it was a true honor to see them standing side-by-side.
It was late in the 2nd half; the score was 3-2. Chandler Prep made one last aggressive attack to tie the game. A Chandler forward striking down the left wing, fired a shot just over the head of our goalie Jianna Bickle. The ball slowly trickled towards the goal. From the far-left side of the field Madison Koetz raced to intercept the ball before it crossed the line. Simultaneously, a Chandler player desperately crashed from the top of the box towards the ball to drive it passed the line and ensure her team continued battling in overtime. The two players arrived at the ball nearly at the same time, but just seconds before the ball could cross the line, Madison stretched out her leg to deflect the ball out of the goal and towards the wing. The two players collided and crashed violently into the net. This is Madison Koetz. This is the game she plays. Her passion is evident with every chase. Her intelligence is evident with her nearly perfect positioning on the field. Her leadership is evident in her compassionate guidance and support. Players like Madison make the game special; they make life in general special!
It was 0-0 in the first half. The ball bounced around on the left side of the field as the Spartans and Chandler fought to gain possession. The ball was gently pushed back in Katie Holford’s direction. She took several aggressive steps towards the ball and placed a strike nearly 40 yards from the goal. As the ball soared through the air the rich orange glow of the setting sun illuminated its flight. As it started its descent it remained just out of the reach of the Chandler goal, arriving safely at its final destination – the back of the net. Katie Holford is the spirit of this team. Every game, Katie left everything she had out on the field. Her fight and her will is inspirational. Although this was the last time Katie will wear a Spartan jersey for the middle school soccer team, she will leave behind a template regarding how the game should be played. She showed the younger Spartans what heart looks like. She showed the younger Spartans what fight looks like. These are two qualities that define Katie. Katie is the example of how a true athlete competes.
Pick a minute of the game, any minute, and Arden Ricotta was involved in the game. Arden’s play is what makes this game so beautiful to watch. Her strikes were made with pure precision. Her decision making was genius. Her game was poetry in motion. Tonight, Arden showed everyone what she is capable of on the soccer field. On countless plays, Arden used her powerful turn to gracefully separate from the Chandler Prep team to gently pass the ball to Reagan Broderick only to receive it back after a burst upfield. With her exceptional awareness she threaded perfect pass after perfect pass at the feet of a crashing offender. But elegant play was not the extent of her play this evening. Arden was all heart. After crashing forward, she would fallback on defense with equal fervor. At some point in the season, Arden realized her game is special, and I am truly thankful that happened because myself and our fans got to see how the game should be played.
Reagan Broderick, all season long brought her wonderful personality and immensely powerful foot to each game. Often, the player that has immense power lacks graceful play, but Reagan wields both. Reagan showed tremendous heart tonight. She was in the backfield to dismantle the Chandler attack and she was upfield as the architect of an effective Spartan strike. Reagan delivered several powerful strikes on goal with several nearly landing in the back of the net, but her game was more than that this evening. Reagan, on multiple occasions, elegantly pulled the ball back and delivered beautiful passes to the Spartan forwards or participated in precise give-and-go’s with Arden. Her game this evening was the perfect balance of power and elegance. However, it is Reagan’s wonderful and playful personality that makes her such a special person. On one occasion tonight, Reagan set up to make an easy stop of the ball, but it bounced just over her foot, and as she raced back to retrieve it, a smile blossomed. Reagan is a top-notch player, but she plays with a wonderful joy that makes her a truly special player to have on any team.
It was Ana-Cecy Frias’ best game of the season. Ana-Cecy stepped up in a big way. Her decisive play enabled her to effectively stop numerous Chandler Prep attacks and subsequently clear the ball. She passionately gave chase to many thru-balls as she smartly used her body to shield the offender from the ball. Ana-Cecy played like a veteran tonight and she owned the right side of the field. Her play tonight helped secure the championship for the Spartans. All season long, Ana-Cecy was a passionate and aggressive defensive force. Ana-Cecy showed young players, like Brooke Nicholl how to play the position with confidence and passion, two critical traits for a great defender. Ana-Cecy was a joy to coach, and her strong personality will make her a strong leader.
Samah Choudhury is the definition of a team player. Samah made this team better, period. She showed up to every practice and played with great intensity, pushing each of her teammates to play faster and harder. She worked diligently to improve her game while making sure to lift up the players around her, and when it came to game day, Samah was there supporting her team, lifting a player up when they fell and pushing her teammates to fight harder. Tonight, when Samah entered the Championship game she executed wonderfully. With nearly 5 minutes to play, Samah played right forward to help advance the Spartan lead. She fought to win every free ball and passionately pushed the ball towards goal. Samah has heart, and that makes her a special player and person.
Each verteran player on this team deserved to end their middle school soccer career with a championship. They are true leaders, and they will lead through action and strength. Their true beauty can be found within their wonderful personalities. We will never forget their smiles this evening; we will never forget what you achieved this evening. To our veteran players, thank you. Thank you for being such special people and wonderful players. Be proud of who you are and the strength each of you possess as players and individuals.
To our future Spartan players, tonight was the start of your next chapter. Lizzie Eiler, Brooke Nicholl, Jianna Bickle, Ellie Folkstead, Sienna Kindsfater, Lily Rogers, Maya Nagaraj, Gianna and Grace Ajamie, Sabrina Manero, Kate Willmering, Kate Hauptman, and Whitney Reinhardt – you represent the future of this team, and we can relax knowing the future is in such good hands.
Kate Hauptman is a truly special player, and tonight her performance was no different. She is an offensive superstar. Her speed is scary, her turns and moves are surgical, and her strike (both left and right foot) is fierce. Kate, in the last two days you have been nothing short of Wonder Woman. You have displayed a super-human effort and drive. This team is indebted to your commitment. You needed no excuse to rest yesterday and today, you needed no excuse to not play in the semi-final and championship game, and yet you played. You played with the same level of intensity, the same level of fire, and the same level of fearlessness you normally play with, and you did it with a smile. That is SUPER. HUMAN.
With a 1-0 lead, the refs handed Chandler Prep the equalizer after calling a penalty in the box. However, the score did not remain tied for much longer thanks to Kate Willmering. Kate played her best game of the season. Her play was as sharp as a needle point. While pressing forward at full speed she was able stop on a dime and change direction. Kate, after being fed a ball from Arden, slashed towards the left side of the field deep into Chandler territory. The Chandler defender kept pace until Kate cut back to the right leaving the defender behind. Kate wasted no time to deliver a shot to the back of the net. Just like that, the Spartans took the lead heading into halftime. Kate has been a consistent force all season long. Her control, speed, and intensity forced defenses to spread themselves thin all season long. The Kate and Kate front are the most potent forward in the league, perhaps in the state. Defenders are unable to double Kate H. because of the threat Kate W. possesses.
Whitey Reinhardt played stunningly tonight. It was in the first half and after a few anxious plays you could see her, in a single moment settle into her game, and her game is captivating. Every move is fluid and elegant. Every time she possesses the ball Whitney writes a sonata. You enjoy her game the same way you listen to Beethoven or Bach. Her control of the ball and movement in and out of the defense is as smooth as a conductor guiding an orchestra with his or her baton. The beauty of her game is complemented with the beauty of her personality. She has all the necessary qualities to be a true leader in every setting: on and off the pitch. The blend of wonderful skill and personality makes Whitney a truly impressive person.
Finally, two special players tonight stepped into the impressive cleats of Rocky “the Wall” Lillie. Rocky was a first-year goalie, but her game didn’t reflect that. Her confidence didn’t reflect that, and her personality didn’t reflect that. Rocky was a superstar this season. It took several weeks to convince her to play goalie and we are sure glad she had the courage to take on the role. It takes a special person to put themselves out there and try something new, but she handled it with such grace and confidence. Rocky, this Championship game was dedicated to you. Thank you Rocky for stepping up and taking on this role as our team’s goalie. Tonight, Ellie Folkstead and Jianna Bickle tried their best to take Rocky’s place, and they did amazingly. Imagine the championship is on the line and you are asked to play goalie for the A-division. Limited to no experience handling shots with division A velocity. Little to no experience with the pace of play. Little to no experience with the aggressiveness of play. For Jianna and Ellie however, not a problem. I am still trying to figure out how Jianna saved a goal in the first few minutes of action, but she did it. To Jianna and Ellie, thank you for believing that you could do it, that you could step up and play the position with true passion.
To the parents, thank you for all that you do. Your commitment goes unquestioned. Your love and passion for your daughters and family is truly evident. So, thank you for being such dedicated and caring parents and helping make this season the great season that it was.
The intention of this writeup was to focus on the 8th grade girls, and their wonderful play and dedication to this team. For next year’s squad, you start a new chapter, a chapter that will be truly your own. With each new chapter an overall theme remains, and the theme is not to build a championship team, but to build strong, independent female leaders; to build confidence in who you are and who you can become. This season has certainly showed us a glimpse of what you are capable of accomplishing. Learn from and grow from this year, and create something unique to your team, and I promise we will ensure that the other teams will continue to “FEAR THE SPARTANS!”