Friday, May 27 marks the end of a nearly perfect season for the ladies of Varsity Pride soccer. They have endured months of regular-season games and practices, five playoff games, and now, what they’ve all been working towards: The state championship title.
The state championship, taking place at the WakeMed soccer park in Cary at 8:00 p.m, hosts Leesville and Ardrey Kell High School from Charlotte. This is the third state championship in four years that the two teams have played each other.
“They are a strong team with fast forwards,” said Anne Cushman, sophomore, of Ardrey Kell’s team.
Caroline Gentry, junior and seasoned starting player, realizes the advantage of having played Ardrey Kell before. “When I played them my freshman year, they were a young team,” she said. “It will be interesting to see how they have matured in the past two years.”
The main difference between a freshman and senior player, said Gentry, is experience and confidence. “Freshmen just run the ball every single time. They don’t think as much on the field because it can be intimidating as a freshman playing with bigger girls who have more experience. The seniors know what to do and when. They think more on the field and are less impulsive. Experience is important.”
The freshmen on the team, however, are a staple to the Pride’s success. Mary Kate Bowers, freshman, is a starting forward on the team with her own mental preparation strategy. While others consciously focus on the game and how to defeat their opponent, Bowers prefers to ignore the instinct to obsess and thinks about other things. “I’ve psyched myself out before and I don’t want to do it again,” she said. “I’m my own worst enemy.”
One thing every player has in common, however, is game day rituals. The girls are superstitious about everything, from lining up in the same order on the bench and in the locker room to working with the same partners in warm-ups to sharing the same piece of gum.
“Every game day, I chew a piece of gum and then give it to Sydney Frizzelle,” explained Gentry. “The first time, I did it just because she wanted some gum and it was my last piece. That game was her best game she’s ever had.”
Other interesting rituals of individuals on the team include refusing to wash their game day jersey and gear throughout the season, even going so far as to not allow Cushman to clean her cleats after a bird defecated on them.
“I wasn’t superstitious until I made this team,” said Bowers. Now, before every game, she explained, she must chew Trident cinnamon gum. “The one time I didn’t do it, we lost to Sanderson,” she said gravely.
Needless to say, “we are a very superstitious team,” said Gentry.
But with a record like theirs, eccentricity is overlooked. Especially because of another strong quality the team shares. Unanimously, the ladies agree that the team’s unity, trust and ability to stay positive are the team’s strengths.
“We have a lot of heart,” said Cushman.
The seniors present a strong sense of leadership on the team. They are just as responsible for keeping the team motivated and prepared as Coach Dinkenor is– perhaps even more so.
“Kelsey Weiss is very big on motivation. She’s where we go for energy,” said Bowers.
Despite having two starting players sitting out due to torn ACLs, the team is confident they will defeat their rival once again.