BY: Maeve McGuire, Aspen High School
Eyes on the Ball
I watch the spiraling ball plunge over the opposing team’s defense and directly into my teammate’s feet as she sprints to the corner flag. With one swift movement, she flicks the ball across the field and onto Eryka’s head – GOAL! The crowded sideline erupts with cheers from our nervous parents. Our team instantly storms to the center of the field and begins to celebrate. Thirty-five minutes later, however, we march off the field with our heads hung low; this tie felt like a loss. Though we played well most of this tournament – competing against talented teams from all over the nation – this final tie was not enough to bring us to the semifinals.
After our consolation game that evening,
we sat on the sideline and debriefed the tournament – a post-game tradition. We were in agreement that eventhough we could’ve performed better, we played extremely well given the circumstances. These were our first games after a long winter of basketball and skiing, and we were a mismatched team that had never played together before. Our team, made up of players from almost every high school in the Valley (Aspen, Basalt, Roaring Fork, Glenwood, and Coal Ridge) as well as players from Utah and Hawaii, challenged teams that had been playing together for years. During this tournament, we tied every game 2-2, a curse, we half-joked.
Though it is challenging to play in a tournament with girls you don’t know well, it is a test we were all pretty acquainted with. Since 2014, many of us had played together on a competitive travel team made up of players from all over the Valley. AVS (All Valley Select) has given boys and girls from grades 8-12 an opportunity to train, compete and improve their skills throughout the summer. This program has allowed me to become good friends with girls from other schools I would’ve otherwise never met. This team has also given me the opportunity to learn from and play for all kinds of coaches, whose skills and insights I can bring to my other teams. Drawing from the successful summer programs offered by AVS, Football Club Glenwood decided to create a similar traveling team (FC-G17) for the fall tournament season, coached by Brad Jordan and Evan Segal.
Three days a week,
players from Aspen to New Castle would trek up to Glenwood’s CMC fields for training. With this pool of about 40 players, we would train, academy style, and two teams would be created for games and tournaments. Though these trainings were intense and sometimes exhausting, it was refreshing to be surrounded by committed players, many driving an hour each way for training. As a result of this commitment, our fall season was wildly successful. We won our league, made up almost entirely of front range teams. We also won several tournaments.
Our last tournament, the Las Vegas Mayors Cup,
presented a challenge for us to improve our skills before the high school season. It also gave us the opportunity to showcase our skills in front of college coaches and scouts. After our last game on Saturday night, we all parted ways for the long travel home.
With this separation came a shift in focus. A little over a day later, Aspen High School girls soccer held our first official training session of the high school season. As we dashed up the overheated, steamy stairwell, I heard our assistant coach Michelle Gray yell, “This is for Basalt!” With one last burst of motivation, we all push to the top of the stairs and begin to chant, “We are Aspen, mighty Aspen. No one likes us . . . we don’t care!”
As we raced back up the stairwell I begin to think about our upcoming season. In less than a month, many of us will have to face our fellow teammates on the field and compete for the League title as well as a spot in the State Playoffs.
A drastic contrast strikes me as I think about my fellow FC-G17 teammates. Though the town-to-town rivalries are still very clear, playing against your friends adds a fun and unprecedented aspect to the game. Understanding exactly how our opponents play and where their next run is going to be gives us an immediate advantage, although it is two-sided.
Though these games are light-hearted in nature, playing against our old teammates usually becomes intense and can quickly become a game of physicality. After 90 minutes of close and rough play, someone has to walk off the field with a loss. Though emotions and passion run strong throughout the game, we conclude the game with big hugs as we pass through the conventional ‘good game’ line. On the short bus ride home, I often find myself contemplating these games. Whether I am frustrated or ecstatic with the result, I always find myself thanking my opponents, my teammates, and my friends for the opportunities the beautiful game of soccer and this Valley have given me.