The seven seniors on the girls soccer team are cherishing their time together after losing their season last year and having to say goodbye to the 12 seniors who graduated in 2020.
Many players, like senior Grace Schieferecke, were excited at the thought of an extended spring break last year because they thought they would eventually get back to the field.
“At first it was kind of fun because we knew we would get off of school for a while, but then we realized we wouldn’t have a season anymore,” she said.
Schieferecke said she remembered being disappointed when head coach Darren Erpelding said they may have their season cut short or canceled the Wednesday before spring break last year.
“We made sure that we checked up on each other, and we would find ways that we could hang out in person while still social distancing,” she said.
Senior Brylee Graff said Erpelding kept the team updated as much as possible. After the season was canceled, Erpelding gave the players individual workouts to do. However, Schieferecke said this was difficult since soccer is a team sport.
“He had us work individually a lot and made sure to always keep our spirits up,” she said.
Senior Rachel Pratt said a lot of the players picked up jobs and worked over the summer and tried to practice together when they could. Pratt said everything is starting to feel more normal now since they are on the field together this year.
“I just enjoy playing soccer. It’s really fun. I’m so happy that I can do it this year and get to see everybody,” she said. “It feels a little bit more normal than everything has in the last year.”
Pratt said she is excited to see the team reach its potential.
“We were so close to getting to realize our potential last year, but it got cut off so short,” she said.
Senior Leah Williams said it took some time, but the team picked up from where they left off from when they were sophomores.
“I mean yeah, it took a little bit longer to knock the rust off, but just seeing the growth through the years of the program has been really cool,” she said.
Senior Harleigh Moore said the competition is different because they are facing teams that they haven’t seen in almost two years.
“It feels like every single game you’re playing a new team,” she said. “You still have the expectation that it’s the team you played our sophomore year and then you go out and you play them and it’s not exactly as you expected.”
Senior Alex Pascua shared similar thoughts.
“There’s no gauge to who’s good and who’s bad,” she said. “In the past, you were able to see ‘Oh, there's 12 seniors, so the next lineup is going to be different, or the next lineup is going to be even better than before,’ but that gap year definitely throws a lot of things off for sure.”
Pascua has committed to play soccer at Missouri Southern State University. She said the preparation for college soccer has been nerve-racking.
“I know that obviously high school is still competitive, but it’s not nearly as competitive as college ball, so I have to keep remembering that this is my last season with the high school team,” she said. “The players are going to be so different, the atmosphere is going to be so different. So I just soak up everything I can.”
Senior Kate Erpelding said not being able to see her teammates and friends last year was difficult.
She was able to spend time with her sister Jayla, who is a freshman on the team, but she has enjoyed being with her teammates again. She has known many of them since elementary school.
“It’s just like a really great family,” she said.
She has committed to play soccer at Kansas City Kansas Community College, but she said her focus is on her high school team.
Darren Erpelding said he has watched many of these players grow up and would like to see them go out on a high note after last year. These seniors would be the first group that he coached from freshman to senior year.
“I’ve seen these girls grow up ever since kindergarten and some of them go to our church and so even before that,” he said.
He hopes the team can break the school record of seven wins and have some postseason success.
“If we break that and then go to the playoffs and win a playoff game because we haven't won a playoff game yet,” he said. “Being able to do that, maybe make a run at the final four, get a regional championship, whatever it ends up being, I just want to see these girls have success.”
Reach reporter Chris Fortune at email@example.com.
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