Carlos Orostieta, head coach: Oh, what a year, what a year. My last year before retirement, you know, and what a way to go out! Such a group of girls, I loved them all. Though I guess I say that about all my girls. I coached 40 years, did you know that? 40 years! So many girls came through, I can’t remember them all, but that last year, oh, yes, I remember them. Of course, some of them are still playing. Did you see the World Cup this last time? Four of my girls played. Four! Three from that last team. Not all starters, of course, but still, four players, that’s quite an accomplishment, don’t you think? Ah, yes, I was a lucky man, a very lucky man.
My expectations that season were high, very high. We’d done well the year before, made it all the way to the championship, so I knew we’d be good again. The defense, in particular. My goodness, what a defense we had that year! I never coached a defense so good. How many shutouts did we have? Eight? Nine? Ten? Someone told me we would’ve set a record if not for those last few games.
The offense, it was not as good. That was a frustration. We could never find a consistent goal scorer. A goal or two from this girl, a goal or two from that girl. There was never anyone on that team you could really count on to give you a goal when you needed it. Very frustrating. But the defense? Oh, the defense! Who needed goals with a defense like that? Best defense I ever coached. I mean that. 40 years, eight state titles, and that was the best defense I ever coached.
Catalina Forero, center back: Yeah, we were pretty loaded that year, weren’t we? And experienced, too. Lot of seniors. I was a senior. Hayley Swanson was a senior. I figured one of us would be captain. Probably me. But, you know how things went with that. Oh, you don’t? Well, good lord, what a mess. [rolls eyes] I don’t even want to get into it.
See, here’s the thing... I thought it was gonna be a drama-free year, right? Everything just smooth sailing. I’d be captain, most likely. I’d run a tight ship. The team would roll to the title. Easy, breezy, lemon squeezy.
Nope. Not even close. Pretty much non-stop drama right from the first day. New players. Fights. Season-ending injuries. Soccer’s not hard enough? You gotta add drama? Crazy.
And I’d thought it would be so chill, you know? The easiest year ever. But what’s that expression? If you want to make God laugh, make a plan. Something like that. Well, my plan was for a nice, easy year. And God was like, “Nope!” [laughs] “Hope you like chaos, Catalina!” [laughs]
Kaitlyn Baker, central midfielder: That was my senior year, but my first year at East. My parents were getting divorced and gave us the option of who we could live with. My brother stayed with Mom, but I moved in with my dad. And I moved solely for soccer. Solely so I could play for Carlos Orostieta. It was his last year, you know. He’d been coaching there for, what, thirty, forty years? He’d built East Sycamore into a juggernaut. Best program in the state. So yeah, it was an easy choice where to live. I chose completely and totally for soccer.
Granted, things weren’t perfect. There were some tough times. Some injuries, some arguments, all that sort of thing. But that’s part of soccer, isn’t it? There’s no such thing as a perfect season. Every team goes through ups and downs. That’s part of the appeal, part of the reason we love it.
Was there a little extra drama that year? Maybe. Was I a part of it? Sure. Definitely. But would I change a minute of it? No. I loved that team. Loved that year. I’ll never forget it.
Estefania Higuain, left back: That’s a tough year to talk about. Not the soccer. The soccer was fine. But everything else?
That was the year my brother died.
I was a junior. Hugo would’ve been a senior, if he’d still been going to school. We’d moved to be closer to the hospital. I guess they specialized in bone cancer or something. That’s what Hugo had. Bone cancer. So my parents moved us for that.
At first, I didn’t think I’d go out for the team, but Hugo told me I had to. He loved soccer more than anything, and, you know, if he couldn’t play, then I had to. That’s what he told me.
The team itself, I didn’t know much about them. They were supposed to be good, but that didn’t matter. I wasn’t really playing for wins and losses. I was playing for Hugo.
Chamique Lennox, backup goalkeeper: I wasn’t even supposed to be on the team. Did you know that? Coach talked me into it.
He was my Spanish teacher. I was just this nobody kid. A freshman. Nobody at all. But I was tall. Only 5′ 11” back then, but still growing. So one day in Spanish class, he asked if I play soccer.
I’d only played, like, one year in middle school. Goalie. But he was like, Perfect, that’s where I’d want you to play.
I really didn’t want to do it. Just the pressure, you know? I mean, the team was really, really good. And I’m supposed to back up Hayley Swanson? The Hayley Swanson? She was like a god at that school. She was tall and pretty, she played for the U18 National Team. Have you interviewed her yet? No? Well, that doesn’t surprise me. She’s pretty private. Maybe being a big star does that to you. Everybody wants a piece of you, so you protect yourself a little. I don’t know.
Anyway, that was the situation. Coach was like, Don’t worry, you’ll be the backup to the backup. Third string. No pressure at all.
So, yeah. No pressure at all. And we know how that turned out, right?
Lisa Roney, center back: Oh, that was such a great year! I loved that team. Such a good bunch of girls. And Coach, I loved him. He’s just the nicest guy. Have you talked to him yet? He’s like your favorite grandfather. Crossed with Santa Claus. He’s like a Latino Santa Claus grandfather. You can’t help but love him.
That was my junior year. Catalina was next to me and we had a really good partnership. The team’s offense was only so-so, but the defense? Me and Catalina in the middle? Hayley Swanson in goal? Our fullbacks? Man, what a defense!
There were some bumps in the road, sure. For me, for the team. But maybe that’s part of the reason I loved that year. If it had been a smooth ride? If we’d cruised the whole way? That’s boring. Forgettable. But nope, no smooth ride for us. Drama, right from the start.
Heck, I’d say the drama started first day, really, when you think about Catalina and Kaitlyn.