11v11: An Oral History of the Two Greatest High School Soccer Teams That Never Actually Existed

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East Sycamore

Carlos Orostieta, head coach: As the first game approached, I had to make a decision on who would be my captain. I considered giving the armband to Hayley Swanson, you know. Just to avoid the trouble. But that would have been a cowardly move. It had to be Kaitlyn or Catalina.

When Friday came and the team was getting ready for our first game, I made the decision. I gave the armband to Kaitlyn.

It was the right decision. Yes, Hayley Swanson may have been our best player, and, yes, Catalina and Lisa and the rest of the defense, they were the strength of the team, but let me tell you, the heart of the team? The heart? Why, that was Kaitlyn Baker. So much passion. So much intensity. She led that team, without a doubt. The captain’s armband belonged to her.

I can tell you, my friend, that decision did not go over well with Catalina Forero. The rest of the team was okay with it, but Catalina, no.

Catalina Forero, center back: God, I was pissed. Just pissed. All the time I’d put into that team? All the years? And then Kaitlyn shows up out of nowhere and is captain? Yeah, it sucked. I was bitter.

The first game of the year – I don’t remember who it was against. Somebody. It doesn’t matter – I kind of had a black cloud following me around the field that day. I don’t think it hurt my play, not that I remember – we shut them out. We had a lot of shutouts that year – but it hurt my enjoyment of the game, that’s for sure. Kaitlyn was up there in center midfield and, you know, doing all her typical Kaitlyn stuff, running her mouth the whole time. Watch this girl! Watch that girl! Keep it tight! Dump it off! Swing it! Just non-stop, the whole game. And I was on the back line, just resenting the hell out of her.

I think it was the 70th minute, maybe the 75th when she got hurt. Right near the end. [pauses] Wait, you know high school games only go 80 minutes, right? Okay, good. Not everybody knows that.

So anyway, it’s late in the game and Kaitlyn’s hurt. Not hurt bad, just got knocked in the leg or something. Kaitlyn played hard as hell – still does – so she picked up knocks now and then. So in maybe like the 75th minute, she took a knee to her hip or something like that. Deep bruise, lot of pain. We were up 1-0, maybe 2-0. I’m not sure the other team even had a shot. It was an easy win. So Coach decides Kaitlyn’s done for the day. Welp, as she’s limping off the field, she comes over to me with the armband. She was like, “Here you go, Catalina. Take us the rest of the way.”

And I refused. Turned and walked away. I think she ended up giving it to Hayley.

Kaitlyn Baker, central midfielder, team captain: Yeah, that was a mess. That was a bad situation.

I don’t think I realized how angry Catalina was until then. I knew she wanted to be captain – who wouldn’t? – but I didn’t realize she was holding as much anger as that.

I think... That whole thing, I think it was a little bit of an eye-opener for me. In a way, it’s actually a good thing Catalina refused the armband that first game. Because it kind of made me stop and think, Wait, hold on, maybe this is more complicated than I’d thought. Maybe there’s more to being captain than just motivating people, egging them on, being the hardest worker, leading by example. Maybe a captain’s also got to make sure everyone feels like they’re a part of the team.

Because I think that’s part of what was happening with Catalina. If she’s not captain, is she still a part of the team? I had to convince her she was.

Catalina Forero, center back: Looking back on it from ten years later, it all seems stupid, but at the time, it really got in my head. That’s what it’s like when you’re young, I think. You’re dealing with stuff for the first time and you don’t always handle it well. The thing with Kaitlyn? Not being named captain? I didn’t handle it well. Refusing the armband that first game? I couldn’t have handled that any worse. That was so stupid of me. So childish. But again, like I said, I was a kid. We were all kids. We were dealing with stuff for the first time, and sometimes you make mistakes.

Kaitlyn and I, we worked it out. Not all in one fell swoop, of course. It took a while. There were some fights. Some resentment. But we figured it out. Eventually.

And if she ever had to leave a game? I never refused the armband again.

Lisa Roney, center back: The Kaitlyn/Catalina thing? I tried really hard not to get caught up in that. I mean, being part of the back line, playing next to Catalina every day, how could I not? And sure, I guess I was on her side. But in a lot of ways, I just wanted it to settle down so we could play soccer.

The team was doing great. Just fabulous. How many wins did we have to start the season? A bunch. And they were all, like, 1-0, 2-0, that sort of thing. The offense? Nothing special. But the defense? Man, we were rock solid. Friggin’ Hayley Swanson in goal, me and Catalina in front of her. Estefania and Sylvia [Danielson] out to the sides. That’s a hell of a defense. That’s a rock-solid defense. Opposing teams, they’d sometimes get lucky. Score on a penalty kick or something. But other than that? Nothing. Hell, sometimes they wouldn’t even get a shot off. It was fabulous.

Our offense? It was only so-so. But that was fine, because if they gave us even a single goal, the game was won. That’s how confident we were.

And you know how it is, when your team’s winning, that eases a lot of tension. The Kaitlyn/Catalina thing? It settled down. Winning will do that.

Estefania Higuain, left back: I told you how hard that year was, but in some ways, I felt really, really lucky, you know? My family, we didn’t move so I could be on this great team. We moved for Hugo. For the hospital. But it just so happened that the nearest high school had the best soccer team in the state. And I’m their starting left back? How lucky is that?

Hugo loved it, of course. “Tell me about the game. Who scored the goal?” And of course he wanted to hear about Kaitlyn Baker. He loved her. Never laid an eye on her, but he loved her. “Did she get another yellow card? Did she yell at the ref again? Is she still fighting with Catalina?”

Like I told you, sometimes, even if nothing happened, I’d make up stuff to tell Hugo. Just to see him light up. He needed something good in his life.

[long pause]

I’m sorry. It’s still hard to talk about.

[long pause]

Hugo was dying. It was clear. The team was winning, I was playing well, but at home, my brother was dying. Actually, he wasn’t always at home. At a certain point, he had to move into the hospital full-time. The thing they were doing – chemo, I guess. I’m not sure – it wasn’t working anymore, and they wanted to try something new.

That was such a hard time. For him, for me, for the whole family. Hugo was a skeleton. Sick all the time. And now, living in the hospital.

I could walk there from school. The hospital was actually closer to school than to home, so I would usually have soccer practice, then go straight to the hospital. Hugo, he was bad, he was tired, but he still wanted to hear all the details. I’m glad we were a good team. I’m glad I could tell him about wins, not losses. Maybe it helped a little, there at the end.

Chamique Lennox, backup goalkeeper: Yeah, we were great. I think the team started 9-0, 10-0, maybe more. I can’t remember.

You know, I say “We were great,” but I was barely part of the team at that point. Hayley was dominant. Even way back then, she was crazy-good. And with her playing every minute, the team hardly needed a backup keeper, much less two. In practice, Hayley was doing most of the drills. Ruthann would do a few, then I’d do a very few. Mostly I watched. I guess you can learn a lot watching a badass like Hayley. I don’t know. I just know I didn’t really have much to do with those first however many games we won at the start of the year.

I got to go on the bus, though. You know, for away games. It was so great. Lisa and I would sit together and hold hands and kind of cuddle a little bit. Not cuddle, exactly, but you know, just kind of lean up against each other and stuff. Maybe little tiny kisses. The other girls, they teased us some. Lisa and Chamique... sittin’ in a tree... K-I-S-S-I-N-G. You know, stupid stuff. I loved that, too. I loved how Lisa would just lean over and kiss me while flipping everyone the bird. [laughs] She didn’t care. I loved that confidence. I didn’t have it, of course, but I loved how she did.

Gosh, there’s nothing like your first girlfriend, you know? It’s just so exciting. So scary, so exciting. Kissing for the first time, God how great was that? I’d actually kissed a boy before, at a party back in middle school. Spin the bottle. But, oh man, kissing a girl is... there’s no comparison. None. And, you know, holding hands, too. Just something simple like that, it was so wonderful, doing it all for the first time.

Lisa Roney, center back: It was fun watching Chamique deal with coming out. I’d had to do it myself just a couple years earlier. We all go through it. Every gay person in the world. It’s different for everyone, I guess. But also the same.

Chamique handled it really well. Came out to herself, came out to me, came out to a few of my gay friends. A lot of girls would’ve stopped there, but no, Chamique was all-in. She was like, Let’s do this. Let’s be gay. So then she was coming out to the team, coming out to the school. She did all this in, like, a month. Maybe two months, tops. So brave. So enthusiastic.

Dating someone who’s going through all those changes, all those big milestones, it’s fun. It’s exciting. It’s almost like you’re going through them as well.

I really enjoyed that time with Chamique. I know she was just a freshman, but I really liked her. She was a hell of a girl.

Chamique Lennox, backup goalkeeper: The last step was coming out to my family, and that was terrifying. I’m not even sure why, because my parents are super-cool. I shouldn’t have been so afraid, but I was.

But still, I knew I had to do it. I had to come out to them. Because I was going through this amazing, wonderful, life-changing thing, you know? And I wanted my family in on it. I wanted them to be a part of it. I wanted to be able to talk to Mom about Lisa – tell her about dates, ask her for advice, all that stuff, all that normal teenager dating stuff – and I couldn’t. It was awful.

So, eventually, I was like, I don’t care if it’s scary. I’ve got to do this. I’ve got to be brave.

Lisa Roney, center back: I was there, but I didn’t know it was gonna happen. Chamique just sort of surprised me with it.

It was before a game, I can’t remember which one. Maybe a month or two into the season? It was a home game and the whole team’s walking from the locker room out to the field. Uniforms on, cleats clickity-clacking on the sidewalk, Chamique and I walking together. All of a sudden, she says something like, “Oh, it’s my mom and dad. What are they doing here?” She starts waving and points to this couple up ahead and I’m like, Oh, cool, you know, not really thinking much. Then she grabs my arm and starts pulling me toward them. “Let’s go say hi.”

I knew she wasn’t out with her parents, so I was immediately on guard. I was like, Okay, how do I play this? You know, I didn’t want to stand too close to Chamique, didn’t want them to think we were more than friends, didn’t want to do anything to give Chamique away.

But then she was like, “Hey, Mom. Hey, Dad.” Kissed them on the cheek, probably. And then, “This is my girlfriend, Lisa.”

I was immediately like, Wait, what? Her parents were, too. They’ve got this confused look on their faces, I’ve got this confused look on my face, and Chamique’s there in the middle of us, slipping her arm around my waist. “We’ve been dating for a while now.”

[laughs]

Man, the guts that girl had. So brave.

Chamique Lennox, backup goalkeeper: I wasn’t brave. I was terrified. But you know that thing they say, Fake it ’til you make it? That’s completely true. In almost everything.

I had to fake it a lot that year. I was this little freshman girl, this little baby lesbian, all scared and stuff, but I didn’t want to be. I wanted to be brave. So I faked it. I faked being brave. And it worked. Completely and totally.

Fake it ’til you make it, man. It works.

Carlos Orostieta, head coach: 10-0, I think we started. Or was it 11-0? No, it was 12-0! Or was it? [laughs] My old brain, I can barely remember. I know we were very, very good.

The defense was the key, of course. It was very, very strong. Our games, they were usually 1-0. 2-0. I don’t know how many goals Hayley Swanson gave up that year, but it was not many. Maybe a penalty kick here, a deflected shot there, but otherwise, nothing. An amazing keeper, Hayley was. Still is, of course. Did you see her in the last World Cup? The Japan game? Oh, my goodness! How many saves did she make that day? Amazing!

But anyway, the season was going well. Giving Kaitlyn Baker the captain’s armband, that turned out to be the right decision. The whole season, she was the one who pushed the team. When things got tough, was I the one yelling and screaming? No, I was an old man. [laughs] After 40 seasons, I didn’t have a lot of screaming and yelling left in me. Kaitlyn, though, she still had that fire. If it was late in a game and people were moving a little slow, Kaitlyn would let them hear about it. When she saw someone she thought could be working harder, she let them hear about it.

Most of the time, she did it well. Most of the time she knew when to yell and when to stop. But there were some missteps. Of course there were. She was young, and her passion, it could get the best of her. Maybe she would get on a teammate a bit too much and there would be bruised feelings.

And, yes, there were some ejections, too. There were some red cards. [laughs] Kaitlyn would feel a teammate had been hard done by, and perhaps she would tell the referee a little too strongly. Use some language. Get herself ejected. [laughs] I think she missed one or two games that way.

Did it frustrate me a little? Sure. But it was a price I was willing to pay. The team needed Kaitlyn’s passion. They needed her heart.

But of course, in the end, that season wasn’t about Kaitlyn Baker. It was about the defense. Hayley Swanson. Roney and Forero. Higuain and Danielson. My goodness, what a defense!

Kaitlyn Baker, central midfielder, team captain: Nobody put up major stats. I scored a couple goals. Maybe three, tops. [Forward Gloria] Cayetano and [midfielder Vilma] Aguilar, they might’ve had three or four each. Scoring was a group effort. A goal here, a goal there, that’s how we did it.

But the defense? Who needed goals with a defense like that? As far as teamwork goes, I’m not sure I’ve played with a better back four. Even to this day. I mean that. Those four girls, plus Hayley Swanson behind them, they were like a well-oiled machine. How many goals did they give up that year? Three? Four? I’m not even sure it was that much.

Three national team players. Two World Cup starters. That’s who I had playing behind me. In high school! It’s insane.

Catalina Forero, center back: We were 11-0 when we played West. They were, too, which was crazy. West Sycamore? Good? They were never good. I mean, ask us who our rival was and we wouldn’t say West Sycamore. We’d say North Sycamore. Maybe Ravenscroft. Or Jefferson. But West? They were just this school across town. I think football was their thing. Maybe basketball. Certainly not soccer. And here they were, 11-0 and ranked number three in the state. Crazy.

So yeah, we were excited. The season was going well, we were cruising along, and now we were gonna get to see what this crazy West Sycamore team was all about.

We talked, of course. “Oh, did you hear? West beat so-and-so 5-0.” “Oh, did you hear? Maria Solana got player of the week again.” That sort of thing. Their team, it’s kinda like they were a myth or something. Were they real? No one knew. Was their offense as good as it seemed? Did Maria Solana walk on water? [laughs]

So everyone was really excited. We were finally gonna get to play them, finally see if they were the real deal. 11-0 versus 11-0. I was so pumped.

Estefania Higuain, left back: That whole day was very exciting. I remember it well. The game was at their place, so we had to bus across town. It was my first time going to West Sycamore, of course. Everyone told me they usually weren’t too good, but that year? My goodness, everyone was talking about them. Hugo even knew about them. “You’ve got to tell me about this Solana girl,” he said. She was scoring like two or three goals a game, you know. Like Lionel Messi or something. Everyone wanted to see her. Hugo, me, the whole team.

So we ride the bus across town and we file off and we’re on their field doing our warm ups. Kaitlyn’s leading us, of course. Stretches, warm up drills, all the usual. But we’re all kind of distracted, we’re all sort of halfway watching West warm up over on their half of the field. We’re checking them out, trying to see who’s who. Sylvia and I were next to each other and she was like, “Which one’s Solana? None of them look like anything special. Is that her? Number 17? Is that her?”

Well, finally it’s game time and Coach pulls the whole team together and tells us Solana’s not there. She’s got a cold or something. Home in bed, eating chicken soup and sneezing.

Oh, it was so disappointing!

Carlos Orostieta, head coach: In the end, it was a normal game for us. 1-0 we won. I think West got two or three shots on goal, which I have to tell you, is more than most teams got against us that year. So clearly there was still talent on that team. But without Solana? No, they could not break us down.

I felt bad for Nykesha Nolan. She was a good young coach. Very energetic, very exciting. I liked her a great deal. When we talked before the game, I could see how upset she was. And then after the game, she told me she’d been looking at the game as a real test. A test to see how good their team really was.

If they’d had Solana that day, would they have won? I cannot say. I think they would have gotten more shots. Maybe put a real scare in us. But remember, we had some pretty good players, too. [laughs] So there is no telling.

After the game, Nykesha and I, we shook hands. “Maybe we’ll meet in the playoffs,” I told her. “And then, we’ll both be full strength, okay?”

Oh, my. If only I could have seen into the future.

Chamique Lennox, backup goalkeeper: Ruthann was sick that next week. Tuesday at practice, Wednesday at practice, Thursday at practice, she was home sick, so, you know, my life suddenly got a whole lot busier. I’m playing in the opposite net during scrimmages, helping Hayley with her drills, all the stuff Ruthann normally did. Second-string keeper stuff.

Then Friday comes around and we’ve got our game that day and Ruthann’s still not there. Coach comes and finds me and says, “Good news, kid. You’ve been promoted.”

Turns out, it wasn’t just a cold Ruthann had. She had mono. She was gonna be sick for weeks. Maybe the rest of the season. So Coach is being super-serious with me. I mean, he’s still sweet and kind and funny, because, you know, he’s Coach, but still, he’s like, “You need to be ready to play, Chamique. Physically ready, mentally ready, emotionally ready. You’re Hayley’s backup now. The team’s counting on you.”

I was terrified. I pretended I wasn’t, but I was. Just terrified.

Kaitlyn Baker, central midfielder, team captain: Beating West had put us at 12-0. We were ranked first in the state, we had two games left in the regular season, everything was going pretty much perfectly. Honestly, I figured we’d enter the playoffs 14-0, then roll to the title. I was totally confident.

And, of course, what happens? It all falls apart.

The game was on the road. Who was it against? I want to say Clifford Hills. They were nothing special. Just your average team. Nothing to worry about.

First half, we scored on a corner. I’m almost positive it was Roney. One of those typical ugly goals we scored a lot of that year. Ye-Jee [Park, the team’s right midfielder] lofts the corner kick into the middle of the box and Roney out-jumps someone. 1-0, just like that.

With our team that year, as soon as we got a goal, we felt we’d won the game. Seriously. Our defense was that good. Take that game for example, Clifford Hills didn’t get a single shot in the first half. And I’m not talking shots on goal, I’m talking shots, period. They didn’t have a single shot. They could barely get the ball across midfield. Our back four was playing a super-high line, the midfield, we were pressuring the hell out of the ball, shutting things down before they started, and Hayley Swanson was back there in goal, bored out of her mind, I’m sure. Doing her Math homework, probably. That’s how a lot of our games were that year.

So, as I recall, it was right after halftime that it happened. Clifford Hills, they were really pushing, really trying to move forward, and one of their girls, she finally gets the ball across midfield, and she probably thinks to herself, Well, I should just go ahead and shoot from here. Because, you know, we may never get this close again. So she fires this super-long shot. It was from, I don’t know, forty yards out. Not a terribly dangerous shot. Fairly soft. But it loops over the back line, bounces, and is heading for goal. Not dangerous or anything. Not moving fast. But at least it was on target, right? At least Swanson has to put away her homework and save the thing, right? [laughs]

So what happens? Swanson goes down on one knee, scoops it up, and what does she do? Breaks her finger. Can you believe it? Jams a finger into the ground and breaks it. Unbelievable.

We didn’t realize it right away. Not even Swanson. She knew it hurt... but broken? No. She stayed in the game for a few minutes, but then the finger started swelling and the pain got to be too much and she had to go out. You should’ve seen her finger when she pulled off her gloves. Swollen up like a sausage. I was standing there with her and Coach and a few others. Soon as I saw it, I knew she was done for the day.

And on such a simple play, too. Such a nothing play. I mean, if your goalkeeper’s going to break her finger, it should be on some spectacular diving play, right? Not kneeling down and scooping up some soft little rolling ball.

But, anyway, that was it for Swanson. And since our backup keeper had mono, who’s coming in? Our backup’s backup. Chamique Lennox.

Chamique Lennox, backup goalkeeper: It was like my worst nightmare. I can’t even describe how scared I was.

I’d been the backup for, what, three days? Not even three days, since all that time at practice, I’d just assumed Ruthann would be back the next day. So, really, I’d only truly been the backup for, what, two hours?

So there I was, sitting on the bench, and Coach turns and yells over to me, “Chamique. Get your gloves on. You’re going in.”

I still remember the way my stomach dropped. I turned to the girl next to me – I don’t remember who it was. Another bench warmer – and I was like, “What did he say?” I’m not even sure I said that much. I was probably just silent, my mouth open or something.

I know I was silent when I was walking onto the field. I got off the bench and was walking onto the field and Coach was like, “Your gloves! Get your gloves!” And I looked down and realized I didn’t have them on, so I ran back to the bench and got them. And then I couldn’t put them on right. Maybe I was putting them on the wrong hands or something. [laughs] It’s funny now, looking back, but at the time, it was awful. It’s like I was in a trance or something.

So I finally got the gloves on and was walking onto the field and Coach probably said something, but I don’t know what. I was pretty much deaf. That walk out to the goal was in super slow motion. It just took forever. Players were saying things to me. Who knows what. I didn’t hear any of it. All I heard was my pulse in my ears. All I felt was my stomach dragging along on the ground, getting caught up in my feet.

Eventually, there I was in goal. Hopefully facing the right direction. [laughs] I don’t know what I looked like to everyone else. Maybe I looked like a real goalkeeper. Like I knew what I was doing. But honestly, in my head, there was nothing. My mind was a complete blank. Deer in the headlights.

Lisa Roney, center back: It was awful. I felt so bad for her. I wanted to just wrap my arms around her and hold her but, you know, you can’t do that on a soccer field. And anyway, we had a game to play. The ref blew the whistle and suddenly we were live again. Or, barely alive. It was crazy how losing Hayley took the air out of everyone.

I want to be completely clear on this; Chamique did not lose us that game. The entire team is to blame. The entire team fell apart. I mean, come on, we gave up three goals in the second half. Three goals! We go from giving up one lame shot from midfield in the entire game to giving up three goals in thirty minutes? That’s not the keeper’s fault. That’s the whole defense falling apart. Me, Catalina, the fullbacks, the midfield, everyone. We were a mess. Completely shaken.

And the thing is, we knew it. I’ve gotta give the team credit. No one was blaming Chamique. Well, not really. A couple times, Catalina yelled at her, “You’ve gotta talk to us! You’ve gotta tell us what you’re doing back there!”

I was like, “Cut her some slack, Cat! She’s out of her league!”

To be honest, I’m not sure that was the right thing to say. I mean, one, I was in a weird spot, considering Chamique was my girlfriend and all. And also, Chamique heard that. She heard me talking about how lost she was. Which couldn’t have been good for her confidence.

Well, what are you going to do? It was the truth. Chamique was overwhelmed. We couldn’t count on her to help us stay organized. The rest of us needed to step up and do it without her. And clearly, we failed.

Jeesh. How does a defense fall apart that completely? Three goals. Three. That probably matched our season total up to that point. It was awful. We’re all to blame.

After the game, Chamique was just devastated. We all were, but she was the worst. We sat together on the bus ride home, but there wasn’t much to say. It was a pretty quiet bus. Our perfect season was gone, our all-star goalie was done, and we’d just shown that we couldn’t win without her.

That bus ride home was probably the low point of the whole season.

Estefania Higuain, left back: Wow, things got so bad those last couple weeks. Everything. The team, my family, everything was just awful.

We had our first loss on Friday, and then that weekend, Hugo’s health fell apart. Just a serious, serious downturn. We’d had him at home for a week or two, but that weekend he had to go back to the hospital.

And then Monday we find out Hayley’s done for the year. It wasn’t a broken finger, it was a torn ligament, but that didn’t really matter. Her season was over. Our best player, gone.

And, of course, that meant the playoffs were no longer a sure thing. Only eight teams in the whole state made the playoffs, you know. Some years, 12-2 would get you in. Some years, it wouldn’t. We’d started 12-0, which helped, but now we were 12-1. If we lost our last game, would we make it in?

We’d gone from being a sure thing to having our backs completely against the wall.

Carlos Orostieta, head coach: Oh, yes, my friend, it was difficult. It was very, very difficult.

I had to find a backup goalkeeper, of course. How do you like that? I go from having three to having one. And the one I have is this poor freshman who wasn’t even planning on going out for the team!

I think what I ended up doing was... I went to somebody. The basketball coach, I think. Their season hadn’t started yet, so I asked her, “Who’s your best athlete?” Whoever the girl was, I told her, “Congratulations, you’re our new backup goalkeeper. See you at practice this afternoon.” [laughs] Can you believe it?

So, obviously, that was a busy week of practice. You would think most of my time would be spent coaching Chamique, but to be honest, Hayley Swanson did most of that. Her hand was in a splint, I think, but there she was anyway, working with Chamique. Running her through drills, working on her fundamentals. Her shot-stopping. Her distribution. Hayley was wonderful, to be honest. A natural coach. Mark my words, Hayley Swanson will be coaching someday. When her playing career ends – whenever that is – she will be coaching somewhere. I am sure of it.

So that freed me to work with the rest of the team. Get them ready to play without Hayley. Not an easy task, I can tell you. As good as that back four was? You’d be surprised how much they relied on Hayley behind them. For communication, you see. Hayley was always very vocal. Always telling her defense where she was, what she saw, what she needed them to do.

Could Chamique do all that? Goodness, no. Not a chance. She was tall and quick and could stop shots well, but she was still learning the game. And she was behind two incredibly good, very experienced center backs. Asking a freshman to yell at Catalina Forero? At Lisa Roney? That was a lot to ask.

Friday’s game – the season’s final game – was against Jefferson. We lost 2-1.

On the whole, our defense was better than it had been against Clifford Hills. Chamique was silent in goal, of course, but Catalina and Lisa covered for her. They did the yelling. Both for Chamique and at Chamique. Lisa, especially. Just letting Chamique know where to be, you know. What to watch for.

So yes, I would call it a better performance by the defense. Two goals conceded over 80 minutes versus three goals conceded over 30? That’s an improvement, I would say. But still, a loss is a loss. Two straight losses and we ended the regular season 12-2.

Catalina Forero, center back: The game was at home, so as soon as it was over, as soon as we’d lost, we were all back in the locker room checking our phones, finding out how other teams were doing. It was a mess. There were a bunch of teams hovering around that 13-1, 12-2, 11-3 area. If we were gonna make the playoffs, we needed a few teams to lose. We needed a little help.

Long story short, we got in. Barely. I think we were the eighth and final seed. Actually, I know we were, because our first round game was against the top seed, Wade Central, who were 14-0.

They were cruising along, we were a mess. They were full strength, we were playing our third-string keeper. It’s not how anyone imagined us entering the playoffs.

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