In the immediate moments that follow a season-ending defeat, in a tournament game, there isn’t an athlete alive who can truly appreciate and celebrate the journey that they’ve been on. Losses bring about grief and pain.
Laughter and appreciation follow, but it takes awhile.
Co-captain Anna O’Neill grinned through her pain as she discussed what had just happened to her team in the Division 4 south semifinals against Hull, an opponent that her team was quite familiar with. The Pirates finished off a three-game sweep of the Falcons for the year and advanced to the regional championship game tomorrowon Saturday, November 16, by beating O’Neill’s team by a 2-0 score.
“We gave it everything we had,” she said, referring not only to the single game, but to the last few weeks of soccer for the Falcons.
The loss ended a run of five straight wins by Mashpee. The team had to win its last three regular season games just to earn a spot in the postseason. Once they got there, they did not want to leave, and won their first two games by a combined score of 10-1.
They believed that they could beat Hull, but it wasn’t meant to be.
“They’re a strong defensive team. It was the third time that we’ve played, so they know how we work and clearly they practiced it, and practiced shutting us down. I wouldn’t say that they completely shut us down. We had a good amount of scoring opportunities; we just couldn’t find the back of the net,” O’Neill said.
O’Neill said that her team did not fear losing, that they wanted to play with purpose. She said that they kept their cool, until it was obvious that it wasn’t going to happen.
“Coach said that we shouldn’t have that fear of losing because it would affect our play and it definitely did, but we all gave it out all when we needed to,” O’Neill said. “I didn’t think that we gave up completely. We were in it until the end.”
Fellow co-captain Ashley Keleher lamented that her team did not get the breaks that they needed to get out of Carver with another victory. She said that Hull played strong, but caught a couple of breaks.
“I thought both goals were definitely unlucky,” Keleher said. “That’s pretty much all that you can say.”
Coach Julienne McCuish said that her Falcons exceeded expectations, and with such a young overall roster, she think that this is the beginning of special times for the girls’ soccer team.
“I’m so proud of them. I’m so proud of this team; they’ve dug deep. We were close to not even qualifying for this tournament and they went on a great run and I’m 99.9 percent sure that this is the furthest that this program has ever made it. They should be really proud of it,” she said. “We’re definitely keeping our heads up and looking forward to next year. We’ve got a lot of strong returning talent. We’ll miss our seniors. We have a lot of respect for their leadership and they chipped away to help us qualify for the tournament last year and this year.”
The departing seniors said that the loss hurt, but the pain was worth it to go through the journey they had.
“Honestly, I can look back and I say I wouldn’t want it to end any other way,” she said.
O’Neill said the year was everything that she hoped it could be.
“If you had asked me in July how I wanted this season to go, this is it. This is exactly how I wanted it to go,” O’Neill said. “I wanted to make it further than last year, and we did that. I’m super proud of every single girl on this team. We stepped up big time to make it this far and make some history for our school.”