This time last year, the Green River High School girls soccer team was battling it out on the field at the 4A West Regional Soccer Tournament.
The tournament was supposed to take place in Evanston this year, however, with the COVID-19 Coronavirus pandemic the girls weren’t able to get on the field all season.
Chris Nielsen, GRHS girls head soccer coach, said he knows why the season needed to be canceled and he supports the Sweetwater County School District No. 2 and the state leaders in their actions toward canceling the season, though that doesn’t make the decision any easier to deal with.
“Getting the season canceled was a rollercoaster of emotions,” Nielsen said. “Early on we were hopeful that we could get it going again, but as the situation progressed we could tell it wasn’t going to happen, which was disappointing for the girls.”
The team had been putting a lot of effort in the off season, not only with skills on the field, but also with fundraising and team bonding.
“The part that hurts the most is not being able to see what the girls could have accomplished throughout the season,” Nielsen said.
This was Nielsen’s first year as head coach for the Lady Wolves, though he was part of the coaching staff previously, and he and the girls, and especially the seniors, were working hard on creating positive and inclusive values for the team during the off season.
The team was building new team norms and creating a new atmosphere and culture through team bonding, fundraisers and service projects.
“It is discouraging that they won’t be able to see the outcome of all that hard work within the team. However, that work won’t be unnoticed in our future season. Their impact will continue to shape the team,” Nielsen said.
Seniors: Carly Kettering, Aurora Wiekhorst, Kaylee Hymas, Cassidy Smothers, Roryanne Ratliffe and Raena Finch were all excited to take leadership of the team and had hopes of leading the team to state before the COVID-19 pandemic dashed all possibility of doing so.
Playing Her Last Game Without Knowing It
Of course the news of the season being canceled was upsetting for Kettering. However, the truly heartbreaking moment was when she realized she played her last high school game without knowing it.
The Lady Wolves had a disappointing end to their season last year, being eliminated in the first round of the regional tournament.
“It was so sad for our seniors last year but little did I know it was my last game as well,” Kettering said.
This year, Kettering was looking forward to playing a new position and helping bring her team to state.
“My coach was going to put me in a new position that was going to allow me to be creative and have more freedom on the back line,” Kettering said. “I was hoping to make it to state with this team.”
Fortunately, Kettering will continue her soccer career at Laramie County Community College in the fall. She plans to study elementary education.
Working Toward Leadership and Inclusiveness
For Aurora Wiekhorst, this year was going to be her return to the field as she didn’t play her junior year.
“It was really disappointing news when we heard the season was postponed, and even more so when we heard it was canceled,” she said. “All of the seniors this year on the Lady Wolves team are girls that I have grown up playing with and going to school with forever.”
Wiekhorst was excited to take on a leader role on the team and create an inclusive environment for the younger girls.
“I was so excited for this soccer season because we were finally the ones who got to lead the team. Although we were leaders, we were all working together to make every girl feel welcome and part of our team,” Wiekhorst said.
Another reason Wiekhorst was especially excited for this season was because her sister entered high school this year and would be on the team with her.
“My little sister and I have never played on the same team before, but this year was our chance. So that was a major disappointment to me,” she said.
Wiekhorst was looking forward to bettering herself as a player this season, but now she is looking forward to watching the team grow even if she can’t be on the field with them.
“Coach Chris has an amazing coaching philosophy and I am so excited to watch the Lady Wolves in these next few years,” Wiekhorst said.
Though she is missing her teachers and friends a lot, she is very appreciative for the support she’s received from teachers, friends and teammates, the team parents, coaches, and the community at large.
Wiekhorst will be attending Sheridan College in the fall and will major in Dental Hygiene.
Missing Out on the Senior Experience
When Kaylee Hymas found out the season was postponed, she held onto hope that maybe they could return to the field.
“As the postponement went on, I realized that the possibility of the season being completely canceled was very large,” Hymas said. “When our coach, Chris Nielsen, broke the news I was so upset. I was upset I wouldn’t have a senior night and wouldn’t be able to experience all the things that make me love the sport.”
Hymas was looking forward to helping coach Nielsen achieve his goals for the team in his first year in the position.
“I was so excited to be able to be an athlete for coach Nielsen. With it being his first year as head coach, he had so many goals and all the senior girls were so excited to help him achieve them,” Hymas said.
Hymas said the team’s main goal was to create a culture of inclusiveness and positivity, which she believes they did even in their short amount of time together.
“Even in the short week we had together as a team, we could see that goal coming to fruition,” Hymas said.
Hymas’ personal goal was to savor her senior season as she knew it would go by too quickly.
Hymas will be attending Laramie County Community College in the fall where she will be studying Psychology.
With having her soccer season canceled and the remainder of her senior year moved online, Hymas feels like she never got closure to her high-school career.
“I don’t get to say goodbye to all my teachers and classmates and that has been so difficult for me. I just hope that they’re all staying healthy physically and mentally during this strange time,” she said.
Should Have Been the Best Season Yet
Cassidy Smothers was looking forward to her senior soccer season simply so she could step on the field one last time. As she is not continuing soccer in college, this year was her final year with the sport competitively.
“It has been completely heartbreaking and devastating receiving the news that my senior high school soccer season was canceled,” Smothers said.
Echoing her teammates, she said the girls’ goal for the season was to create an atmosphere of inclusiveness.
“Before the season had started, all of us seniors got together and had planned out many goals and expectations we had for ourselves and the team this season. Eliminating drama and spreading positivity both on and off the field was a major goal I wanted to accomplish this season,” she said.
Personally, she believed this season with this team was going to be promising for success.
“I expected this season to be the best one yet by encouraging everyone to put their all in and play like the team we know how to be,” Smothers said.
Smothers will be attending the University of Wyoming in the fall where she will finish up her generals and later major in Special Education.
Never Got the Chance to Go to State
Roryanne Ratliff was glad the season was not outright canceled, as it allowed her to come to terms with it slowly overtime.
“Receiving the news was a little hard but I am glad it wasn’t all at once. Rather than them canceling the season right away they would just keep postponing which gave me time to come with the realization that I might not have a season,” Ratliff said.
Ratliff had never had a chance to go to state and she was looking forward to being able to do so with the teammates she’s been playing alongside for years.
“I feels awful not being able to play my senior year of soccer, especially since most of us girls have been playing since we were very little,” she said. “My number one goal for this year was to help get our team to state. I personally never got the opportunity to go to state and that was what I was striving for this year.”
Ratliff was disappointed by the ending of her senior year and misses the classroom environment a lot.
“Doing school work in my room on a computer rather than being in an actual classroom was not the way I wanted to end my senior year,” she said.
Ratliff will be attending the University of Hawaii Mañoa in the fall and will be double majoring in Political Science and Psychology.
A Positive Spin On a Difficult Situation
When Raena Finch first learned the season was canceled, she was very upset as she believed she would not get to say goodbye to her teammates and coaches and did not think she would prepared for Western Wyoming Community College soccer.
However, she soon realized she could spin it into a positive as it allowed her to focus on her school work and grades.
“I really thought about it and it was kind of a blessing in the sky. He gave me more time to focus on school and to get my GPA back up without worrying about sports,” Finch said.
With school transitioning to online, Finch struggled with the loss of one-on-one instruction from teachers. Online learning has come with some challenges for Finch, and she is thankful that she didn’t have to balance soccer with the virtual learning.
However, like her fellow seniors, she had big goals for herself and the team that she would have liked to see come to fruition.
“Some of my goals were to improve myself as a player and some expectations that I had for my team was to actually win. We’ve had a tough season a few years in a row and I really thought this year was going to be our year,” she said.
While playing soccer at WWCC, Finch will be studying Business Management.
“After that, I would really love to go to cosmetology school,” she said.