For the five seniors on the Rock Springs Lady Tigers soccer team, the excitement surrounding the start of the 2021 season is bittersweet.
On one hand, it’s been nearly two years since any of the girls have played a game at the high school level and the thought of once again competing in black and orange is exhilarating.
On the other hand, it’s the final year the seniors will play together on the same team and the obstacles that they have had to overcome over the last year shortchanged some opportunities and experiences that they have missed out on together.
But all in all, the group is collectively grateful to be back on the field doing what they love to do, despite the heartache the last year brought to them.
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The Striking Blow
On April 7, 2020, Olivia Politi, Lauren Profaizer, Amrey Willoughby, Zoe Silovich and Alex Moeller all remember the crushing blow when the Wyoming High School Activities Association cancelled their junior soccer season after weeks of uncertainty.
Before the cancellation, Rock Springs had held tryouts and practiced for a week before heading off for spring break. As the COVID-19 virus began to make it’s way throughout the state, the decision was made that all high school spring sports would be cancelled for the safety of everyone involved.
“When it happened, it was a shock to all of us,” Silovich said. “It was an outdoor sport so we thought we had a good chance of it happening.”
“It didn’t feel real,” Profaizer said. “We were excited because it was our best chance to win state and we were a really good team that year.”
The day after the announcement from the WHSAA wasn’t any easier. The entire team shed tears as they handed in their equipment, knowing the season had been lost. Emotions were high, the situation seemed unfair and there was nothing to do except feel anger and sadness.
What was meant to be had quickly turned into what could have been.
Losing More than a Season
As if losing their soccer season wasn’t devastating enough, losing their assistant coach a week later was even more shocking and unexpected.
“That was also very difficult for the team. It was hard because we couldn’t be together and go through that together,” Moeller said.
In remembrance of their coach, the girls all had lanterns, which they lit up and released into the sky at the same time, each taking a moment to reflect on their leader, coach and friend.
“It was really hard on most of us because we were close with him in some way. We’ve all seen him since freshmen year, so not finishing out our high school career with him is what made me hurt the worst,” Willoughby said.
Although they had lost one of their own, they never lost their love for the game. However, finding motivation to keep practicing and hoping for a season was another difficult challenge. With so much uncertainty, staying in shape and finding a reason to go practice by themselves seemed illogical.
“Having the motivation to go play soccer was hard at first,” Politi said. “It’s not like you had a season going on. We didn’t know if there would be a season in the summer or even our senior season.”
“Your junior year is the year that coaches start recognizing you and when you showcase yourself,” Porfaizer said. “We missed that whole entire season and so it was like what do I do now?”
Moeller said that she had sent numerous emails out trying to promote herself among schools to figure out her future after high school. She had one opportunity to tryout for a team in Florida, but with current NCAA restrictions, the soonest she can tryout is in June.
“Now I’m trying to find another place to play at so I don’t have to wait and then still maybe not even play for them,” Moeller said.
Willoughby also said she has a recruiter helping her, but her future is unknown since many soccer programs are not currently in their recruiting period.
I know some of us definitely feel like we missed out on some opportunities.Lauren Profaizer
A Season of Hope
Regardless of the lost opportunities and difficult challenges, the group collectively felt like 2020 taught them more about themselves.
“Respect what you have, because it’s going to be gone faster than you know,” Profaizer said.
Willoughby added that she saw the team grow into a family with the passing of their assistant coach.
“I’ve learned a lot over the year and not taking things for granted is a big one. I feel like I’ve learned how to find motivation and play and keep going despite everything that’s going on,” Silovich said.
Politi summed up the group’s overarching response which is that overcoming adversity is hard, but rewarding once you push through those challenges.
“There were a lot of blocks in the road getting to where we are now. But we learned how to overcome and deal with it,” Politi said.
With practices underway and games approaching quickly, there’s nothing but pure excitement and appreciation for the opportunity to play the highly anticipated soccer season.
A season that was once what could have been, is now what could be.