What do you get when a group of 17 high school girls spends four days together on a soccer trip in Anchorage? What happens off the field is almost more important than the games. For 97% of our time spent in Anchorage, we are not playing soccer; we are pranking our coaches, eating, shopping, swimming, recording choreographed van dances, eating more, and cheering on other teams.
The plane ride is always rough when you’re coming straight from school, but for the seniors, it’s a liberating feeling. No more high school left, and at the end of the trip, we will graduate. There are only soccer and fun to look forward to over the next four days. And the “fun” starts before we’re out of the airport; one of the boys decides to pull a prank and put Kiera’s (Clark) bag back on the luggage carousel.
Out of the airport, we head to Dimond High School for our hour practice. We get to loosen our plane legs, and after the hour is up, lay sunbathing on the turf, kicking the ball around, and working on our juggling. The stresses of school are finally slipping away and we sink into soccer trip mode—anticipation for our games, and relaxing with our teammates.
On the way to the hotel, the coaches say they “forgot” something at the airport. Distracted by the loud music in the vans, we don’t notice the real reason we’ve returned to the airport: its Dorothy! Another sweet surprise reunion as she will join us for her fourth state tournament. Now the trip has begun again; with Dorothy we all feel at peace and our team is complete. (Dorothy Brent was a returning all-state soccer selection. Diagonosed with cancer prior to the season she has been unable to play due to medical attention in Seattle. Her uniform has attended every game and she surprised her classmates on senior night a few weeks earlier).
The next day, our focus has begun to shift towards the game; the van ride is more anxious and we blast our butterflies away with some pump-up music as we near the field. In this game, the result is what matters. It will all come down to one shot, one goal, or one save. Unfortunately, we don’t come out as the winners in this game, though we do score twice and make South earn their win (4-2).
Friday’s game ends up being the last of the season as Service High School beats us 6-0. However, we’re in goodspirits before the game as coach Matt plays some of his music picks for the trip (Norah Jones) and after as we all dump our water bottles on him. Our team agrees, its been a “long and winding road,” as Matt puts it, and it’s a bittersweet ending for the seniors who have been on the same team since 4th grade (the Storm).
With no more games left to focus on, we can devote all our efforts to pranking the coaches. Matt’s van is our first target, and we make quick work of it with everyone working together. Using a Justin Bieber book, newspapers, cups, bowls, straws, and napkins, we cover the van quickly and sneak off, awaiting Matt’s retaliation.
Later in the day, we get to enjoy another part of the tournament: watching soccer and cheering for our boys team. We lead the crowd with “Ole, ole, ole, ole,” as Johnny Joyce scores their second goal in the semifinal, sealing the win.
Now that we’re done with our games, coach Sandi Wagner treats us to ice cream; something we haven’t been able or allowed to eat, and takes us to the mall for some shopping! With only 25 minutes to shop, we sprint back to the vans and await the coaches’ furrowed-brow looks for being two minutes late.
We do have a victory for the trip: the team GPA award! At the awards ceremony, we are called down to the field and walk away with our plaque and 3.82 average GPA. For our rivalry with the boy’s team over this award, there’s a clear winner this year (In prior seasons the JDHS boys won GPA from 09-11, the girls won in ‘09 and ‘11. This years is the highest team GPA average to date).
We enjoy watching the last game of the season at Dimond, with the stands filled. The boys battle through an even game, but Dimond is able to sneak in a penalty kick and win the title.
With all the soccer completed and four days passed, we feel so close that it’s hard to let go. Spending time with our teammates and coaches has been the most rewarding experience, with the insane laughter and the bittersweet tears. Even Matt and Sandi know they’ll miss our van dances and Justin Bieber pranks. After four years of high school soccer, we know that we’ll always be connected even though the season is over.