Due to Covid-19, the soccer season in Orange County was rescheduled from autumn to the next spring. The last game of the season was on a dreadfully hot Friday afternoon, but it was the important game that just might qualify us to enter the California Interscholastic Federation (CIF) Boys’ Soccer Playoffs and Championships (CIF Championship). By beating the opposing team, our team would go up to the 2nd place in our league, a position that would grant us a wildcard entry into the CIF Championship. We were struggling through much of the game, but our striker got a fantastic bicycle kick goal. We were besides ourselves cheering and hollering about our win and our entry into the CIF Championship. Suddenly, the Varsity head coach called up some players in the JV squad, including me, and told us that he needed us as backup players for the next CIF game. Bench warmer or not, I accepted his request immediately and anxiously waited for Monday.
|[CIF Southern Section. Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons]|
Over the weekend, the schedule of CIF games was released. The CIF Boys’ Soccer Playoff and Championship ran from the second week of May to the last week of May. Over this new season, we needed six wins to be crowned the champion. We were in division 5 out of a total of seven divisions, and there were some good teams we had to beat to reach the CIF final. So, everyone practiced like mad, including us the bench warmers. The energy in our team was electrifying.
|[Playing Soccer with Teammates. Photo Credit: Pixnio]|
Finally, it was time for our first CIF game. Sitting on the bench, I noticed players trembling. Even those who had been playing soccer for over 10 years were, nervous wrecks. Everyone on the bench was nervous too. But we won decisively -- 3-0. With this momentum, we won the next game easily.
The real game started with the now 3rd round. We were facing one of the frontrunners. Preparing the next game, we reviewed the video recordings of our opponent. They were fast and good at counter attack. Thus, in the practice, we focused on neutralizing their strengths. After our last practice, one of our coaches showed us the CIF ring that the players of the winning team gets. The ring was so gorgeous and beautiful, and really motivated us to win the CIF.
On Saturday, the day of the 3rd round, the crowd for us expected that we would win. With the opening whistling, the game started. The eyes of every player on the soccer field were burning. They ran faster than a cheetah and jumped higher than a kangaroo. We heard wild cheers from behind. The cheers drove us harder and we got the first goal. It looked as through our dream was about to come true. However, after the first goal, our players began to slow. Then, opponents scored two goals in a flash with their lightening counterattacks. It seemed as if our spirit had broken; our players limped around like wet puppies on a rainy day despite the cheering from our friends and families. The, the other team quickly scored two more goals and the game was all but over for us. We could not possibly overcome the gape. We lost that game, and we had to give up our dreams of becoming the champion. Some of the players were in tears, especially the seniors for whom this was their last game in high school.
|[Interview with a Senior Who Plays Soccer. Photo Credit: Youngha Lee]|
I talked to one such senior play about how he felt about this disastrous last game. His response was surprising in an admirable way. “It was a great experience for me regardless of the result. I learned a lot, and this experience will help me in my future career in soccer. And, I will never forget the team spirit we shared together,” he said.
Though I didn't get to play the game, this wonderful experience was also memorable for me. I felt I had been in a great drama. Pain or disappointment aside, I enjoyed every moment of it. I guess that’s why I love soccer so much.
Crean Lutheran High School
Youngha Lee firstname.lastname@example.org