[This is my column in the Oct. 16 issue of The Commercial Review.]
David versus Goliath.
That is precisely the way the final two games of the season have gone for the Jay County High School girls soccer team in each of the last two years.
Both times the Patriots were the underdog in the sectional championship game against Yorktown.
And each regional semifinal game these last two years, Jay County was overmatched.
Last season, McCutcheon beat Jay County 7-0. Wednesday night, Jay County ran into a Fishers squad seeking to avenge its loss in the 2013 state final, depositing of the Patriots by the same score.
But now, Jay County knows what it takes to compete at an elite level.
And from here on out, the road to a deep playoff run will have to go through the likes of teams similar to Fishers, McCutcheon, Harrison and Marion — teams that have solidified themselves as some of the best around.
The girls may have surprised some people by winning back-to-back sectional titles. What should not be surprising, however, is that the Patriots are setting themselves up for future success.
Sure, each of the six seniors on the squad this year has played an important role in Jay County returning to regional.
But it’s those players who will be returning next season that are more than capable of solidifying JCHS as a perennial sectional contender.
Gabbie Mann scored 30 goals this season. There’s no doubt she can do it again for her senior campaign as well. Emma Laux, Sophie Bader, Mariah Bailey and Kyra Braun are a few more juniors who would love to add a regional title to their resume of accomplishments on the soccer field.
Goalkeeper Lilly Rogers, who came up big with two stops in penalty kicks helping in the sectional semifinal win against Delta last week, is only a sophomore.
She anchors a class that saw considerable amount of time on the pitch this year. Stormi Canterbury, Megan Smith, Kayla Ferguson and Emily Muhlenkamp were part of a steady rotation coach Giles Laux used all season long.
Alex Bader, Briana Muhlenkamp, Lucy Laux and Breea Liette all played their part as freshmen, and there are a host of other players who participated in spot roles too.
And who’s to say what next year’s freshman class will bring to the table?
Yes, Jay County had the unfortunate luck of being paired with Fishers in the regional semifinal on Wednesday. Yes, the Patriots have yet to score a goal in the regional tournament.
But there are still plenty of reasons to be proud.
Just remember the meaning behind the red tape worn during the sectional championship game against Yorktown. Remember those who paved the way for the program to get to where it is now.
The girls soccer team did what so many teams before it were unable to do — win a sectional title. They didn’t just win one. They did it in consecutive years.
Beating Yorktown in the sectional championship in back-to-back seasons is nothing to shake a stick at. It’s an accomplishment in and of itself that gives reason to be happy.
And for this sports editor, it’s been a joy to watch these last two seasons.
Three years ago, you couldn’t find me at a soccer game. It just wasn’t my cup of tea. It was a sport with which I was not very familiar, and frankly, didn’t care to learn.
These last two seasons have changed my perspective on the sport, much like my view of basketball changed last year.
It’s always saddening to see seasons end, especially when you’ve spent as much time around a group of athletes as I have.
The last two seasons have set the bar high for the future of the program, and there’s no reason to believe the Patriots can’t earn more hardware in the years to come.
And it’s something I’m grateful I will get the opportunity to witness — something I never thought I would say.