Looking Back at Freshmen Soccer…

Alex Whang

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Photo credits to Kaito Higashi.

Photo credits to Kaito Higashi.

                2-1. With the blow of a whistle, the soccer season was over. Our freshmen soccer experience together was over. A devastating loss in the Bergen County Freshmen Soccer Tournament brought the team down, but there was a lot to be proud of.
         Now you may be asking, how did you even get there? What is this Bergen County Tournament that he speaks of? Who did you lose to?
         Well, let’s just say it began in the past summer with a three week tryout.
         Ever since I was little, I loved to play soccer. I played on my travel team from the third grade up until where I am today. So, trying out for the soccer team was a no brainer to me. Going into the tryout, I honestly did not know what to think about. Would I fit in? Am I even good enough? Are there going to be good players there? I was never thinking of what would happen in the future when we would go almost undefeated in our regular season or even passing past the first two rounds of the Bergen County Tournament.
         As I showed up to the tryouts, about 50 other people were competing for a spot on the roster. Nervous throughout the tryouts, I struggled in the beginning because of the amount of running that I was definitely not ready for. I was away the whole summer and preparation for the soccer tryouts did not even appeal to me, and I can easily say that the first week of tryouts did not treat me well. So, although I was panting throughout the first week of tryouts, the people I met there were truly amazing. There were really good soccer players, but at the same time they were also great people. Being together everyday in the summer playing soccer really brought us all together. I look back at the awkward moments that my teammates and I had, and I think about how those times really brought us together. During the second week, once we got closer and the large amounts of people got cut, we suddenly realized that we could create something special.
         Now, I want to point out one thing. My coach, who was Coach Hackett, was the freshmen track and field coach at Bergen Tech. He made us run like there was no tomorrow and those who could not keep up with his pace of training, were simply cut from the team. Throughout the struggle, we motivated each other to become better each and everyday. To be honest, I don’t know if I should thank or really dislike Coach Hackett’s tryouts, but if his goal was for us to start talking to each other, it worked.
         The final roster consisted of 24 people and I fortunately made the team. The other 23 teammates turned into friends, and we became closer through simple hangouts such as going to Smash Burger before practice (bad idea, never, ever do that) and meeting up to get to know each other better.
         Throughout the season, we were very successful and we were winning most games with a deficit more than five goals. We only lost once in our regular season and things were going great. I made a lot of friends from soccer alone and our team was doing amazing. But, one day Coach Hackett brought up the Bergen County Tournament, a tournament taking 16 of Bergen County’s best freshmen teams. With an impressive 17-1 record, our application to this tournament landed us in the second seed.
         As a unit, we knew this was the biggest test of our soccer season. Our first round opener was against Cliffside Park, the fifteenth seed. We easily blew past them with a demanding win of 6-0. I was very excited for every County game because the team’s goal was to win it all. No freshmen team has ever won the Bergen County Tournament for the Knights, and we wanted to be the first. The second game was against Don Bosco, the seventh seed. This game specifically made me realize that our team had something special going deeper into tournament. No, this wasn’t your regular 6-0 game that you expected. It was one of our toughest games and by the first half, the score was 1-0 with a lead that could have been easily broken. But, we pulled through with Daniel Ryvkin who had both goals as he helped us win 2-0 off of a free kick and penalty kick.
After winning the first two rounds of the tournament, the team was very confident going into the semi-finals. We played the Ridgewood Maroons, the third seed. In the first half, we struggled, as they put in two quick goals to secure a lead going into the second half.
         Throughout halftime, I knew that this game was a win or go home situation. The rest of the team had one goal in mind, and that was to win the game. We came out stronger in the second half, knowing in the back of our minds that it might have been the last game we would play with each other as freshmen. With about 25 minutes to play, Sungjae Lee scored and put us on the board, leading us with new life and energy. We battled and played hard until the final whistle, and once I looked up at the scoreboard, I didn’t want to believe it. We came this far, only to lose in the most heartbreaking fashion. The score was 2-1 and when I walked off the field, I couldn’t even think or say anything. I was simply speechless. No other feeling felt as bad as that same moment when we walked off the field at our last game as freshmen.
         Although I was disappointed, I can easily say that I had the best time playing soccer with my teammates. I made so many friendships along the journey of what would be the greatest moments I had in my life. So, with that in mind, looking back at what we did was truly amazing and memorable because of the special bond that we had.