Persistence defines the Incarnate Word Academy soccer team, and it has shown in several games in which the team outplayed opponents in the second half after struggling in the first half.
Against Lafayette High School May 8, Incarnate Word followed the pattern, trailing 1-0 at halftime and mostly failing to put pressure on the Lafayette defense until late in the half. The late stages of the game were a different story, with Incarnate Word's offense and defense in sync, keeping the ball in the opposing team's zone and limiting Lafayette's chances. It paid off with goals in the latter part of the half by Sophie Patterson, Alli Frederking and Emily Groark to give Incarnate Word a 3-1 victory.
Incarnate Word coach Beth Sims said persistence and a "don't give up" attitude go a long way. "They kept pushing, and once we got that first goal they calmed down and played the kind of soccer we like to play," Sims said.
Patterson, whose shot tied the score as she and her teammates swarmed in front of the goal, acknowledged the weak start and the team's confidence to "dig deep, pull it together."
Team chemistry enhances communication and controlling the ball, Patterson said. Practices are fun, "and we look forward to being around with each other," she said. "It's not just a soccer team, it's a full friendship as a team."
The high school junior sees soccer as a way to get involved with school, have fun with her friends and "give 100 percent."
Patterson is upbeat as Incarnate Word prepares for district playoffs starting May 16. "We have a good chance," she said. "We always pull it together in the big games and play up to a good team's level. When we are ready to play, we can do anything."
Groark, who starred in the team's win in the Green Division of the St. Louis Soccer Classic earlier this season, said that when her teammates give maximum effort and work together "we are unstoppable." The team has a lot of talented players, "but we go off each other. It's not just one person," she said.
The junior, whose goal gave Incarnate a cushion to ride out the remaining few minutes of the game against Lafayette, said: "I just love the feeling of winning, scoring, working together with other people and having fun with my team."
Sims has a sometimes difficult task as coach of a talented squad — getting them to play together. The players have responded, she said: "The girls know that each and every person on the field is very talented. They don't have the attitude of doing it all themselves. Playing the ball and passing to each other is what's going to win games for us, and they've been very successful at doing that."
From the goalkeeper to the forwards, the team with a 17-3-1 record works the ball and plays together. "And the girls have fun doing that. That's the most important thing," Sims said.
The players "are a great group of kids, obviously great athletes but even better people," Sims said. "That's what makes this so much fun, trying to be a positive influence and role model for them. I'm an alum of Incarnate and had an outstanding experience here. I'm hoping to give that back to them. Seeing the fun and the mostly joy on their face when they play is what makes it worth it, whether winning or losing."
The coach seeks to ensure students are learning. "We talk about soccer as a piece of life. We're always looking at the bigger picture and how it relates to real-life experiences."
The team says the same prayer before every game and tries to play as clean as possible, Sims said. The prayer, Groark said, is a reminder there's a reason they're able to have fun playing soccer.
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