2015 was one of the most impressive seasons in recent memory for the St. Luke’s girls varsity soccer team. Going into the season, the coaches and players alike believed the team to have no ceiling, and for good reason. The team is impressively deep and well balanced. Each grade, from 8th to 12th, is represented in the starting lineup. There is talent in every position and, under the savvy coaching of Daniel Clarke and David Hirx, that talent is always utilized.
Despite the Storm’s breadth of talent, the beginning of the season was disappointing. After the team won its first game against Hopkins School 2-0, it dropped the next two matches to Greenwich Academy and Taft School. For a team that was confident that it could go far, a 1-2 record at the beginning of the season came as a shock to most members of the team. However, in coach Clarke’s opinion, those losses were a big part of why the Storm won the next thirteen games in a row. He said, “It wasn’t the start we were after. We sat down as a group and really talked about what we needed from the team in terms of work ethic. I think the season could have gone a totally different way if we hadn’t regrouped and refocused.”
To say the Storm refocused after the two losses is an understatement. In the next thirteen games combined the girls outscored their opponents by a staggering amount, with 41 goals scored compared to 14 given up. The team’s impressive run was due to more than just talent, said Clarke. “One of the things I have constantly discussed with the team is the amount of talent we have throughout, but talent isn’t always enough. The team’s philosophy is to always work a little bit harder. The girls really listened to that message and the results following the first three games speak for themselves.”
The hard work exhibited by the members of the St. Luke’s girls varsity soccer team brought them to the FAA championship game against the Rye Country Day School Wildcats on Friday, November 13. After going 7-1 in the FAA, the team shared the regular season title with Greenwich Academy, the team they lost to earlier in the season. The Storm defeated the Greens Farms Academy Dragons in the semi-final and, after the Wildcats upset Greenwich Academy the same day, prepared to face a team they had beaten 2-1 earlier in the season.
Much like they had been all season, the members of the Storm were confident in their chances against Rye Country Day School. Under the leadership of Clarke, the girls were urged to maintain the style of play that had brought them so much success throughout the season. He said prior to the match, “We are going to stick to our philosophies. We center around possession and quick touches. The girls spread out the field. Nothing is going to change in the championship game.”
As coach Clarke predicted, the Storm looked like the same team that had won thirteen games in a row leading up to the championship. Throughout the game, the Storm dominated in terms of possession. For much of the contest the Wildcats seemed flummoxed by their opponents’ play. It was the Storm’s typical “attractive brand of soccer.”
While the Wildcats were undoubtedly a worthy opponent, the Storm looked like the better team from nearly start to finish. However, by the end of regulation the score was tied at 0-0. Neither team seemed able to capitalize on their chances. With little more than a minute left at the end of the first overtime period, the Wildcats took advantage of a corner kick and scored a goal to take the lead: one that would be good enough to claim the FAA championship title.
The second overtime period was once again characterized by a dominating effort from the Storm, but a combination of stifling defense and exemplary goal keeping on the side of the Wildcats ultimately resulted in a St. Luke’s loss.
For St. Luke’s fans, and of course the team itself, the defeat was heartbreaking. Tears were shed and disappointment reigned supreme. A win would have been poetic. After overcoming the adversity and disappointment of the beginning of the season, and playing great soccer in the final, St. Luke’s seemed destined to cap off their season with a FAA title.
As the Wildcats mobbed the field in celebration, coaches Clarke and Hirx gathered the group into a postgame huddle. The team was physically and emotionally deflated, but the coaches saw the defeat as a teaching opportunity. Clarke told his team, “I congratulate everyone on their effort today. You all played great soccer.”
The Storm’s effort in the NEPSAC tournament produced similarly exceptional results. In the first game, the Storm dominated offensively against the Montrose School, winning 2-0 with goals from Kit Hamil ‘16 and Sophia Lemmer ‘16. ln the semi-final game, the Storm faced off against Marianapolis Prep. The game was extraordinarily close throughout. After regulation play and two 10 minute overtime periods, the game was still knotted at 1-1. In the penalty kick shootout the Storm scored four goals compared to Marianapolis’ 3, and walked away with the exhilarating win. The Storm then moved to the championship game, played at Loomis Chaffee, against Brewster Academy in a rematch of the 2011 and 2012 finals. While the members of the Storm played their usual high level brand of soccer, they ultimately lost 1-0 in another close match.
For the girls varsity soccer team, the wins this season have come naturally. The mixture of talent and outstanding team play propelled the Storm to an impressive record of 14-3. Even the team’s losses were impressive, as the girls did not lose a game by more than one goal the entire season. While the Storm did not finish the season with either an FAA championship or a NEPSAC championship, it was clear to everyone involved in the program that the team was special. The members of the Storm will look to continue their success in the 2016 season.