Tuesday, November 15, 2016
When they trudged off the field for the last time Saturday, after the referee’s whistle brought an end to their season, a season that ended as most do (with a soul-crushing playoff defeat, this one against Bishop Blanchet, 3-1), the Shorecrest girls soccer team couldn’t help but see their glass as anything but half-empty at the time.
A day later, Head Coach Mindy Dalziel’s perpetually sunny disposition shone through as she detailed all the accomplishments this team achieved in what she believed was going to be a rebuilding year at the start of the season.
“We had to replace some key players who had graduated. We needed to recreate ourselves this year. I thought we could be very skilled and tactical; the question was, would we get buy-in from the players and see the kind of teamwork we would need to be successful”?
The answer was a resounding yes.
The team went 14-6-3 this year, mirroring Dalziel’s career mark of 156-67-22 in her 11 years at the helm. They tied District champion Arlington on the road, while losing in a shootout to the Eagles in the District semi-finals. They managed a tie at Edmonds-Woodway, which was just two years removed from winning State. All this came in spite of more than their fair share of illnesses and injuries that beset key players throughout the season.
As a player, Mindy led the Scots to two State Championships during the mid-90’s. (Her JV coach, Teddy Mitalis, was her coach back then. Lori Henry, her varsity assistant, had an illustrious playing career, winning national championships at University of North Carolina, as well as playing for the first US Womens National Team, and winning the World Cup in 1991.) As coach, she’s been to State nine times, including six years in a row. Twice her team advanced to the semi-finals; two years ago they made it to the championship game before losing.
Her philosophy sounds simple. “I want the players to treat their team like a family, to love it and make it better. In the end, what I want is for each of them to be the best human beings they can be.”
How does the philosophy actually play out?
A handful of players gathered after school Monday and shared their thoughts on playing for Coach Mindy. The word ‘family’ was frequently spoken. One player cited the easy transition from JV during the regular season to Varsity for the playoffs, how she didn’t feel out of place at all, due to the closeness between the two squads. Several mentioned how freshmen are valued and made to feel a part of the team, rather than be slighted or shunned by the older players.
Another recalled how, as a freshman, she didn’t even know if she’d make the JV squad. Instead, her coach saw something in her, believed in her and brought her up to the varsity. It was mentioned how starting positions had to be earned at every practice, and that doing so made each girl work harder and get better. And if a girl’s poor play resulted in a benching, caring but candid conversation the following day tended to result in improved performance.
When one player enthusiastically gushed “I wish next year started today”, the others nodded their heads in agreement, in spite of the bumps and bruises the grind of a season had left them with.
Finally one girl seemed to sum it up best. “I always feel like I’m with my 20 best friends, every time we’re together.”
With many talented younger players vying to replace the three seniors who finished their high school playing days on Saturday, the glass may be more than half-full next year. In fact, it just might run over.
And they’ll have a great coach to lead them.