I was thrilled when Ashley called me last night to let me know that they had won the CSAC semi-final in penalty kicks to advance the Centenary College Women’s Soccer Team to the final on Saturday. I was less than thrilled that I won’t be able to go to the game, but I will most definitely be thinking about them and keeping my fingers crossed for a good result.
It’s a little funny how often life comes around full circle. Three years ago, I was still on that field, still in college, still trying to figure out where I would go and what I would do, and today, I’m still trying to figure that out. Three years later I’m still as lost and confused and wandering a bit aimlessly through life, but just like three years ago, I have the game to keep things in perspective. So many times I look back on those moments in my life, the moments I proudly wore that Centenary jersey, the moments that have molded and defined me in ways that I still don’t fully understand. I look at the moments with a smile, sure, but now even the disappointing ones I can reflect on with fondness instead of pain.
Three years ago, I sat on the sidelines while my team fought tooth and nail for a league championship title. Even though I didn’t play a single minute in that game (something that took me a long time to understand and accept), I still felt every foul, every missed shot, every bit of anxiety and nerves and frustration as the game ended without us on top. But today, I remember something that Michelle Berkey told me. She told me to stop and take a deep breath, take a good look around, really listen to the national anthem, and be proud of the fact that we got there. How many times in your life will you stand with your teammates in the middle of the field, listening to the song of your country, and know, without a doubt, that you wouldn’t want to share that moment with anyone else?
That, in it’s simplicity, is what playing at Centenary meant to me. It didn’t matter, in the end, that I didn’t play the last three games of my senior year. It didn’t matter that we lost those final games, what did matter, is that we played them. We played the game. We played at a level that some of us, including me, never dreamed of until Kevin Davies reached out and said, “Come to Centenary, play for me, we’ll do something great”. Like all things, it took a leap of faith, a giant, head first dive into the unknown, and when I finally surface on the other side, being a part of it meant more than any record, accolade or recognition ever could.
Being part of a team, hearing your name announced as you run up the center line, listening to the anthem, gathering in the huddle and quietly swearing at the other team to pump each other up. The handshakes. The smiles. The blood and sweat and tears. The knowledge that every single person sharing that uniform with you has your back, no matter what — those are the feelings and the moments you will remember. That is what will stay with you, long after the final whistle has blown on your college career.
To all of the Centenary girls, I wish you the best of luck on Saturday. Leave your heart on the field. Leave nothing to chance. Support each other, carry each other, and fuck shit up. I know you’re not allowed to FSU on the pitch anymore, but damnit, FSU! No matter what happens on that field, you all should be proud that you wear that jersey, and you got this far. So many of us don’t get that chance. Take a deep breath before the game, take a good look around, and soak it all up. You earned it, you deserve to be there, now go and bring home that championship.
Oh, and Ashley … you have no idea how proud I am. Three years ago I was proud of you, and today, even more so. I know I didn’t make you the brilliant goalkeeper you are, as much as we joke about it, but I hope you know that you made my senior year the best year of soccer I ever had. I’ll always be your biggest fan, and you can bet that I’ll be giving you the biggest MH in my head right before the game. Tear shit up, Prod.