By Ayushi Pant, Jie Ping Li and Jennifer Marshall
On May 23rd, 2016 The Lady Eagles of Manhattan Comprehensive High School found themselves where many people never dreamed they would be, at the MPL Girls’ Soccer Championship game. Besides three players, the majority of the Lady Eagles had never played organized soccer before. Their Coach, Jennifer Marshall had five years of experience coaching basketball at the high school level but had never coached soccer before. Their game schedule was grueling, playing two consecutive games a week for a 5 week season forced the players to dig deep in order to find the strength, energy and dedication just to make it to the games. Many players dropped off of the team once they realized that the season would be hard work, not just fun and games. It was obvious that this season would be an uphill battle from the start.
The 16 players that stayed on the team realized how quickly their hard work and dedication paid off. The Lady Eagles were able to usurp every team that faced them in all but three games. The only team that could beat them was Bronx Bridges high school, and the Eagles were defeated each time those two teams faced off. Despite the three losses against Bronx Bridges, The Lady Eagles were still in second place and qualified for play-offs. The team knew that one way or another; they would be seeing Bronx Bridges on the field again.
When the regular season was over, the Lady Eagles breezed past third place Claremont High School in the semi-final round. The pressure was on, Bronx Bridges ended their regular season undefeated and seemed to win their last few games by more and more goals each time. Knowing that a team is “only as good as their last game”, Coach Marshall and the team put together a new plan that they hoped would help them finally beat the Bronx when it really counted, in the championship game.
When the whistle blew and the game started, something was different. The Lady Eagles’ energy was palpable, and you could see the confidence and determination in their eyes. They believed in the Coach’s new plan and were ready to execute it. The defense played as a tight and supportive unit, and there were no shots on our goal for the first 20 minutes of the game. Then, a quick lapse in the defense’s judgement allowed the Bronx to Score one goal midway through the first half. The Lady Eagles refused to be shaken by that one goal and immediately scored from a long distance from kick off. The two teams continued going goal for goal until half-time. In the second half the Lady Eagles were able to get a lead which they maintained by playing smart, playing together, and playing tough defense. The Bronx Bridges team was noticeably thrown off their game strategy and while they kept making mistakes, The Lady Eagles were scoring goals. At the final whistle, the score was 9-5 in favor of the Lady Eagles. The crowd of students, friends and family went wild. The Lady Eagles had done it; they had “beat the unbeatable” and became the 2016 MPL Girls Soccer Champions.