Dear Salem College Soccer Team,
I said during our last game that “I love everything about this team,” and I meant every word of that statement. I love my coaching staff and wouldn’t trade them for any coaching staff in the country. I love the determination and relentlessness of all twenty-six members of the team this Fall. I love the quirkiness of each member of the team and how each member, through their differences, fit together like puzzle pieces to make a dominant team.
This team wasn’t perfect, no teams ever are perfect. All teams have their ups and downs, but one of the best parts of this team was how easily you put the imperfections of the team behind you to merge together to have a stellar season.
The first husband of Salem College, Bert Lain, told you all that through his journey to nine different institutions, including two of the best athletic departments in the nation, UNC and Stanford, this version of the Salem College Soccer team was his favorite team ever to watch. Bert is one of the most intelligent people I have ever met, and he knows what he is saying when he talks about the guts this team stepped on the field with every game.
There were some doubts at the beginning of the season how a team with only one senior that was joining a new sixteen-member conference would handle a season. Anchored by Morgan and the leadership of this team, everybody came together after a couple rocky pre-season games to put together the best season in school history. You can read this article to see all the great accolades this team has received so far (ARTICLE).
Players on the Salem soccer team don’t get the exposure you all deserve. Being in a city where one of the top men’s soccer programs in NCAA Division 1 doesn’t help, but you all continue to play hard for each other. We don’t have the same facilities as many programs in our conference or in the nation, but you all continue to play hard for each other. There isn’t a big crowd besides your families at the games, but you all continue to play hard for each other.
We have had great teams before in the history of Salem College Soccer that have achieved incredible accomplishments. Better than all of those accomplishments, we have great people that played soccer here and they paved the path for this season.
Salem College as an institution has the one of the brightest histories of any institution for women in this nation. What you all did this season is one of the greatest accomplishments a group of women has accomplished in the 245 year history of Salem.
This team defied all odds. You joined a new conference with sixteen members and won the regular season championship, which, to me, is harder than winning the tournament. The conference didn’t make it easy on you at all. You traveled more than twice as far throughout 2016 conference play as the team that traveled the second most in the conference, and over three times as far as most teams, but you still prevailed.
This program had never beaten Maryville College in our history, but you did it this year, and not just once but three times. Maryville was the New York Yankees of our old conference, the Great South. Nobody in the former Great South had won a game at Maryville since the early 2000’s until you all did it in one of the most exciting games I have ever been a part of as a coach or player. This team came together to put on a stellar performance in your first ever USA South playoff game to defeat Maryville and move to the USA South Semifinals.
We don’t get huge crowds as I mentioned earlier at home, but you all continued to be valiant soldiers protecting your home turf. Once again, we went 10-0 at home this season. This program now is riding a twenty-five game home win streak protecting the Salem soccer field. In fact, our last home loss was in 2014 to the number one team in the country and eventual national champions of Lynchburg.
In the USA South Final Four, once again, you all had the odds against you and you defied them by having to go on the road as the number one seed for the semifinals and championship weekend. Playing on turf was a bit like kryptonite to Superman for us this season and you had to do that during the Final Four weekend. We didn’t play our best game this season in the semifinals, but you never let your guards down and once again you pulled out an exciting overtime win.
Even though, we lost the championship game, the last twenty minutes were the best twenty minutes you all put together all season. Falling behind, 2-0, with 20 minutes remaining, would cause most teams to buckle, but you all stepped it up. We got one goal back with 12 minutes left.
Life is a game of inches where mistakes can be made, and our season ended that way. You all battled to the very last second of our season, and you scored the goal that should have tied the game and sent us to overtime, where there is no doubt in my mind that you all would have prevailed. Unfortunately, the referees made the mistake of missing the clear goal, which ended our season.
Even without the tournament trophy, you all are true champions due to your character, your effort and determination, and your hearts. I am truly privileged to be a part of what you all did this season, and I can’t wait to see what you all can do together as you continue on your path as soccer players, tremendous students, and great people.
Thank you from the bottom of my heart,