Sherwood’s girls soccer team will look to capture the GISA Class AA state title when they meet Monsignor Donovan tonight. (Staff Photo: Tim Morse)
ALBANY — It’s Thursday afternoon and while most of the Sherwood girls soccer team is taking a water break, coach Jason Schultz and assistant Jeremy Davidson take time out for some fun.
From near midfield, Schultz and Davidson boot soccer balls that lie on the field to the goal. Schultz goes first, kicking the first ball he sees.
“Ooh,” he shouts as his attempt just misses the goal and bounces over the back.
Then it’s Davidson turn. As he drives one toward the net, Molly Kate McClearn is picking up the loose soccer balls that litter the Darton soccer field. She has one in each hand and as Davidson’s kick sails near her, she never drops the soccer balls, instead trying to use her right leg to keep Davidson’s shot from landing in the back of the net.
It’s awkward for McClearn, who then tosses the soccer balls aside and tells Davidson to “try me again.”
The other team members who watch McClearn’s awkwardness laugh.
The Lady Knights will be playing for the GISA Class AA state soccer championship tonight at Frederica Academy on St. Simon’s Island. And judging from Thursday’s practice, one would never know it.
The team jokes, has a good time and enjoys the fellowship.
“In our previous games, there was the pressure of trying to get to the state finals,” Schultz said. “Now, we’re there. The pressure is off. We’re working hard and we want to win, but we’re very relaxed. We’re there.”
For the players, it has been a memorable run. The Lady Eagles are 20-2-1, have won 14 straight and have not allowed an opponent to score in the state tournament.
It is believed to be just the second time a Sherwood athletic program has played for a sports championship. The 1994 baseball team finished as the state runner-up. And regardless of what happens tonight, a banner for this year’s team will be raised in the gymnasium with either “State runner-up” or “State Champs” inscribed.
The Lady Eagles hope its the latter.
“This season, we haven’t just made a name for ourselves and our soccer team,” Riley Nobles said. “We’ve made a statement for our school. People know who we are, and they see how hard we work at everything.”
After a kick-around early Friday morning at Darton, Sherwood headed to St. Simon’s Island Friday afternoon. And just like on Tuesday when a large group of students and fans witnessed the Lady Eagles’ 2-0 victory over First Presbyterian Christian, a large group of fans are expected to help cheer on the team tonight.
While the players know they are playing for the team, they would like nothing better than to bring home the title for their fans.
“I’m grateful our fans have been there for us,” senior Christina Charles said. “We pride ourselves on being a family, and we want to stay unified. I realize it’s a big game, but for me being a senior, this is it. We want to enjoy it and not be stressed out.”
The team chemistry and cohesiveness has been strong. And Charles said a large part of Sherwood’s success this season can be attributed to Schultz’s coaching. Not only is he a student of the game and wants to help his players develop, he spent countless hours scouting his opponents in the postseason.
“He has a clear visual of what he wants us to do, and I don’t believe the last game would have went the way it did had it not been for him,” Charles said.
As for Schultz, he believes his team’s success this season is the start of bigger things in the future.
“I’m not sure these girls are looking at things from a historical perspective,” he said. “They came into this season with a goal and worked hard to achieve that goal … there’s just one game that stands in the way. Is it historical? Yes.
“But more importantly, people are hearing about what Sherwood is doing. And I don’t think it’s going to stop with the soccer team. We’ve got some excellent coaches at Sherwood, and we all want to win as much as anybody. But these coaches care more about the character of our athletes. We’re all about developing, committing, disciplining, developing Christian leaders who are going to make an impact in our society.”
Schultz added that it has been a fun ride. He said his players have been excellent student-athletes.
“I hope they understand how much they mean to me as a coach,” he said.
The Lady Eagles have one more goal they want to accomplish. But regardless of the outcome, Nobles said it has been a great season.
“We are going to win, and we want to win,” she said. “But we are going to praise the Lord if we win, and praise the Lord if we lose.”