BY SAMANTHA ELLIOTT
When the season ends short of your ultimate goal, it can be a tough acceptance to swallow. Whether you get to the destination you want or not, it is important to reflect on the journey.
The Trenton girls soccer team’s season ended earlier than the Trojans hoped for, but when they pause to reflect on the journey, it makes that loss a heck of a lot easier to swallow.
The season ended with a 2-1 loss in the regional semifinal to state powerhouse Dexter, but the accomplishments the group, namely the seniors, achieved in their time with the program will forever be in the record books. Literally.
Last year, the current group of seniors was part of an 18-consecutive shutout streak that topped the MHSAA record books. This year, it was nine shutouts in a row with only 13 goals against in a 24 game season. The team is in the record books for goals scored in a season.
Four of the nine seniors are committed to colleges, while others chose to focus on other things heading forward.
In May, the program won its seventh consecutive district title with a victory over rival Carlson. Looking back on it all makes the regional semifinal loss more on the side of easier to handle. Heading into the state tournament, the Trojans knew it was only going to become a harder task the further they advanced and they knew they had to be prepared.
“We were on the same path that we were on probably a month leading into the (state) tournament, which was trying to clean up some areas that we needed to get a little bit better at and try to focus on not looking too far ahead out of our district,” Trenton Coach Mike Hatfield said. “We worked on set pieces, which was really our focus.”
When regionals came around, the opponent was a familiar one. Trenton had knocked off Dexter 3-1 earlier this year. But Hatfield knew this time would be a different type of game.
“We wanted to emphasize a little bit about what we saw in that match,” he said. “So we talked about some things that their defense exposed to us in that game and things that we exposed to their defense. They were in the same scenario we were in and I think they were feeling confident going into their district. I think they were training the rest of the season to find a way to beat us.”
Hatfield knew it wasn’t going to be a two-goal game and he knew he had to keep his girls motivated and focused. So, when it was 1-1 at the half, it was time for a pep talk.
“I told the girls no matter the results of this game; win, lose, overtime, just keep in mind that when it’s over, you can say that you put everything you had into the last 40 minutes,” Hatfield said. “Make sure that when you walk from that field to the buses, it took everything we had to beat them, or it took everything they had for them to beat us.”
And when they found themselves on the losing end, Hatfield wanted to make sure his team did not forget what they had accomplished, the hard work they put in and the legacy they left behind.
“(I said) I know right now everything sticks in about this loss,” Hatfield said. “But in all of MHSAA soccer, there are only four teams with a win and that’s very hard to do. I don’t want you to think that the final game was a representation of what you did and can accomplish in four seasons. Don’t think in the negatives; think in the positives and think of what you’ve accomplished; think of all the things you’ve done.”
Most of all, Hatfield wanted the girls to remember the legacy they had on the program.
“Think of the tone you set for the girls behind you; that’s what I want them to remember,” Hatfield said. “They raised an expectation level for the program that that’s what it takes. It’s not just show up in March, it’s all year you’ve gotta get in (and) you’ve gotta work out and you’ve gotta be mentally demanding and physically demanding.”
Hatfield said he carries the loss as much as the girls do and that even though he will be back on the pitch next year and the seniors will not, he knows they will always be a part of the program.
“My girls are never really done,” he said. “They come back all the time. That happens every year. When you look at that, it’s huge because it’s not ‘oh I didn’t play with that group, or I don’t know them.’ It’s Trenton; it’s our soccer program. When you looked up in the stands, you have so many alum that drove to support the girls whether they knew them or not. I wanted the girls to remember that; I wanted them to remember that leadership role.”