2017 felt like the year for the varsity men’s soccer team. 16 seniors, many of whom had played travel soccer since grade school, stepped up to the spotlight. The vibe was electric, the team’s confidence soared, and the pressure for success was ever-present. So large were the expectations that the team’s eventual eight wins, three losses and four ties felt like a disappointment to many. The team finished as co-champions of the Mid Atlantic Athletic Conference (MAC), sharing the banner with both the Potomac School and St. Andrew’s Episcopal Day School. And although GDS made it to the semi-finals round of the state tournament, winning the title was clearly the goal.
This year, circumstances are different: the team lost their core of 16 seniors, leaving behind a largely inexperienced team. Of last year’s 25-man varsity squad, nine remain, only five of whom are seniors. There are nearly twice as many underclassmen on the team as there last year.
“It just gives room for those younger guys,” senior Sebastian Harkness, a returning varsity player, said. Harkness pointed out that, now, those younger players “play a bigger role.”
“Everyone’s sleeping on us,” junior Ben Howell, a new addition to the team, said. “That gives us more motivation to push ourselves to new heights. It’s all about the mentality. It’s not about the talent right now.”
“I think the players on the team, we hold ourselves to a higher standard than the school does,” Harkness agreed.
Still, the team is off to a rough start. The squad lost both of its preseason matches to non-MAC teams, St John’s and Landon. (That said, in both cases, GDS was facing teams that had already set their varsity rosters, while GDS was playing with some players that would eventually land on the JV squad.) The team is slated to remain one of GDS’s most popular sports, with a strong tradition of fan turnout regardless of success.
“I came to a lot of games last year, and they didn’t alway win, but I did enjoy watching soccer a lot,” senior Shonali Palacios said.
As the school year commences, the team looks to turn things around. Winning the MAC and achieving success in the state tournament is no longer an expectation, but rather an objective that will take hard work to fulfill.
Despite the low odds, Howell is confident. “We’re going to win states. 100 percent.”
By: Theo Hockstader