When the Clock Runs Out
January 27, 2016
Jack Peters Field, Monday, 3 p.m. On one end, the girls soccer team practices shooting and penalty kicks, preparing for Tuesday’s regional semifinal game against Osceola. On the other end, there’s the boys soccer team. Some kick the ball around behind the net, others play a game on the field. Head coach Tom Dusold stands in the net along with two other players, catching the occasional ball and tossing it back into play.
By most standards, the boys shouldn’t even be out there. On Friday, the team lost 2-1 to Middleton in the district semifinals in overtime, ending their season. Well, ending their season on paper, that is.
Besides the eventual state championship-winning teams, every soccer team in the state will end their season on a loss. It’s just how the bracket system works.
For the past nine years he’s been head coach, Dusold hasn’t let his team’s last moments together be in the aftermath of a loss. After the last game of every season, Dusold holds one more practice for his players, a chance for them to counterbalance the loss with a sense of camaraderie, easing the sting that losing brings.
“Everybody sooner or later has to deal [with a loss] except for one team, and I hate for the last time they’re together as a team, I hate that it’s a loss,” Dusold said. “[The practice] is just one last time to be together and just have fun, just enjoy the sport for what it is, and that’s ultimately why we play sports. We should remember that they’re fun.”
Of course, as in any sport, the season hasn’t always been fun and smooth. The Knights’ schedule included six of the top ten teams in the county. They’ve been shut out at times and have shut out opponents, tied with higher-ranked Plant and lost twice to district rival Middleton.
“[The season] was up and down. At points we played really well, at points we could have done a little better,” Dusold said. “I feel bad because I don’t think they’ve achieved as much as they could have achieved, because I think talent wise, they were a very talented team, and we just had some bad breaks at the wrong moments.”
Friday’s game was one of those low points. The Knights controlled almost all of the game- but not the two most pivotal moments, the ones where Middleton broke through and scored. The Tigers tied it up, the game went into overtime and another Middleton goal ended Robinson’s season.
According to Dusold, skill-wise, the team shouldn’t have been in overtime in the first place. Just one of those low points, coming at the worst possible time.
“Soccer is one of the few sports when it really can turn out like [Friday] where you can absolutely dominate another team except for 90 seconds and you could lose,” Dusold said. “And that’s really what happened on Friday night. We had control of that game for almost the entire game and two short breakdowns and we ended up losing.”
Even with the loss still fresh, Dusold can’t help but praise his team, his seniors. He’s a proud coach.
“I think the three senior captains all definitely put the team before themselves. They were there, they were the first guys to be working, last guys to leave,” he said. “You can see the game has really meant a lot to them. And I think that selflessness is their legacy they leave for the rest of the team.”
Dusold knows the numbers on the scoreboard matter. After all, a game isn’t much of a game if there’s no score. However, he also knows numbers aren’t the only thing his players will take away from their high school seasons.
“You remember the good stuff, you remember the rides on the bus, you remember the practices, you remember the silly stuff. You don’t necessarily remember the individual games,” he said. “And that’s kind of the approach I’ve always taken with the team- yes, we want to win. But we want to have fun. I always say, ‘Let’s have fun. Winning is fun, but let’s have fun.'”
When looking back on their high school careers, Dusold’s players share his attitude. Although the team had a losing season (5-9-1), loss isn’t the first thing on the players’ minds.
“I don’t think I could ever forget my last year of soccer and the memories I made with my teammates,” Omar Shoubaki (’16), one of the three senior captains, said. “[I’ll remember] how close the team was and our quality banter.”
Fellow captain Sean Conley (’16) echoed Shoubaki.
“I’ll always remember my teammates and the time we spent together on and off the field,” Conley said. “I liked spending time with the team before and after games.”
Monday, the team sent off Shoubaki, Conley and its other eight seniors-almost half of the 2016 roster- with a game of World Cup, competitive yet friendly at the same time.
The youngest players, the freshmen, mostly kept to the edge, dribbling and kicking balls on the sidelines, watching the game. They have three more years to look forward to.
Not the seniors, who dominated the field, getting in one another’s face as their high school soccer careers dwindled to hours, then minutes.
After all, this was their time.
One final game, but this time, one that didn’t end in heartbreak.