By Kevin Cushingberry Jr., Editor in Chief
They almost fell apart. After suffering their worst loss of the season on Sept. 24, the Eastfield soccer players knew they had to make something happen.
Coach Dustin Stein said every coach can look back on one game that changed its season. For the Lady Harvesters, it was the first time they played Richland. They lost 18-1.
“We had to have an emergency team meeting to pull everything back together and work it out,” Stein said. “I think at that point, the ladies understood that the coaching staff was serious, and getting beat 18-1 wasn’t acceptable.”
Stein said his players will admit they quit during that game. However, he believes it was the best thing that happened to them, motivating them to make a late-season push that resulted in the first trip to the playoffs in eight years.
“We were able to really come together,” Stein said. “They started listening a lot more, and the intensity in practice went up. That’s what saved our season.”
Every time the Lady Harvesters played an opponent twice, they showed improvement. After losing to Mountain View 2-1 on Sept. 17, they shut out the Lions 3-0 in the rematch two weeks later.
Athletic Director Anthony Fletcher said Stein did a great job leading his players, many of whom were recruited during registration or the first few weeks of school.
“To think where they’ve come from the beginning of the season to now is remarkable,” Fletcher said.
Although the Lady Harvesters’ season ended with a 6-0 first-round playoff loss to Richland on Oct. 17, team captain Chasity Turner said the season was rewarding.
“I’m very excited. I didn’t think we were going to be here,” the freshman forward said. “We’ve had some bad moments and some good moments, but I love how all of the girls came together and worked as a team toward one common goal.”
After the first win of the season — 6-2 over Southwest Adventist on Sept. 18 — Turner said the team grew closer and more confident.
“It’s remarkable how girls can come together when we didn’t start the season off together,” she said, adding that the players plan to play on an indoor team together during the offseason.
Stein and assistant coach Eleazar Jepsen are already preparing for next season. The team took only nine days off between its last game and the first offseason workout.
“As soon as that referee blew that final whistle, our focus turned toward 2014,” Stein said. “My wife said, ‘Now that the season’s over you’ll have some time off.’ That’s the furthest thing from the truth.”
Once Feb. 1 hits, Stein said the Lady Harvesters will train eight hours per week through April.
“We’ll be in the weight room, getting faster and stronger,” Stein said.
Stein plans to attend 12 showcases to find new talent before the Dec. 1 signing date.
“I already have a list of ladies coming in to visit the school,” Stein said. “We’re hoping to sign three or four, and then by next season we’re looking to bring in 15 to 20 new players. The only way we’re going to get them is by going out there and being involved. The season is over, but we’re just now getting started.”