Juneau, Alaska (KINY) - Crimson Bears senior Rachel Erben was in tears when asked about her team’s victory over the Ketchikan Lady Kings on Wednesday on the Thunder Mountain High School pitch.
The first words out of the soccer defenders mouth were inaudible.
Her last game was as a sophomore and had ended that season early, with a career threatening knee injury.
Her junior season was taken away before it started by the coronavirus pandemic lockdown.
Her high school career was going to be played during an uncertain season on an uncertain braced appendage in her first game in nearly two years.
“Really… really great…,” Erben’s voice trailed away into sobs. “It… has been awhile and…”
Juneau-Douglas High School: Yadaa.at Kalé defeated Kayhi 17-0.
It is a disservice to the Crimson Bears to not note the lopsided tally as they did not run up the score on purpose. The goals came and went as nature intended, on a pitch that featured a historically strong program that had been denied its purpose, an unbridled thoroughbred race horse that had been tethered to a plow for over a year-and-a-half.
“Two years and waiting,” Juneau-Douglas coach Matt Dusenberry said. “It was just ecstatic and then the weather we are having for the kids. Yeah it was fun to watch.”
It would also be a disservice to the Ketchikan Lady Kings to not mention the final count as they did not surrender. When it was easy to hang their heads they did not. When it was easy to not chase a ball or not mark an opponent they chose to push on, they chose to take a hit, and they chose to cheer each other through a game in which they were outmatched but not out-hearted.
“We talked about it at half time,” Ketchikan coach Andrew Wessling said. “It was already pretty bad at half time but we just said, ‘hey, we have an opportunity here to get better.’ It was easy to look at that and be bummed out but we saw that there was a freedom in that now we can try some of the things we wanted to try at practice. There is always some improvement that can be made… I don’t know what it is about this group of girls but they are just very positive… they help me stay positive.”
It would be a disservice to a freshman player who had the chance to be on the field with her junior sister and provide a family memory they can talk about for years, and a disservice to juniors who last played as freshmen in the state tournament, and for seniors who may only have these last minutes on the pitch and for their teammates who have worked and toiled and suffered together.
Dusenberry said as the score grew they worked on moving the ball around.
“Could we play it inside and then back out,” he said. “Could we play it up and then move it back, work on just moving the ball, because Ketchikan was still working really hard there so that is going to give us some pressure. If they pick us off they pick us off. Just to watch all of them out there after having last season taken away completely, to be able to just play was awesome.”
It would be a disservice to Erben.
“Her last time to play was when she got hurt,” Dusenberry said. “In her mind she was probably hoping they didn’t take this game away and the last game ever was her injury. For her to be able to come back out and be able to play and be productive has got to feel great for her.”
Crimson Bears’ scores in the first half came from junior midfielder Ella Goldstein on a rebound shot from the right center of the keeper at the 3:36 mark; senior forward Jasmin Holst struck from 15 yards out at 5:01; freshman forward Cadence Plummer knocked one in from 10 yards straight on at 7:35; senior midfielder Taylor Bentley crossed over a defender, moved the ball from left leg to right and hit from 25 yards at 8:50; junior forward Blake Plummer struck form 15 yards at 9:38 and younger sister Cadence hit again at 10:56 on a hard knock from point blank range to the keeper’s side; junior forward Kyla Bentz hit from 10 yards dead center at 29:30; Goldstein struck again from 15 yards at 33:38; Bentley dribbled into the box and struck at 35:29; B. Plummer found the net again at 38:05; and Bentley ended the half with a boot at 39:40.
“It felt really good to have multiple people score,” Blake Plummer said. “Not just one person. So that was nice just to get everybody going. It was nice to get my sister to score.”
Cadence Plummer said she was nervous, “But I think I did good and I am just happy that everybody got a chance to play.”
In the second half C. Plummer struck at 7:18; Bentley at 14:10; Holst netted a rebound at 22:50; C. Plummer hit through the keeper from 10 yards at 25:10; junior forward Maile Quigley quieted a penalty kick in the upper right netting at 32:20; and B. Plummer put a final touch in at 34:28.
After the game, after photos, after sweat dried and tears flowed, Rachel Erben searched for words among emotions.
“Especially after last year… because I was really… really ready for the season… and so excited to be back, and then… we didn’t get it…,” Erbens’s sobs again overtook her thoughts.
Thoughts that things were finally working out and, together with her teammates, she played a great game.
“I’m sorry,” she said, apologizing for not being able to say how she felt.
There is no reason she should be sorry that an injury took her sophomore season and COVID her junior outing.
There is no reason to be sorry because, clearly, she deserves to be on the pitch, with her teammates and opponents, running in the wind with the sun at her back.