For those fans who first tuned into the GDS women’s varsity soccer season by cheering on the team at Sports Saturday, the team’s win over Wilson (4-3) was another example of how dominant they have been this September. Last year, for the first time in decades, GDS broke into the Washington Post Top 10 in the DMV with a tenth place ranking. This week, they are ranked third in the area! And those three goals Wilson scored last Saturday? Those are the only goals GDS has allowed all season.
Sophie Schiff ’20, one of three senior captains, has lived this journey from setback to success. She said, “As a varsity team member for four years, I have really seen the team come from its worst position to its best. My freshman year, we were moved down to the bottom division from the top one. It was a crushing way to start my freshman year, but I used it to push me to play my best and encourage my team to get back to the spot I knew we deserved. My sophomore year we ended up winning the lower league, winning the banner, and moving right back up. My junior year, we made it to the DC state finals, made the top 10 teams in DC, and reached the semi-finals of the ISL tournament.” The team is already on track to top last year’s performance.
Three top players were missing from the match against Wilson due to club soccer commitments, including powerhouse defender Alaina Gulino ’21, left midfielder Ayana Curto ’21, and center midfielder Danielle Burke ’21. Still, the strength of the team doesn’t lie in a single player. Sophie said, “We believe that success comes not from one player, but from the team playing in a cohesive manner. Each person on the field needs to be strong on and off the ball in order to attack and defend as one unit.”
“This has been a great start to the season,” said head coach Katie Redmond. “We have a solid 16 athletes that are really working, playing hard, and contributing to the team. Each player is important. Our strength really is within us.”
Before each game, captain and goalie Tayae Rogers ’20 gathers the team close, reminds the players what to focus on, and leads the team in a breathing exercise to get them in the right mindset to play. Out on the field, the players keep lifting each other, especially when feeling drained, with "Pick it up, GDS!" or “Heads in the game!” Players also personalize the phrases they use to support each other. Tayae explained, “Our striker Marleigh [Ausbrooks ’21] gets motivated by the acronym ‘YOLO,’ so we use that with her because we know that will help her. Colleen—one of our coaches—will come to my end of the field and say, ‘You got it, Tayae,’ when I let a goal in because she knows I'll respond to that.” Fans can check the strips of tape the players are wearing over their shoelaces to see the motivational phrases they use to refocus, motivate, or lift themselves if they let their head drop during a game.
“What makes this team special is our ability to work hard while also maintaining a love for the game,” said captain Kate Strong ’20.
GDS athletic director David Gillespie sees firsthand how hard the team works and how devotedly they show up for each other. “It’s apparent just how much fun they have playing together. Whether in practice or a game, they are always supporting each other.”
“Soccer season is the best time of the year,” Sophie said. “We truly give it our all throughout the season.”
This year, the team has their sights set on winning both the DC State Tournament and the ISL AA banner. Kate said, “These aren't easy goals. They take hard work to accomplish. While there's still a lot we need to accomplish, I'm incredibly excited about this season, and I can't wait to see this team bring the GDS women’s varsity soccer program to new heights!” Beyond their goals for team results this season, the senior captains also spoke positively about the kind of program they want to leave behind them.
As they prepare for another tough league game today, the team is mindful of the long season ahead of them. Sophie said, “Although it feels as though we are on top of the world right now, we don't let that get to our heads. Each match starts 0-0. We are in it for the long-run and hope to use this momentum to continue to play the game we love.”
UPDATE (September 26, 2019): The team won another league game on 9/25/2019.