With the passing of longtime Coach Jed Lacey in August, followed by the tragic passing of senior and team-leader Grace Sheer in February, two games into the season, questions surrounded this year’s Lady Tigers soccer team.
Was the focus there? Would they even play?
Those questions were emphatically answered time and time again, and while their season ended May1 with an 8-0 loss at Westminster in the second round of the playoffs, the postgame public-address announcement from a school 60 miles away, playing Dawson County for the first time, asking for a moment of silence in honor of Lacey and Sheer was a stark reminder of just how much heartache these 15 to 18-year-old girls have had to endure all season while still managing to play at a high-level without two of their leaders and friends.
“A tough group of girls,” said Region 7-AAA Coach of the Year Chess Hamby about his team. “They don’t know what ‘give up’ means. What we faced this year, there were times that I questioned what was going to happen. What’s the breaking point? And truthfully, they stuck together, they kept playing and they never gave up. They’re just relentless and that’s what Coach Lacey instilled in them at a young age.
“All these girls have that mentality of whatever comes their way, they’re going to attack it. That’s how Coach Lacey lived his life, that’s how he coached and that’s how these girls play the game and how they prepare for the game. I hope that those seniors take that with them through life.”
Seniors Hope Bennet and goalkeeper Ashley Stanfill had two teary-eyed postgame speeches, thanking their teammates for their support and wishing them the best of luck in the future.
From a soccer standpoint, the future looks bright for the Dawson County team that finished the season 12-3 and ranked No. 4 in the Class AAA rankings according to Eurosport.
Freshman Molly Muenchen, who dedicated this season to Lacey and Sheer, shattered the school-record for most goals scored in a single season. Muenchen’s 36-goal season, which included two games with six goals apiece (another school record), broke the previous record of 23 goals set by McKay Shively.
Adding to the Dawson County record books this season was sophomore Katie Clouse, who tied the school record for most assists in a single season.
In addition to Muenchen and Clouse, All-Region First Team defender Mackenzie Kimbral and goalkeeper Fallan Lacey (13 saves in the loss to Westminster), as well as second-team forwards Rachel Rajczak and Ruthie Pittman will be returning to the Lady Tigers next season.
“We have a lot of offense coming back,” Hamby said. “We essentially have the whole team coming back, so we’re excited about that. We’re hoping that we can continue to develop them and they can continue to grow as players. We definitely have a bright future.”
Despite falling short of the ultimate goal and storybook ending of a state championship, a Sweet 16 appearance amidst all the adversity before and even during the season is something that Hamby hopes these girls will one day be able to fully appreciate.
“Life’s not easy as we all know,” Hamby said. “Things happen and what you’ve got to be able to do is just keep fighting the battle that comes your way and that was all instilled in them by Coach Lacey from a soccer standpoint, but also from a life standpoint.”