By Will LeBlond
During the early evening hours of October 20, the final horn sounded for the Groton Girls Soccer team in their 2017 campaign, but they left a lasting mark when they exited the field at Lansing High School.
A 2-1 defeat to the Bobcats in the Class C Section IV quarterfinal round knocked the Indians out of sectional title contention, but they certainly didn’t end the year empty handed. Their defeat came just a few days after they locked up their second straight IAC Small School Championship when they shut out Spencer-Van Etten/Candor 2-0 at Tompkins Cortland Community College. The win marked their second straight IAC crown after they ended an 18-year drought in 2016.
“They were very excited about it,” said head coach Dick Brecht on the IAC win. “I was talking to them and a lot of them were having trouble sleeping, they were waking up in the middle of the night. It means a lot to them, because we put in a lot of time year-round…hard work paid off for them, it meant a lot to see them rewarded for that hard work.”
The success on the field in the past two seasons has served as a culmination of hard work for Brecht and the Indians.
“When I took this program over 10 years ago, I took over a program that didn’t score a goal in a whole season,” said Brecht. “Over the years, the girls have bought into what we’re doing and they’ve put in a lot of time.”
The process of building up a winner went past just performances on the field. Playing inside the IAC presents quite a few challenges as traditional powerhouses such as Lansing, Elmira-Notre Dame, Marathon and Dryden create a competitive environment, but Brecht utilized that and used it to help his own team.
“Those coaches had no problem talking to me and helping me,” he said. “And they’ve done an awful lot to help our program and I just followed through.”
Brecht has used the wisdom from other coaches and also developed players through offseason play, which includes an indoor league in Cortland to which he credits a lot of the team’s success. With so many options for players to stay in soccer shape throughout the year, a big crop of talent has started to develop in Groton.
On the 2017 roster alone, 11 of the team’s 19 players are sophomores or younger. And combined with five seniors and three juniors, which includes multiple IAC All-Stars, the strength of the team is really starting to show.
At the forefront of the progress is the team’s sophomore class of six players, which has been building up for a few years now.
“A lot of those girls came up as 8th graders and they were able to play with really good players,” said Brecht. “They learned about what it takes and they were really committed in the offseason.”
That sophomore class, led by Lauren Reeves who had 19 goals and 9 assists on the season, will be juniors next fall and join a solid crop of returners. Senior-to-be Maggie Ossit had 15 goals and 15 assists this year and Sophia Bell broke out this fall during her freshman season with 14 goals.
Although the team did not reach their goal of making a sectional title game this fall, their team mantra of taking it to the “Next Level” will carry them into the offseason … and it doesn’t hurt to have another IAC trophy to look at.