Seniors pen memorable final chapter with state soccer championship
As Drake said, “started from the bottom,” now they’re here.
According to senior Conner Couchot, the seniors from boys’ soccer had created their dream team long before entering high school.
“Seven of us [seniors] actually played together when we were eight, and so growing up together, playing soccer together– that’s what really motivated us,” Couchot said. “I’ve always loved playing soccer, and as a little kid I thought I’d go pro. [Even though] that’s not going to happen now…state is a great accomplishment for me and my team.”
For this close-knit group of seniors, the expectations for their class were set very high from the moment they set foot on the high-school field, four years ago.
“Our freshman year at tryouts, [Coach Reedy] told us we were going be the best class to ever go through Mason,” Couchot said. “So living up to that expectation is a great thing.”
Senior Eric Liddell however said he wasn’t always as optimistic about that goal.
“The other seniors [thought we could win state], but I did not,” Liddell said. “I thought we were going to make it far, but not win state [because] I guess I’m a realist…but once I saw how good we were this year, I knew that we definitely had a shot.”
According to senior Josh Grant, that expectation put pressure on the team because they were supposed to be “the class to do it.” However head coach Paul Reedy said he thought it was a pretty fair statement.
“When we first saw them play as incoming freshmen, we knew right away that this group had the potential to be really good,” Reedy said. “We referred to [the state title as] the unspoken goal. It was on everybody’s mind, [but] we just tried to start with ‘Well let’s win the GMC in the regular season, and from there let’s win the district and win the regional,’ and once we got to state semifinals, it was a little easier to talk about…what we really wanted.”
With that strategy, the team has gotten closer and closer to state each year, getting a taste of semifinals last year. According to Reedy, the spark with this year’s group lit up the ideal conditions to win the state tournament.
“It takes a lot of things falling into place,” Reedy said. “We had a very talented group, but talent alone is typically not enough. We also were injury-free …and [we had] a little bit of good fortune.”
According to Grant, the dominance of the senior class and the team depth also made an impact.
“We had eleven seniors — that really helped, and…we had a really deep bench. We had a couple of sophomores [and juniors] on the team that were able to get through, so when Reedy did have to sub to give us a break, the level of play didn’t drop.”
Even though a strong team and an undefeated season of 22-0 made it look like a flawless ride, Reedy said the road wasn’t as clean as the record books.
“The journey is never easy,” Reedy said. “It has its ups and downs, and even though we never lost a game, I wouldn’t want people to think ‘Oh…you went through the season without much difficulty.’ It doesn’t work that way. And I think the players would be the first ones to say that they get tired physically and mentally, and I think they did a great job of helping each other get through the lows.”
According to Reedy, the team did an unbelievable job of maintaining focus and getting through the hype of state.
“As we got to about the halfway point of the regular season, we became the number one ranked team in the state of Ohio, and then gradually we were getting these very high national rankings,” Reedy said. “And that can…weigh a team down, and I had some concerns about that, but this group of seniors — they didn’t allow it to become a burden.”
Grant said they got through the pressure by simply taking it day-by-day.
“As we went through the tournament we had to…just [avoid] getting a big head because we were undefeated and we were expected to go far in the tournament,” Grant said. “We just had to take it one game at a time.”
With the momentum and expectations building up since this group of seniors started playing together in elementary school, Liddell said there was a feeling of relief to get the perfect ending in the final chapter.
“It was important [to win state] just because…that [was] the last game of my life,” Liddell said. “That’ s what we’re gonna be remembered as. That’s the legacy we leave behind in Mason. We’re gonna be forever remembered as the best team in Mason…[It shows] just how hard work pays off. Definitely a story I’ll tell for the rest of my life.”