Last Wednesday, Gilbert’s head women’s soccer coach, Danny Jones, decided to organize some scrums for his players.
Jones didn’t expect much. It was only days into the first week of practice and Gilbert hadn’t had an official college game in nearly two years due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
But that didn’t matter. It was all about the smiles on the girls’ faces as they experienced the joy of bonding with their teammates and playing together again.
“The excitement is in the air, I’ll tell you,” Jones said. “It was just pure happiness. »
Football has always been a big deal with Gilbert. The Tigers were Class 1A semi-finalists in 2019 and currently have over 60 girls for the sport.
“We have a really good team environment,” Gilbert’s senior midfielder Katie Currans said. “We have a lot of amazing girls who are ready to learn and work hard. This makes it easier for everyone to participate. »
Bringing everyone together will be a slightly bigger challenge for Currans and his senior colleagues this year.
“The biggest thing was having to learn two whole years from different girls,” said senior striker Bella Saad. “We had to come together quickly to be ready for this season. It helps that we played different sports with these girls and football outside of high school with some of them.
With Jones’ infectious enthusiasm and positive vibe around the entire program, it shouldn’t take long for all newcomers to feel at home.
“At the end of the season, we are a family,” Saad said. “Everyone loves each other.”
It will also help with the chemistry on the pitch. It might take a few games to shake off all the rust, but Jones was thrilled with how his girls performed in Wednesday’s scrums.
“The communication was just amazing,” Jones said. “It was awesome.”
Replacing what would have been last year’s senior class won’t be easy. Amy Taylor, Isabelle Johnson, Abigail Clark and the rest of this group brought with them a lot of talent and invaluable leadership.
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“When I found out we weren’t going to have a season last year, I was mostly heartbroken for my seniors because I was so close to that group,” Currans said. “I was disappointed that I couldn’t play with them and that they weren’t going to play anymore. All the other girls who played sports in high school had four opportunities to play sports and these girls only had three. It breaks my heart for them.
But just because last year’s seniors won’t be on the pitch doesn’t mean they won’t be with the current Tigers crop when they take the pitch this season.
“I’m still in touch with these girls and they’re still excited for our team,” Currans said. “They’re so excited to see us play and see us grow.”
The 2021 Tigers still have a lot of talent.
Junior striker Natalie Rudman scored 25 goals two years ago and Saad is also an experienced attacking weapon. Currans and senior Katie Koenig will anchor midfield and junior Aubrey Mizerak will be at the back.
Jones has plenty of other talented players to work with as he fills the other positions and builds depth.
“We are really hungry,” Saad said. “We are ready. We have a very deep bench this year, everything is falling into place and we are going to be good. We have ambitious goals and we are here to achieve them.
Tiger’s players certainly enter the season with a chip on their shoulders.
“They feel like they missed an opportunity to get to the state last year,” Jones said. “They really worked hard to get back to where we were.”
Currans thinks his team can compete with anyone in 1A.
“I don’t think there’s a reason this team shouldn’t be competing for a state title,” Currans said. “You play one game at a time, that’s all you can do. But these girls are ready to play.
No matter what, Jones is just happy to see his daughters finally getting to play the sport they love again.
“I always say it’s your season and your time,” Jones said. “We are here for them. It’s pure happiness. »
Gilbert opens the season April 5 at home against Ballard and faces Ames in his first road game on April 8.