Setting One Goal: Boys Soccer 2016

Hazel McLain

The game slows as the final seconds tick away on the scoreboard. The remaining students in the East student section count down. “Three, two, one,” they chant until the buzzer rings across the field. East’s undefeated streak is continued.

Twelve games into the season and East’s varsity soccer team hadn’t lost yet. As their season went on, expectations of success rose. 

Everything was weighing on them. To maintain their winning streak, to not give up any goals on the field. They needed to meet the standards they had set for the season. 

“Pretty much all of the pressure is put on me by myself,” senior Oliver Bihuniak said. “I just [feel] a lot of pressure to make sure we were better than last year.” 

As a senior and a captain on the team, Bihuniak directed and motivated his teammates to keep pushing forward, and he critiqued their skills to make them improve. He had to juggle the responsibilities of being a captain with improving his own abilities, all while not letting himself get into his head about being undefeated. But Bihuniak couldn’t let these factors affect him.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                

This applied to the rest of the team as well. They couldn’t allow scrappy opponents or an unfair call by the referee to distract them from reaching their highest potential. 

When students came to the games decked out in Hawaiian button up shirts and straw skirts, it encouraged the team to give everything they had on the field. Rather than distracting them with their loud chants, the student section inspired them to keep pushing. Glancing towards the stands eased the players’ tension, whether the game was a blowout or tied in overtime with penalty kicks on the line.

“I really love having a big student section,” Bihuniak said. “They really lift the morale of the team whenever they’re cheering.” 

Coach Kelly also helped the boys stay on top of their game without the impact of the pressure. He coached them to take every opponent seriously by making practices as similar and intense to regular games as possible. This helped alleviate nerves during game time because, for the players, it was just like a Monday afternoon practice.

“We always talk about how you can control two things: you can control how hard you work and work ethic,” Kelly said. “And if our individual players do that, then together, as a team, we’ll be just fine no matter who we face.”

 

Senior forward Grayson Rapp was not as concerned about the mental pressure from being undefeated. He focused more on keeping his breathing steady and staying calm on the field even when the game was close. Rapp also communicated with his teammates and made sure he knew what was happening on the field at all times.