Shelby High’s parents got in their car at 5 a.m. Tuesday morning. Then they drove over 11 hours from their home in Kansas to Livingston, Alabama with a celebratory dessert to watch Union’s women’s soccer team make history.
It was the first time that the team made it to the quarterfinals since Union became postseason eligible in 2014.
“This is one of the hardest working, most competitive and most resilient teams I’ve ever coached,” Head Coach Isaac Brooks said. “The girls have to be able to withstand a constant barrage of physical, mental and spiritual hurdles. Very few people can do what they do.”
At the beginning of the season, Union was projected to finish ninth. However, they stepped onto the field at the University of West Alabama seeded fifth.
“We came into the season with something to prove,” said senior forward Kayleigh Patterson, who made the 2016 GSC All-Conference second team for her third consecutive year. “I believe we did that, and we glorified Christ through that.”
They played the fourth-seeded University of West Alabama Tuesday night. A goal scored by a UWA forward in the first 17 minutes clinched the game; it was the only goal made.
“The game really could have gone either way,” said senior midfielder Sarah Hershbain. “Even though we lost our last game, we all worked so hard and I’m so proud of my team.”
UWA Head Coach Graeme Orr attributed their victory to a strong start and consistency throughout the game.
“We played against a great team,” Orr said. “Union played some excellent soccer in the second half, however we showed great character and kept competing to the end.”
West Alabama outshot fifth-seeded Union 10-5 and 4-3 in shots on goal. Patterson and Hershbain each made one of the shots on goal, while freshman defender Brook Watson made the third. GSC Defender of Week Kristin Francis had three saves.
Union ended their season with a 7-5-5 record. The seven wins for Union matched the second highest win total for Brooks. He won eight games in 2012 and seven in 2013.
“This has been my favorite season to play,” Patterson said. “We did lose, but we played hard.”
Afterward, the girls flooded Facebook with pictures, their captions lamenting the end of season and thanking their coaches, teammates, friends and parents for their support.
“I’m so thankful for such an awesome last season,” Hershbain said. “Even though we lost our last game, we all worked so hard and I’m so proud of my team…I couldn’t have imagined a better team to play with.”
“To glorify Christ and represent Union at the GSC tournament was the cherry on top for my senior year,” Patterson said. “I am sad it had to end, but being here, a part of this team, has made a positive impact on my life that I never would have expected.”