There was a bitter cold wind and a downpouring of rain when the Grand Haven High School boys varsity soccer team took the field on the night of regional semifinals. They had just come off their district championship win, only to have to face the defending state champions in the first round of regional play.
It was a tough draw and a tall order, for sure, but while we all knew that in our heads, we truly believed they could do it in our hearts — the coaches, the boys, the parents and the busload of students who came, braving the weather to cheer on the team.
It was quite a battle, with no score on either side well into the second half.
Unfortunately, like with many sports, sometimes luck — both good and bad — can change the course of a game. None of our shots could find the back of the net, but partway through the second, an East Kentwood shot traveled through a crowd and suddenly switched direction, deflecting off someone into our goal.
Despite a valiant fight and numerous opportunities, we couldn’t respond, and while the wind howled and the rain poured and the clock ran down, we watched an awesome season slip away. It was during these final minutes that the dedicated student section who had entertained us throughout the year with their arsenal of chants pulled out what I believe was their best one yet — a repetition of the words, “Thank you, seniors.”
Thank you, seniors, indeed.
Coach Dean had referred to this team as “special” many times throughout the season, and that they were. It was the seniors who set the tone, encouraged and supported their teammates, and laid the groundwork for the kind of camaraderie and team bond that is a key component of success, but doesn’t always occur. And while the boys were close, so too became the parents. This is the stuff that makes it hard to say goodbye at season’s end.
Of course, as touching as all this is, truth be told, there are a few things to which I have no problem bidding farewell:
— Goodbye to the tiny black rubber pellets, collected from artificial turf and dispersed throughout my house by the millions.
— So long to reaching into the depths of sweaty socks to retrieve the shin-pad sleeve wadded up within.
— Goodbye to our go-to game-night meal of Jimmy Johns. Your freaky fastness came in handy, but boy am I ready for a break!
— Adios multiple uniform washings every week.
— Farewell to the thousands of layers of clothes and various accessories piled in the back of my car, ready for any type of weather at all times.
— Sayonara to the stench of wet soccer cleats that smell amazingly similar to cat urine.
In all seriousness, though, it is always hard when a season ends, especially one as special as this had been. Thank you, Coach Dean, not only for your years of dedication and commitment to the soccer program, but also for demonstrating that you can indeed work hard and still have fun. We appreciate all you have done, wish you well in your new adventure, and hope the boys continue to make you proud.
Thanks to the other coaches, as well, for their time and sacrifices; to Earl Dean for making highlight videos of every game and Don VanZytveld for the highly entertaining post-game interviews.
Let’s not forget the incredible student section. Sure, there were times you were reprimanded by the ref for the lack of appropriateness of your chants, but you consistently made us laugh, and we can’t tell you how much your loyal support of the team was appreciated.
Thank you, as well, to our fellow parents who made the season so fun.
And finally — thank you to the boys for allowing us to watch some pretty darn awesome soccer. It was a great run and tons of fun. Now, let the growing-out of the mohawks begin!
— By Kelly Kalis, Tribune community columnist