BY WIL CREWS
The 2022 Lee-Scott Academy girls’ varsity soccer team, with a current record of 4-6-2, is still establishing its own identity as it looks to repeat as AISA Class 3A state champions. Following up the success of the 2021 team was always going to be a staunch challenge, but after a difficult start to the year, Head Coach Eric Faison has drawn parallels between the two squads, encouraging the skipper.
“Last year, we were a lot in the same boat,” Faison said. “We snuck into the final four, upset that team, then pulled some magic out of the hat and wound up winning the state championship. If you look at results in this season and games like that, it just frustrating, but the potential is there.”
With the playoffs rapidly approaching on April 18, and despite some of the similarities Faison sees in this year’s team and the last, the head coach has worked hard to dampen the pressure his youthful squad is facing.
“I think there is this unconscious pressure,” he said. “I told the girls they are not that team. You have got be your own team, and what happens, happens. I think them enjoying it and me taking the pressure off of the win-loss thing has made it a positive.”
A squad which deploys multiple underclassmen and even some junior high schoolers in its starting lineup, the Warriors have struggled at times to keep up with its more experienced opponents.
“We have got eighth and ninth graders through the core of our team who are good but they are just small,” he said. “The other night we played Tuscaloosa Academy, who has all seniors and four college commits, and we just can’t do anything with the ball. So, it’s just been frustrating.”
After the season began in an unglamorous fashion, some of the Lee-Scott players took matters into their own hands, holding a players-only meeting to reset the team’s comradery and direction, Faison said.
“By about our third or fourth game in, attitudes were bad, morale was bad,” he said. “And then I went … it was just kind of one of those moments where you get their attention. The next day, some players said they wanted to have a players-only meeting and they met for an hour and half. Whatever they talked about worked. The next day we played a game and it was like a completely different team.”
Since then, the Warriors have still faced their share of adversity, but have grown through it, together.
“It’s been frustrating for all of us because you walk off the field after you gave everything you had, but you still come out on the wrong side of it,” Faison said. “But, I think every team has those moments. The thing that has saved us is they all just really enjoy playing together.”
Although the team has not been consistently achieving the results it wants, Faison said the leadership of two girls in particular, Cheyenne Butler and Erin Holder, have led the team to persevere.
“We started off with higher expectations because we knew the impossible could happen because it happened last year,” Faison said. “But, we have gotten better through the season. They grew through adversity.”
When evaluating his team’s chances in the postseason this year, Faison is optimistic.
“Each game has a life of its own when you get into the playoffs,” he said. “It doesn’t matter the record. You commit to your plan and you do it.”
Regardless of how the results turn out, Lee-Scott is building toward the future with a squad that will have more years to actualize its goal of regaining the mantle of state champion.
“We are going to commit and do the best we can,” he said. “We are going to give everything we have to each other and the game. But this team is going to be together for the next four years, so we are looking at the long-term positive of that.”
The Warriors played Autauga on Wednesday but results were not available come press time.