The Plymouth girls’ soccer team poses for a photo prior to their first-ever playoff game in October. Joshua Spaulding. (click for larger version)
November 18, 2012PLYMOUTH — Anybody who has been a part of the Plymouth girls' soccer program the last few years saw the team take a turn in the right direction last year, as the Bobcats got on the winning side of the scoreboard for the first time in four years.
And this year, the team took one giant leap forward, qualifying for the playoffs for the first time in program history and finishing at 7-9 in the regular season.
"Nobody ever took a second look at Plymouth," coach Chris Inman said. "Now that's changed.
"How do you summarize a year like that," the Bobcat mentor continued. "They've grown so much."
Inman remembers his high school career and having a year that he has still not forgotten and he is hopeful that for the girls on his team, this was one of those years.
"I know this is a season no one can forget ever," he said.
Inman was quick to admit that heading into the year, he wasn't setting benchmarks, at least not to his team. He did, however, have some ideas in his head about what this year's team could accomplish. The Bobcats did more than reach that benchmark, instead going right past it, using a day-by-day system that proved beneficial to the improving team.
"Every day is what you are working for," Inman said. "Every time you touch the ball, it's not to win seven games.
"We never looked ahead," he added. "Having that mentality this year really helped."
For the Bobcats, the turnaround was immense fun to be a part of and each of the girls pointed to her teammates as being the key factor in making the soccer program at Plymouth matter again.
"We just trust in each other," said Julia Hatfield.
"I think we have more faith in ourselves and our teammates, that we'll win," said goaltender Jessie McDonough.
"We worked a lot this year to succeed," said Macaela Wright.
Many of the girls who were around last year's squad pointed to that group making the turn that eventually propelled the Bobcats forward into this successful season.
"It started with last year when we started winning," said Maddy Hansen. "We didn't just accept defeat."
Inman noted that teaching a team to win is not an easy thing and when a team is accustomed to losing on a regular basis, it's hard to find that winning edge. He praised the girls for their hard work in going to find that.
"Last year was a collection of different skills," said Marykate Melanson. "This year, we worked as a team to develop those skills so we can work as a unit.
"We know we have the confidence now," Hatfield noted.
Throughout the year, there were numerous highlights for the team and the players pointed out some of them, with most pointing to the final game against St. Thomas, a dramatic come-from-behind 4-2 win to seal the playoff berth on Oct. 18.
Melanson was even more specific, pointing to teammate Anine Vingen header goal in that game as the highlight of the regular season.
Hansen pointed to the Kennett game in North Conway on Sept. 21, a game in which the Eagles scored first and the Bobcats bounced back with five goals to close out the game.
"They scored on us, but we answered back pretty quickly," Hansen said. "It was insane, we changed the whole flow of the game.
"I felt really proud of that one," she continued. "We really earned it, we took over that game."
Christin Badylak-Reals noted that for her, in her senior year, the entire season was a highlight.
"We had to step it up," she said. "We proved that our past doesn't have to dictate what we're going to do in the future."
Badylak-Reals was also quick to praise the work of Inman in helping to turn the program around.
I think the coach really made the difference, to make the team mesh," she said. "We had great leadership last year and worked as a team."
She is also hopeful that what this year's team started will continue as the girls keep getting better and improving each season.
"I don't think that going to the playoffs is a one-time thing," Badylak-Reals said.
On the eve of their first playoff game ever, the girls gathered for a film session and for many, it was surreal that the tournament was a part of their lives.
"It's surreal," Hansen said. "It's incredible being in the playoffs."
"I think we're so excited about the tournament that (the nerves) haven't really set in yet," said Colleen Healey.
Jade McLaughlin was able to put it in perspective as well.
"Even if we lose, we've accomplished something," she said. "And if we win, that's just a bonus."
Inman pointed out he was proud of the work the kids put in to help get them to this new plateau.
"Everything is progress," he said. "You can't just assume things will happen right away. It takes work."
And though the Bobcats lost their first-round playoff match to a talented Goffstown side, the girls have certainly turned a corner. Their confidence is a clear indication of that.
"We can win any game we want to," Melanson said.
And, forever and ever, they know they will be the team that put Plymouth on the girls' soccer map. Badylak-Reals even looked to the future.
"Coach is going to be telling everyone about 'that' year," she said. "We are 'that' year."
Joshua Spaulding can be reached at email@example.com or 569-3126