ANN ARBOR — Nobody would have thought any less of the Lenawee Christian girls soccer team had it lost to Manchester in an 8-0 mercy Friday in the Division 4 MHSAA district championship.
After all, the Cougars were playing with one substitute available, one athlete sick and another in a cast. LCS was also going against a strong conference rival in Manchester in 90-plus degree weather on field turf.
All of the odds were stacked against the Cougars, and yet, there they were late in the second half battling down 2-1 before falling by that final.
“It’s a testament to where we’ve come,” said head coach Nathan Sharpe. “There is a bit of pride for the school and the soccer program. Ultimately, they play to bring glory and honor to God. They never give up, work, work, work, and we’ve always got a chance.”
LCS wrapped up the season 9-6-1 with 17 athletes on the roster, seven seniors, with a plethora of injuries, illnesses and recovering from past injuries.
Despite all of the adversity, the Cougars took second in the tough Independent Soccer League, beat Ann Arbor Greenhills on the Gryphons home turf in districts and pushed a strong Manchester team as they led most of the first half after an Olivia Durbin goal in the 16th minute off a long free kick.
“I was really impressed with how my team played,” said junior Selah Clymer. “We came out there and stepped up. We put our all out there. We really fought together for our seniors.”
Gutting LCS to another winning season were senior captains, goalkeeper Avery Sluss, midfielder Durbin and midfielder/back Lauren Swiggum.
“(Sluss) is special and will probably step into a starting role at Indiana Wesleyan, which is super rare and shows you who she is,” Sharpe said. “Olivia and Lauren both had significant injuries last season. Gutting out to even get back to play, the lifting, running and pain shows their dedication to the sport.”
With all of the injuries, it meant more athletes saw time on the field who typically wouldn’t have had the opportunity.
The silver lining will be a lot of experience back that normally wouldn’t have been there.
“There were girls who played significant minutes who had never played soccer before this season,” Sharpe said. “It’ll be a transition for them to step into next season, it was good for them to experience that next year.”
While more than half of the team who were on the pitch for the Cougars Friday are graduating, Clymer and Callie Anderson will return to lead next season while Sam Shane will take over in net after playing well in front of Sluss in a defensive position.
They’ll also be on the hunt in the halls to try and find some depth for next season.
“We’ve got to do some recruiting to get more people to come out,” Clymer said. “I’m excited to see what next season is going to look like. It’s going to be different with seven seniors leaving. It’ll be new and it’ll be exciting and we’re hoping to be in this same spot next season. “
This article originally appeared on The Daily Telegram: Lenawee Christian girls soccer displays gutsy performance in MHSAA loss