MMS Titans take home championship
Thursday, October 31, 2013
There is no taste sweeter than a victory well earned.
I was humbled and honored to bear witness to such a victory last Friday, Oct. 25, when the Milford Middle School Girls Soccer Team (MMS Titans) won the Tri-County Championship for the first time ever. The most powerful drive we can instill in our children is a passion to never ever, ever stop reaching for the stars.
The 2013 Titans season began in the long, lazy days of late August. Brand new soccer coach Tom Sawyer gathered potential players together for skills assessments, under the scorching rays of sunshine at the MCAA fields on North River Road. It was a harrowing week of evaluations and cuts – finally coming to fruition on the Friday before Labor Day – when the difficult decisions were complete and roster was finalized.
Composing the team was no easy task due to the incredible amount of soccer talent in our town. Contrasting feelings of happiness, mixed with compassion for those who did not make the squad, swept amongst the newly formed team. Empowered with a fierce desire to be their absolute best, they made a solemn promise to live up to their utmost potential.
The Division II MMS Titans team included six eighth-grade players, 12 seventh-grade players, two sixth-grade players and two eighth-grade team managers. The older girls really made an effort to encourage the younger players and welcome them with open arms. The camaraderie, support for one another and general team encouragement was simply amazing all season. The coaches were actively involved from day one; aggressively promoting skills development, while continually fostering team spirit.
After winning their first game on home field advantage, the team experienced a tough loss the very next day to a Division III team from Weare. Although it was a nonleague scrimmage, it still rattled the teams’ nerves. As the parent of a player, it rattled mine, too! Perhaps it was an omen when right before the Weare scrimmage; I fell down a full flight of composite stairs onto an asphalt parking lot, with Diet Coke in hand. The six-inch long bruise on my thigh lasted nearly all season, and was possibly more vibrant than the girls’ navy blue game shirts.
The team quickly bounced back the following week with an impressive win against longtime rival Windham. As we arrived to the field that afternoon, we could not help but overhear the other parents say this would be an easy win for them. Apparently, they based their false assumption on a combination of historical data and an unfortunate recent loss by our boys’ soccer club to their boys’ team. They were definitely not prepared for the electricity exuded by our girls that day. T hey sat in stunned silence as the final whistle blue and Milford declared victory.
The rest of the season sailed by with a growing sense of excited anticipation as we realized we just might make the playoffs, for the first time in 10 years. The team fought hard and handled the adversities presented them with grace. There were concussions, stretched knee ligaments, injured feet and backs. Soccer is no longer considered a Sunday afternoon in the park type of sport – it has transformed into a true contact sport complete with aggressive body shoves and high risk heading of the ball.
The team flourished as they capitalized on their ability to streamline their efforts, efficiently pass the ball down the field, seamlessly protect the goal, and corresponding work in tandem to score. The individuals focused on the success of the team; a philosophy so eloquently instilled in them by their coaching staff and hometown hero Morgan Andrews.
With just four games left to go in the regular season and still touting an undefeated record, they came face to face with their most challenging adversary, Amherst Middle School. It was an exhilarating game from start to finish, and although they fought hard and goalie Katie Lorden was simply amazing. It was a narrow 0-1 defeat. Their first loss of the season.
MMS Titans eventually concluded the season in second place with a 7-1-2 record, earning them a coveted position in the Tri Country Playoffs. Their rapturous win in game one of the playoffs over third place Windham earned Milford a spot in the championship game. While the regular season champions Amherst’s heartfelt lost to fourth place Mountainview gave them home field advantage.
On Friday afternoon, the MCAA fields were adorned with colorful posters touting words of support and all of the girls’ names, blue and white balloons and a sideline chock full of fans. Deep into the first half, Mountainview earned a goal off of a penalty kick inside of the box. Tensions were high and the air literally shimmered with excitement. With less than two minutes on the clock until halftime, Alli Ciardelli broke through two defenders and kicked a beautiful corner shot that Mountainview’s goal tender simply could not catch. The sidelines went ballistic and the MMS Titans squealed with absolute delight.
After a high-energy motivational talk at the half, Milford Titans returned to the field on fire. The score remained tied until about half way through, when Alli Ciardelli had yet another breakout run. She maneuvered the ball seamlessly down the sidelines and attempted to set up Ashley Wilder with a cross. Underestimating the power of her own kick, and due to the sun glaring directly into the eyes of Moutanview’s goalie, the ball soared directly into the keeper, bounced off of her and flew right back into the goal.
The team and the fans went absolutely wild. With baited breath we counted down the last 15 minutes of the game moment by moment. There were many close calls, for both teams. As we inched closer and closer to the end of the game, it became impossible to quell the growing sense of giddy exhilaration. When the final whistle blew and Milford still had a 2-1 lead; it was an amazing and history defining moment. Congratulations to the Girls MMS Titans Soccer Team and coaching staff, for not only earning a spot in the finals, but for winning the title of Tri Country League Champions with an overall record of 9-1-2, for the first time ever!