A Victorious Loss — shitty first draft

Suddenly, the field erupted. Everyone was yelling at the top of their lungs. Before I knew what was happening, I was part of a giant team hug/huddle thing. Kayla was spinning Jenna through the air. Felicia was laughing as she rubbed a disoriented Siena’s forehead. Jade wiped away a tear. My face hurt from smiling so wide. We had done it.

I remember that day clearly. It was mid-October 2007 and I was at a soccer tournament with my elementary school team: Les Patriotes de GPV (I went to a French catholic elementary school). Our members were made up of girls from grades 5–8. Felicia, the eldest, was our star forward and team captain. She was tall, lean and intimidating looking. Her best friend, Siena, was a midfield. She was petite and could manoeuver herself across the field in virtually no time at all. Then there was Mandy, a gossipy-type that spent more time texting and chatting on the sidelines than actually playing on the field. Maddy, Jillian, Jade and I play defense. Kris and Annemarie are the rookies, though they are two of the best players we have. Chelsea, Jenna, Kayla, Nat and Sylvie don’t have a preferred position, so they act as floaters. We all rotated playing goalie because nobody ever wanted to and we could never fairly decide who got stuck with the job.

The day of our victory, we were at a tournament at the local college. All of the schools from our district were there. Some of them had driven in from five hours away to participate. It was a shame really, for it was probably the crappiest day you could imagine for playing soccer. For starters, the sun was nowhere to be seen. Leaves and debris flew around everyone’s heads, being guided by the brisk fall wind. There was an absence of sound as the birds distanced themselves further and further from our northern location. People put on an extra layer as they gathered around the podium, awaiting the opening speech from the school board’s sports coordinator.

“Bonjour et bienvenu au tournoi de soccer CSDECSO 2007!” His voice boomed across the fields. He gave the same half hour introduction speech he administered at every sport tournament each year, only this time while we froze our asses off. My friends and I used this time for more important things: scoping out cute boys. I stopped scanning the audience when I felt an elbow jab me in the side. I spun around to see Jade gesturing to her right.

“Look! Look! That girl is here,” she whispered to me.

Sure enough, there she was. This girl, whose name I never found out even though my friends and knew who she was for three years, came to every single sports tournament with her hair perfectly curled and styled and her face full of makeup. Now that I have grown up a little, I feel for this girl who was probably having identity issues, but if you’re a snooty little tween like I was you don’t think such sympathetic thoughts. Who did this girl think she was? Did she not think she was going to sweat like the rest of us? I couldn’t help myself and let out a very loud burst of laughter. All eyes turned to me at once. A hot sensation started in my neck and creeped up to my forehead until my whole face was on fire.

“ ’Scuse…” I apologized awkwardly, relieved when the coordinator continued. Finally, we heard him wish us all luck and we were free to roam until our first game. Kayla suggested we take a walk by the Monseigneur Caron boys’ team.

“You only want to go over there to see if Garrick will talk to you!” snickered Jenna.

“So? He’s dreamy,” Kayla said while her eyes glazed over.

“I don’t mind if we go over there, but let’s not stay too long. He’s like, the only cute guy from that school.” I interjected. The others agreed, so we were on our way. It took us awhile to find Garrick as we were all unfamiliar with these fields, but eventually we spotted him.

“Quick! Act like we don’t see him! And say something funny!” Kayla whispered frantically.

We immediately obeyed — that’s just what you did when a friend needed to get a boy’s attention. You didn’t ask questions.

“Is he looking?” Kayla said out of the side of her mouth.

“Yeah, he is!” Jade murmured. “It looks like he’s coming this way! Act cool.”

We stood there in silence anticipating him saying hello — but he kept on walking.

“Wow, what a jerk,” I said. “Not worth your time.”

“Yeah let’s go. Hey, is that Sophie?” asked Kayla.

Sophie was my arch nemesis. I introduced her ex-boyfriend to Jenna and she instantly hated me. It was like, the biggest drama of the year. She tried to start a rumor about me on MySpace, but it backfired and people stopped being her friend for being such a bully.

“Ugh, I don’t even want to deal with her right now,” I scoffed. “We should go warm up, we have a game soon!”

We joined the rest of our team on the field we would be playing on next. We gathered in a circle with our captain in the middle. We did some stretches, some passing drills, then we did a couple laps of the field. We were ready for victory.

Our school’s soccer team had a pretty rocky history. When I say rocky, I mean we hadn’t won a game in three years. Not only that, but we had yet to score that year. It’s not that we didn’t have good players — Maddy and Felicia even played travel — but we struggled to play well together. Then, when we were down by a few points, we would get discouraged and give up. We pretty much were only on the team to miss a couple days of school and, of course, to meet cute boys.

We began this game like no other. They scored one goal, and then another, and another, and I daydreamt until it was over.

“What else is new?” I said under my breath.

After the game, we were moping around.

“I’m so sick of this,” Jade began, “we work so hard and it never pays off. If we lose the next game we’ll be knocked out of the tournament. Come on, guys, we can do this!”

“Like that’s ever going to happen,” Kris snorted.

“She’s right,” Chelsea said. “We’re hopeless.”

Felicia stood up abruptly and said angrily: “Stop with the negativity! The only reason we can’t win is because of attitudes like yours! If we tried, we could kick some serious ass!”

“Felicia! Langage! Et parle en français!” screamed coach Guy. He was always reminding us to speak french. Our argument was always “we aren’t in school so we don’t have to!”

“Sorry — we could kick butt! What do you say, guys?” she continued.

“I’m in,” an unknown teammate said, followed by 12 “me toos.”

Our next game came along, and everyone could tell something was different. It was in the air. Confidence. Determination. We stepped out onto the field. Time for the coin toss. Felicia called heads. We kick off. And the game began.

The first half of the game was really intense. Nobody scored, but there were several close calls for us. The second half came around. After a few minutes, the crowd went wild. Maddy was on a breakaway and was almost at the net. Just as she was about to shoot, someone from the opposing team cut her off, sent the ball flying towards our net, and it reached one of her teammates. She managed to dodge our defense and scored. This happened again within minutes. And then again. In the span of 10 minutes, we went from having a fighting chance to failing miserably. Felicia called a time out.

“Don’t give up, you guys. We still have 20 minutes left. Look, they’re exhausted! If we stay focused and work hard, we can redeem ourselves.”

After our captain’s inspirational speech, we all high-fived and returned to our positions. It was the boost we needed. We started sprinting faster than we used to, deking more swiftly, even passing more accurately. No matter how well we played, though, we couldn’t seem to score. With only minutes left in the game, we crowded around our opponent’s net as Jenna prepared to make a corner kick. Their defensemen formed a wall, blocking her view to her target. An ice cold bead of sweat ran down my neck. I heard Jenna’s shoe make contact with the ball. I watched it soar over my head, and over the heads of those forming the wall. Then, I saw another head pop up behind them. A tiny head. The ball smacked it, and went soaring into the net. It took everybody a minute to register what had happened.

Suddenly, the field erupted. Everyone was yelling at the top of their lungs. Before I knew what was happening, I was part of a giant team hug/huddle thing. Kayla was spinning Jenna through the air. Felicia was laughing as she rubbed a disoriented Siena’s forehead. Jade wiped away a tear. My face hurt from smiling so wide. We had done it. No, we didn’t win the game and were knocked out of the tournament, but we didn’t give up and it paid off. Even when we were so far behind, we didn’t give up hope. We proved to ourselves that with hard work, great things can happen. It may have been our only goal of the year, but the joy it brought us made it all worth it.

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