Written and Media by Taylor Purkey.
Twelve years ago, a little girl dreamed of playing soccer. She joined a team and grew to love the sport. She loved running up and down the field, chasing people around, shooting the ball to try and make the net ripple. She loved all of it. As the years went on, she saw herself improving; she was becoming faster. Her touch was getting better and her passes were finding feet. Because of this, she desired nothing more but to play collegiate soccer. That day came for her back in the fall of 2014 when she joined the Greenville College Women’s soccer team. After three long years of playing collegiate soccer, her career was about to come to a close.
On the abnormally warm, late Saturday afternoon, on October 29, the lady Panthers started warm-ups for their very last game of the 2016 season against Blackburn College. The year had not gone quite as planned for the Lady Panthers as the team found themselves sitting in sixth place in conference. There was no hope for the SLIAC tournament. All of the girls were aware of this, but there was something bigger and more important that the ladies needed to play for. Instead of thinking, “we didn’t make the tournament,” the Lady Panthers turned their thoughts towards, “we play this game for our seniors.” GC wasn’t going to play this game for themselves in a chance to win because they needed to, they were going to win because they had to. Not for themselves, but to send all five of their seniors off with one last victory.
At 5 pm, the opening whistle blew and the game was underway. Greenville quickly took possession of the match, easily passing around Blackburn as they desperately tried to steal the ball. In the first half alone, Greenville had fourteen shots on goal while Blackburn only had one. The Lady Panthers were able to capitalize on one of their many opportunities when senior, Jamie Schollenbruch, scored the first goal of the game in the fifteenth minute. What a way to start off her senior night! As the game continued, GC started to slack and for the last ten minutes, Blackburn had control of the game. However, they were only able to get one shot off.
The halftime whistle blew with a score of 1-0 in GC’s favor and the Lady Panthers headed towards the bleachers to commemorate their seniors: Faith Benson, Jamie Schollenburch, Taylor Purkey, and Whitney Warner. Senior Rebecca Munshaw was unable to make the game due to prior commitments.
After tears were shed by parents, seniors, and current players alike, Greenville recuperated and decided that a 1-0 lead would not suffice for the group of seniors GC was playing for.
The second half started off in Greenville’s favor once again. Blackburn was hardly able to touch the ball. In the fifty-sixth minute the scoring streak began. Greenville won a corner kick due to a previous shot that Blackburn kicked out of bounds. Sophomore Dani Pearce, launched the ball into the eighteen yard box right were sophomore Suzi Conner
was making her run. Conner tapped it with her foot and the ball rocketed straight behind Blackburn’s keeper doubling their lead. Play continued as Blackburn’s play became more and more aggressive as they were trying to catch up. However, their hopes were lost in the sixty-first minute as Pearce produced a break-away and scored the third goal for the Greenville College Panthers. Only eight minutes later, sophomore Gabbie Hartin gained control of the ball forty yards out. She picked her head up and noticed that the Blackburn goalie was off her line. After coming to this realization, Hartin launched the ball into the box where it bounced over the goalies head and Pearce was there to shield the ball over the goal line. With all of the hype from Hartin’s goal, Greenville continued to pressure Blackburn’s keeper and in the seventy-first minute, scored yet another goal. Sophomore Maddi Saffel crossed the ball from the end line into the eighteen where sophomore, Natty Hepburn, waited to tap the ball in. In the final minutes, Blackburn placed their keeper in as forward to try and score. But their efforts were lost and Greenville won their senior night game 5-0.
As a result of a victorious send off for the seniors, many tears were shed, many hugs were given, and all the girls are able to say they gained thirty sisters this season. As a senior myself, I suggest that all athletes follow the example of Mia Hamm as she states, “Somewhere behind the athlete you’ve become and the hours of practice and the coaches who have pushed you is a little girl who fell in love with the game and never looked back…play for her.”