EAST ROCKHILL >> Not surprisingly, the last postgame meeting of the season for Wissahickon’s girls soccer team started with a lot of tears.
But just before breaking down with a loud “WISS” chant and emerging for a final bus ride home together, the Trojans snuck a few laughs in there. Their season had ended with a 3-0 loss to Pennridge in the second round of the District 1-AAAA tournament, but there was plenty about the journey that was worth recognizing and celebrating.
For the seniors, all seven of them, it was them leaving the program in a place it wasn’t just two years ago.
“I think all season some teams didn’t as highly of us as they should have and for that, I feel like we were the underdogs a lot of the time,” co-captain Emily Vervlied said. “We knew that coming into this and we had nothing to lose and as a whole, we left it all out there.”
Wissahickon made the playoffs last year as the No. 16 seed then topped No. 17 seed Abington on penalty kicks. This year, they got in as the No. 19 seed and went on the road in the first round and upset No. 14 Souderton, 2-0 on Tuesday. That coming after they had forced the same Pennridge team to overtime in a 2-1 loss on Oct. 17.
For a program not used to playing with the heavyweights, that overtime game, plus the win at Souderton, had the Trojans confident they could stick around on Thursday. While the performance was, by their admission, not their best, it also said a lot about how far they had come that they weren’t happy with it.
“Not a lot of teams can say they’ve done that,” senior co-captain Maddie Elwell said. “It’s definitely harder said than done, coming in being considered the underdog both times.”
Wissahickon finished the year 14-5-1 overall and 10-3-1 in the Suburban One League American Conference.
Defender Mary Matthews was the third co-captain with Elwell and Vervlied. Goalkeeper Nicole Hastings, a first-year starter in net and midfielders Rachel Coleman and Jasmine Bishop were the other senior starters while Gabby Unipan was out injured for most of the season after playing a key role as a junior.
After that, the Trojans were a very young squad, usually starting three freshmen and relying on a few other freshmen and sophomores.
“We were a young team back when we were freshman and seeing that improvement that every single person on our team has made has made the past four years such a better experience than it could have been,” Matthews said. “I think we’ve left it in a good spot. Whoever the captains end up being, they’ll be in a good place to pick it up. Just like we were a young team, we’re also a young team now and going forward, they have a lot of confidence and should have a lot to look forward to.”
Elwell is heading to Vanderbilt to play college soccer and Vervlied is committed to play lacrosse at Boston University. The rest of the seniors are all hard-working players that do a lot of the little things that don’t always get highlighted but are integral in getting wins.
Even when they were juniors last year, that group was the heart of the team. Vervlied sees that same kind of potential in next year’s senior class.
“The juniors, especially the ones that start and play varsity, are all good players,” Vervlied said. “They’ll do big things with the season.”
What made Elwell proudest was the way that over the past two seasons, the name Wissahickon became one associated with a tough match and anything but an easy win. Even after the first Pennridge game, some Rams players felt like they took Wissahickon too lightly and said it was a wake-up call to them when the Trojans put them on their heels for stretches of that match.
Elwell scored a huge portion of the team’s goals this season with 27 tallies and a player of her caliber is not one that is simply replaced. Likewise, the other five starting seniors leaving means more than half of the starting 11 is gone.
All the three captains want is for the players still in the program to keep making the Wissahickon name one that is respected. They want any win against the program to be one that is earned, not given.
They may not have the trophies or the state playoff appearances to show for it, but Wissahickon’s seniors did something that can’t be taken away from them.
“Considering this was the first time in the program that Wissahickon girls soccer had ever done that (winning postseason games in consecutive years), myself, Mary and Emily took it upon ourselves to lead,” Elwell said. “We’re proud of ourselves for being able to lead a team and do something like that.”