Letdown: Boys Soccer Players Reflect on Shortened Season


Phil Mistry

Over Too Soon: Warrior boys soccer seniors Donovan Earle, Alex Phillips and Ferhan Altug are left to ponder what might have been in the wake of the pandemic-shortened 2020 Warrior soccer campaign. After coming off a key March 6 region victory, the team was gearing up for a possible state playoff run.

 In this season of pandemic-related shutdowns, seniors are stuck pondering the question of what could have been. The North Atlanta boys soccer team is one of many spring teams at North Atlanta who felt a sense of loss at the unexpected cancellation of their season. For the senior players, this shortened season may mark the end of the soccer career altogether, making the sudden stop of play even more devastating.

All season long, team coaches Epimenio Jimenez, Chris Mucha and Jack Stenger noted the strong bonds of unity that defined this year’s varsity squad. The team’s record in the shortened season was 4 wins, 6 losses and one tie. The shortened season ended on a very noteworthy high note when the team notched a 4 to 2 victory over region foe Northview on March 6. The convincing win against a tough region opponent pointed toward more region wins to come and a possible run into the state playoffs. “It’s unlucky that the season was cut short because we were in a good position to make it to the playoffs,” said senior striker Donovan Earle, who also was one of the team captains. “I felt like I was just getting started when my senior season suddenly ended.”

If conditioning and frequent practices kept the players sharp and in shape, it’s the brotherhood that truly fueled the team’s dynamic. The long hours spent traveling to and from away games and nights under bright stadium lights only served to bring the team closer together. This year a whopping 11 seniors made the varsity roster, a number that will leave an indelible legacy on the program. As heartbreaking as it is not to get to finish the season, it’s even worse for the seniors who were unable to play alongside their teammates a final time. Senior defensive back and captain Osiel Tapia will miss the community that the team has formed. “The connection with my teammates was special this year,” he said. “It felt like a genuine brotherhood.”

 Seniors anticipate many goodbyes in their final year of high school, but none so abrupt as this one. For players not planning on continuing the sport post-graduation, it is a bittersweet ending. Senior midfielder Ibrahim Mbaye is disappointed at not being able to finish his final season, but is confident about the team’s prospects in the upcoming years. “It’s frustrating to not be able to play high school soccer again but I will make sure to come and support the boys in the next seasons,” he said.

 While it wasn’t the way the team hoped the season would conclude, it was nevertheless an exciting run. The competition faced, the goals scored, the shots blocked — it all added up to a thrilling season, even if it was cut short. The 2020 Soccer Dubs will always have cause to hold their heads high. But — in the era of COVID 19 — they also will always have cause to wonder what might have been.