“This year we were trying to get a theme of excellence and a spirit of excellence into everything they did in life,” said Sam Cain, who is The Anniston Star’s Calhoun County girls soccer coach of the year. “One of my girls, Allison Judge, was valedictorian this year. Being successful off the field is what I think transferred to the field for the whole time.”
Cain knew going into the season Jacksonville had a special team, which wound up going 8-0 against Calhoun County teams and making the quarterfinals of the Class 1A-4A state playoffs. The squad also was fourth in the state rankings, the highest of any girls team at Jacksonville, and won a school-record 16 games.
“I just knew this was probably one of the best teams that we’ve probably had up here because they’ve been around for a long time and I knew the character and make-up of the team,” Cain said. “They looked out for each other and wanted to play for each other more than just themselves. I just felt that since they liked and wanted to play so hard for their teammates so much that we’d have a good season.”
Jacksonville fell to Guntersville 2-1 in the state quarterfinals, but Cain said the reaction to that loss was the biggest memory he will take from the season.
“Even after defeat, the emotion that the girls showed after game made it all worthwhile,” Cain said. “It meant a lot that it meant so much to them that they were upset about a loss and their hearts were into it.
“It was heartbreaking to see, but it felt good to see they cared that much.”
One of the players that didn’t take the loss lightly was senior star Sharon Osterbind, The Star’s girls soccer player of the year.
“We worked as hard as we could in the last game and it just didn’t go how we wanted it to, but I wish I could have scored another goal or someone else would have scored another goal and we would have won or tied,” she said. “But it just didn’t work out.”
Although Cain loses five seniors to graduation, he still has confidence looking ahead.
“It’s going to be hard to replace those girls, but those girls set a good example for the ones coming up,” he said. “One of the younger girls kept talking this year about wanting to be like her older teammates, so I think most the ones coming back want to follow the same path.”
Brandon Miller covers prep sports for The Star. He can be reached at 256-235-3575 or follow him on Twitter @bmiller_star.