The Saugerties High JV girls’ soccer team just wrapped a 10-0-1 season. Beyond the remarkable feat of going completely undefeated this year, for the team’s seven sophomores, it’s been four straight years without a loss.
Jessa Chargois, Emily Smedek, Veronica Rell, Elizabeth Westwood and co-captains Rebecca Veltrie, Jennifer Suttmeier and Lauren Thompson came together on the modified team when they were in seventh grade. They haven’t lost a single game since, a streak they hope will carry over into next season if they’re on the varsity squad.
In 2011, the JV team and its super sophomores beat Wallkill twice (4-0, 4-1), FDR twice (8-0, 3-0) and also ousted Highland (3-0), Rondout (4-0), New Paltz (5-0), Kingston (2-1 in overtime) and Onteora (4-0). Their lone draw came in a 1-1 decision against Red Hook, a team the Sawyers also beat 3-0 during the season. None of these opponents were pushovers; Saugerties is just that good.
What’s the secret to their success? Well, part of it is certainly familiarity.
“We know how everybody works since we’ve been playing so long together,” said Thompson, a fullback. “We know who is going to place the ball there, and we’re used to talking to one another out there. And we all get along.”
Some pundits argue that chemistry is overrated in sports, pointing to successful teams who didn’t get along at all. But for teams who do have a bond that goes beyond merely finding a teammate on the break, chemistry is everything, so much so that the Sawyer captains bear as part of their responsibility ensuring that everyone is getting along.
“We guide the team, basically,” said Veltrie, a defensive stopper. If there are any problems between players, a captain resolves it. We work together as a team.”
That sense of camaraderie both on and off the pitch came into the picture back in the seventh grade. It was in many ways a trial by fire.
“It was definitely difficult at first,” said Suttmeier, a defensive sweeper. “There was pressure going into seventh grade and the older girls were really good. There was pressure to play at their level. I played in AYSO, which was a village league, but it was different. The competition was so much higher.”
The young players with the bright future found their footing before too long.
“We definitely caught up really quickly,” said Suttmeier. “The first game was a shock, but it was easier after that.”
Four years later, and the team has grown accustomed to winning without taking it for granted.
“The tie against Red Hook, it was in overtime and was a really tough game,” said Suttmeier. “When we play, we always go into the game feeling the pressure of being undefeated. Games like that, where we got into overtime – we did that against Kingston, too – it lowers our egos, because we know we only escaped by that much.”
“I think our team thought of that as a loss,” she said. “We were still undefeated, but it kind of brought down our egos and felt like a loss.”
The pressure the team has put onto itself this season to succeed is likely to carry over in the future when they make the leap up to the varsity team.
“I think it puts a little pressure on us, because varsity is a harder level to play at,” said Veltrie. “There are faster speeds, and it’s more aggressive. There’s more pushing, and you just need to step up with your skills. But I think our team can handle it. We always have.”
It doesn’t hurt that the varsity players who will be seniors next season were part of the modified team when the JV sophomores came on during the seventh grade. The JV and varsity teams also frequently practice with one another.
“We practiced with them a lot,” said Suttmeier. “They work well as a team also, and I think for next year we need to keep that team mentality and keep our heads high.”