It felt like an ending.
State tournament losses do that to you. They kick you in the stomach and eat away at you. There is that empty feeling complete with no tomorrows. And so, it was for the Thomaston High girls’ soccer team after Friday afternoon’s 5-1 loss to Holy Cross in the Class S quarterfinals at Crosby’s Jimmie Lee Stadium.
The Bears were beaten by a better team. A more experienced, older, talented team that executed to perfection. Holy Cross scored in the first five minutes and never looked back, building the lead to 3-0 by the half and upping it to 5-0 before the Bears scored in the final minute. It was a tough way to see the season end.
But this is where you have to put the brakes on that ending thinking. The loss ended a season, but this was just end of the beginning for the Bears. There is so much promise for the future here. The big picture smiles at you with a twinkle that suggest special days down the road.
Even in the throes of this loss to Holy Cross toss this thought around. It wasn’t that long ago that to see Holy Cross, Thomaston would have had to buy a ticket to one of their games. And here they were in a state quarterfinal game against the Crusaders. It is no accident; it is a testament to a program on the rise.
The program is less than a quarter of a century old and has gone through three widely divergent stages. Created in 1997, the first 13 years ended with the team folding due to a lack of players and a non-competitive status. Then there was no team. Then there was a co-op with Terryville and finally the Bears resurrected its own program in 2014.
It has been a difficult road. However, patience and perseverance has been rewarded. Jen Ewart returned for a second go-around as coach in 2019 and since then, well, the Bears have taken off. A mark of 27-18-3, with a first ever state tournament appearance in 2019 on the strength of a 6-9-1 mark. A first winning record in 2020 (8-4-1) and this season a superb 13-5-1 record with two wins in the tournament.
And these Bears are young. They can’t drive a car, but they can play. The starting team consists of 10 underclassmen that include 19 freshmen and sophomores. They will be back, and they will be even better. And while it is an athletic group, these are soccer players not just good athletes who play soccer. They have played together since they were young and play in the off-season. It is one of those groups that have you thinking special.
Holy Cross coach Phil Mongelluzzo even with a convincing 5-1 win under his belt knows what he saw what is coming for the Bears.
“You know people get down on the Berkshire League, but Thomaston is young and I’m happy I will be in Class M next year,” said Mongelluzzo. “I coached three of their girls in the off-season (Amber Quick, Sophia Coer, Emma Desrosiers) and this team is very solid. Class S has not heard the last of Thomaston. I am impressed.”
With solid talent that includes the likes of Katelyn Guerin, Ava Harkness, Coer, Rejhana Allu and sophomore sensation Claire Saunders who scored 42 goals this season and is the school’s all-time scoring leader with 55 goals (boys and girls) you get the idea this was just another step to greater things.
And if you are looking for the intangibles, Saunders provided a powerful one with her goal with 37 seconds left in the game to get the Bears on the board.
“We didn’t quit today,” said Ewart. “We were still working and scored with 37 seconds left. That speaks volumes to me as coach.”
And in defeat the Bears did what good teams do – they learned.
“This was our first time here and it’s a big step,” said Saunders. “I think we learned if we keep working until the last seconds good things can happen. If we continue to work hard I think next season we can take it further.”
The Bears fans provided the team with a rousing ovation from their perch outside the fence at Crosby’s Jimmie Lee after the game. On a day where there wasn’t much to cheer about they knew the season had provided much to get excited about they let the players know it.
The 2021 season is over. But for the Bears it was no ending it was just the end of the beginning and the season suggests future chapters could be pretty special.