Saturday, May 18, 2019
When the R-MA girls’ varsity soccer won against Fredericksburg Academy by a score of 1-0 in their first game of the season, Head Coach Brandy Hudson took it as a good sign.
“I felt, “There’s definitely opportunity here, because Fredericksburg Academy is in a higher division within the DAC, but I knew it would be a challenge,” she said.
The team benefited from the core group of long-standing veterans such as Josey Mbakassy ‘19, who has been a part of the team since her eighth grade year. A talented group of newcomers bolstered the team up to the point where Coach Hudson had trouble naming outstanding individuals, because her bench was so deep. In fact, five of the girls were recognized for being named First Team, All-Conference within the Delaney Athletic Conference: Rana Diallo ‘19 (the powerhouse defensive player who was also named R-MA’s MVP), Sophia Wagner ‘23 (who was also honored with the R-MA Coach’s Award), Maggie Acquaah ‘20, Cecilia Paredes ‘22, and Abigail Stewart ‘21. The Yellow Jackets had more All-Conference players than any other team in the conference.
Going into the DAC Tournament week, the Yellow Jackets were seeded at #2 because they had one more tie than the #1 seed. “When we played Foxcroft in the semi-final on Thursday, I just felt, ‘They’re peaking right now. This is it, they’ve come so far,’” said Coach Hudson. “I felt like I had found all the correct positions everyone should be in.”
After defeating Foxcroft 2-0, R-MA went on to play Tandem Friends at home in the Championship on Friday, May 10th. “Tandem came in as the number four seed,” Coach Hudson explained. “They beat Quantico on Tuesday to win the quarterfinals. They moved onto the semifinals to play the number one seed, winning that game. So they’ve got the momentum and we only beat them 3-2 during the regular season, it wasn’t like it was a big win. It was only a one goal differential.”
That knowledge kept Coach Hudson and her team on edge. “At halftime, it was two-nothing, but that’s a very dangerous place to be,” she said. “When we played them at their place, we were down one-nothing, and then we tied it one-one, then we went up two to one, then we went up three to one. Then they scored right away, it was three to two. So you just don’t know.”
When the score remained at 0-0 about ten minutes into the game, Maggie Acquaah ‘20, who had scored both goals in the game against Foxcroft the day before, was already thinking ahead to the end, wondering if they were going to end up deciding the championship by PKs (penalty kicks). So when she went for the first goal, she put the pressure on herself. “I was thinking, ‘I gotta do this, I gotta get this goal right now,’” she recalled later. “That’s when I fell. I was right by the goal and I kicked it, and I fell. I didn’t know if it went in, I was just looking up. And that’s when I heard the crowd go crazy.”
Maggie’s shot had indeed gone in, and she managed a second goal before halftime. When Maggie put in her third goal of the game, Coach Hudson breathed a slight sigh of relief, but she recognized that Tandem was determined to score, and that kept her from completely relaxing. Her worry was needless. The Yellow Jackets won the game 3-0.
Having the home field advantage definitely helped keep the momentum going in the Yellow Jackets’ direction, according to Maggie. “When you score, or do something that makes an effect in the game, the crowd goes crazy. Knowing that you have your friends that you go to class with, and your closest peers with you, that they support you and they’re cheering you on, it makes it ten times better,” she said. “The energy is so different. It’s positive regardless of if you miss the shot or you make a bad pass. You have more than just your team to fall back on after.”
The girls’ season wasn’t over with the DAC win. For the past ten years, Coach Hudson has had a personal objective of getting her girls’ team into the VISAA (Virginia Independent School Athletic Association) State Tournament. For the first time, the Yellow Jackets earned that honor, with a ranking of #11 in the state. Though they lost in the first round to North Cross School in Roanoke, with only two seniors on this year's team Coach Hudson is hopeful that the girls will see a return trip to the State Tournament next year. With her leadership as a coach, they have a strong chance of doing so.
“Every year, it’s about having them understand commitment and dedication,” said Coach Hudson. “The first week, I send out the schedule for the whole season, where they’re supposed to be and when. It’s about being on time. Just being firm about my expectations. It’s a culture that’s just been built up over the years. It’s like this every year. It’s just an awesome group of girls. They get along. It makes it more fun, and easier for me.”
“We were all positive most of the time,” said Maggie. “We all bring different personalities. Some of us are loud, some of us are quiet, but I definitely think that we bring each others’ personalities out more. We really got the quiet ones to talk more on the team.”
Coach Hudson’s high expectations include Sunday evening practices starting in December. While she didn’t expect athletes involved in other sports to play, those who were available usually made the effort to attend. The Sunday practices continued through the winter, with a few more held during the regular season when there were Monday games. Even on Friday mornings, when other cadets were enjoying a sleep-in, the varsity girls’ soccer team could often be found persevering through another extra practice.
“She definitely pushes us to our limits,” said Maggie. “But at the end of the day, it’s all with the purpose of making us better athletes. Whether it’s soccer or whatever sport that we play, she just wants us to be good at what we do. For example, when she makes us run, we’re not too happy about the running, but she always reminds us, ‘Conditioning. It’s conditioning. We need it for the game.’ And we noticed that it helps us during the game, so we’re not as tired and we have more energy to run back down the field if we need it. She’s definitely a good coach for us. She pushes us to keep playing.