Girls Soccer: Hilliard Bradley feels impact of pandemic during disrupted season
Few teams have experienced the highs and lows of the Hilliard Bradley girls soccer team this fall.
The Jaguars were unbeaten through five games before they were shut down for two weeks because of the COVID-19 coronavirus. Since returning, they played eight games in 18 days without a victory.
Senior forward Avery Jantonio said the team was just happy to still have a season, however.
“It’s hard, but we’re trying to be positive,” said Jantonio, whose team finished the regular season 4-7-2 overall. “We don’t know if it could just end at any time.
“We almost lost our season and had to go into quarantine for two weeks. You never know what can happen, especially this year. We need to play each game like it’s our last because it might be.”
The Jaguars were 4-0-1 after defeating Gahanna 1-0 on Sept. 12. Then came the quarantine. The season resumed Sept. 26 when they played Davidson to a scoreless tie in the OCC-Central Division.
“To be completely off for two weeks is difficult and then we lose (senior defender) Delaney Porter for the season (with an ACL injury) just before that,” said coach Becky Alcox, whose team was 0-4-1 in the league. “It’s hard to come back without a three-year starter, and we’ve been trying to do what we can.
“This group is really flexible. We’ve been trying different things all the time, and they just go with it. They really are a great group.”
Since returning from the quarantine, the offense has struggled with only two goals.
“It’s not that we don’t have talent up there, but we haven’t found the rhythm,” Alcox said. “We’ve shown instances of brilliance but nothing consistent. We have to find that consistency, and we’ve given up too many goals in the last five minutes. It was like that (in league games) against (Dublin) Coffman (1-0 on Oct. 13), (Olentangy) Liberty (3-0 on Oct. 1) and (Olentangy) Orange (2-1 on Oct. 6).
“We’ve had games in our grasp. Having a young team, they have to step up in those situations and they’re a little more uncomfortable.”
Sophomore forward Clara Richardson said the difficulty of being separated for so long in the middle of the season carried over after the return.
“It was tough, especially since we all couldn’t be together,” Richardson said. “We were meeting on Zoom and doing everything we could to stay connected. We tried to stay a team even though we were apart.
“Coach has been positive, and she keeps us motivated and working hard. She said we need to learn from the games, and she really has kept us going.”
Junior defender Nina Viggiano was surprised by the quick start because of the limited preseason.
“In the summer, we only practiced (in pods) with nine people and then we were quarantined for two weeks,” she said. “We were undefeated and then it was different. We haven’t been able to find the back of the net.
“Coach has been telling us how we’re lucky to still be playing and that we should play every game like it’s our last. We’ve played a bunch of different formations, and she’s been really encouraging and helpful.”
The 14th-seeded Jaguars opened against 30th-seed Canal Winchester on Oct. 21 in the first round of the Division I district tournament. The winner advanced to play Saturday, Oct. 24, against 26th-seeded DeSales in the second round at the home field of the higher seed.
The district semifinal is Wednesday, Oct. 28, against sixth-seeded Liberty or 37th-seeded Groveport at the home of the better seed.
Jantonio, who has started all four years, wants to make the most of her remaining time with her teammates.
“It seems like yesterday that I was the freshman, and I just was starting to play,” she said. “It goes fast, and you have to take advantage of every second.”