After a heartbreaking one-score losses in back-to-back state title games, it’s easy to assume there is extra motivation in getting back to the final game and winning it all.
For Perry High School, there is no extra motivation for the girls’ soccer team because they have one goal, year-in and year-out. Take home the trophy.
“The expectation for this program is to get there,” Perry coach John Roberts said.
The Puma’s look to be on the right track to making a splash in the playoffs. They’re currently 13-2-2 on the year and ranked second in the 6A Conference.
The journey back to the promised land has not been as easy as advertised. Injuries have hampered the Puma’s all season.
In their first scrimmage game of the year, Perry lost a critical piece when junior Joey Lujan went down. She hasn’t returned since.
Lujan was a central figure on the Puma’s last season as she finished tied for second on the team with 13 goals and led them with 21 assists.
She’s not the only player not to miss the majority of the season as junior Adelie Zechmann was lost in the first week of games as well.
Losing two important players is devastating for any program, but the Puma’s keep rallying thanks to their unwavering mentality and strong depth.
In sports, the ‘next man up’ mentality is talked about as a foundational pillar for any great team and the Puma’s exemplify that as well as anyone.
“Everyone has to be working as hard as the person next to them, so if you have to step in and fill a spot...you need to be ready to do that,” defender Kayla Campbell said.
The Puma’s haven’t started the same starting line-up more than twice all season which is a testament to their focus on winning and unselfishness.
Each girl knows their spot isn’t guaranteed in the rotation, so if they want to keep it, they not only have to be ready to play and play well but be able to do it within the team’s system.
“Just because you might not start, you’re as good as the person starting in front of you,” Roberts said.
Roberts hopes to have all his starters fully healthy for the playoffs, so they can be at full throttle. If not, he thinks his team will be ready for any challenge after enduring the devastating end-of-season losses the last two years.
He sees the losses as blessings in disguise if you internalize it correctly.
“Losing always puts things into perspective,” Roberts said. “It makes you reflect on the things you did well on and the things you need to improve on.”
For the girls on the team who don’t have playoff perspective, they will be looking to the seasoned vets who have the experience and leadership to lean on.
“I think the people who might not have been there don’t understand the speed and intensity it takes,” said Brenna Alderson, a midfielder. “But with everyone else who has been there, it really helps to be around them and play with each other.”
The Pumas will definitely bring the playoff intensity as they believe there is a target on their backs as the runner-up in the last two state titles.
The word that coach John Roberts kept using as they get ready for the playoffs is perseverance. Continue to persevere through the injuries and don’t get bored with success.
Roberts and the rest of the Puma’s are ready to take the trophy home after getting their fingertips on it the last two years.
“Hopefully we’ll get there a third time and third times the charm,” Roberts said.