FORESTVILLE — For the first time in 15 years the El Molino girls soccer team has made the NCS playoffs. If someone wanted to know the how and the why of it, the evidence can be seen plainly. Just go to an El Mo practice and watch one of the girls physically push a teammate across the goal line on the football field.
That has nothing to do with scoring a goal, oddly enough. It is much more important than that. It has everything to do with thinking about someone other than yourself.
Alexis Sciacqua, El Molino's first-year coach, runs her team through a daily conditioning drill during the week. The players stand on one goal line and run 100 yards to the other goal line; they need to do it in 20 seconds. The players then turn around and run back; they need to do it in 30 seconds. They are given a minute to rest.
Then they do it again, 11 more times.
If, during any of these sprints, one of the 11 players fails to return in 50 seconds, another 200-yard sprint is added. Of course no one wants to do extra sprints.
So if a girl is struggling, a teammate will slow down, run behind the slower player and physically push her, while exhorting her to finish.
“How many of you are pushers?” I asked the five girls Wednesday, a most unique question to ask athletes.
Val LaForge, Jocelyne Santibanez, Ana Maria Morales and Madison and Emily Dean all raised their hands. Quickly. Enthusiastically. They are team-building and they know it.
Some sports, like tennis, are so individualistic that a team can be successful even though one player may never interact with a teammate during competition. Soccer is not one of those sports.
“If you aren't fit,” Sciacqua said, “how do you run down a ball?”
If a ball isn't caught, a scoring chance may be lost. A pass may never be made. An opponent may direct the tempo. A game may never be in control. An out-of-shape soccer player is not a successful soccer player.