Senior captains take on district

Girls soccer aims to qualify for playoffs while battling new COVID-19 rules

PRACTICE+MAKES+PERFECT%3A+Senior+Lily+Erb+reaches+out+to+control+the+ball+in+practice.+Erb+committed+to+Texas+State+University+to+continue+her+soccer+career+in+college.

Nick Wood

PRACTICE MAKES PERFECT: Senior Lily Erb reaches out to control the ball in practice. Erb committed to Texas State University to continue her soccer career in college.

Ben Tillisch, Sports Editor

Rocketing across the pitch, girls soccer senior captain Lily Erb darts in and out of defenders, gliding nearer to the opponent’s fiercely defended goal.

Deaf to surrounding noise, Erb locks her eyes in on the target and strikes through the ball methodically, watching as the ball bends through the air, cracking against the woodwork and slams against the netting.

Prior to kicking off her senior season of soccer, Erb was elected to be a captain for the girls soccer team by her teammates. In her final year of high school soccer, Erb is determined to lead a successful season both individually and in terms of the team.

“One team goal I have is to make it to the playoffs again this year,” Erb said. “We have a tough district this year and we lost a lot of seniors last year so it will be a challenge, but I believe we can do it. A personal goal I made for this year is to tie or beat the number of goals and assists I had last year. I was the district’s leading goal scorer last year so it would be super awesome if I was able to do that two years in a row.”

Along with Erb, seniors Julia Everett and Emma Swartz were also chosen to captain their fellow teammates. Everett reminisces about her time as a member of the Lady Dawgs and hopes to make her senior season indelible.

“Throughout the years, I have made a ton of friendships and memories that I will keep with me forever, so it’s a bittersweet feeling being in my last year of high school soccer,” Everett said. “In order to make my senior season a memorable one, I’m just really trying to cherish the moments of playing alongside some of my best friends and making as many memories with them as possible before it’s over.”

Unfortunately, in advance to the start of the season, Swartz suffered a torn anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) in her left knee. Despite this setback, Swartz continues to marshal the team, which has not gone unnoticed by her peers and girls soccer Coach Carrie Hoffman-Howell.

Being a leader for the rest of the team means not only directing my team but also leading by example. ”

— Lily Erb, Senior Captain

“All three of them display that leadership quality: strong work ethics and doing the right thing,” Hoffman-Howell said. “Even when no one’s looking. Always smiling, always showing positive energy. And that definitely is what people look for in a leader. They’re always giving 100% and they became natural leaders because everybody just turns to them and expects it from them.”

Swartz believes maintaining a positive vibe and a strong work ethic is a necessity for effectively captaining a team to the best of their ability. Restricted to the sidelines, Swartz puts extra effort in being a constructive presence.

“On this team, being a leader is working hard and showing others that you care,” Swartz said. “When you show people that you truly care about the game and what you are doing, they tend to follow you. I try to lead by motivating and encouraging the team, and I try to bring more positivity and a better attitude to the team than past captains may have.”

An aspect of the girls soccer program for 25 years, Erb was aware of the potential to become a captain ever since she joined the Lady Dawgs. Erb echoes Swartz’s principles and practices, understanding the importance of her role on the team.

“Being a leader for the rest of the teams means not only directing my team but also leading by example,” Erb said. “On the soccer field, I encourage my teammates by putting in full effort into everything I do whether it’s in practice or at a game. My older sister was a soccer captain so it was something I wanted to pursue as well.”

Handpicked by their peers, the senior captains are viewed as role models by the rest of the team. Expected to confidently pilot the rest of the girls, Coach Hoffman-Howell advises Erb, Everett, and Swartz to take advantage of this leadership opportunity.

“They became natural leaders because everybody just turns to them and expects it from them,” Hoffman-Howell said. “And so they’re good role models. Take that strong work ethic and everything that they gave me for four years and apply it to the world.”

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Austin ISD has issued updated rules pertaining to canceled games in response to the virus. Unlike last year where games were rescheduled to a later date, games are now forfeited if they cannot be played, rewarding and promoting health and safety across the district.

“Obviously, [the rule] heightened it back to the mindset of cleaning and staying safe, because we’re not going to forfeit a varsity game,” Hoffman-Howell said. “In case we have too many cases, we’re gonna be moving girls up. I think it’s a good experience for the underclassmen if it happens, but at the same time, I wish we could reschedule just to take that pressure off.”

With the introduction of stricter rules, there is an escalated pressure for student-athletes like Erb to stay healthy. Acknowledging her senior games could be forfeited as a result of a COVID-19 outbreak, Erb describes the importance of maintaining cleanliness.

“Luckily, we haven’t run into the new rule thus far into the season, but it is scary knowing we could have a game taken away from us that easily,” Erb said. “We try to play every game like it is our last because the team saw how not having a chance to play again affected the seniors two years ago. Being a captain, I have to advise my teammates to make the right decisions to avoid getting themselves and our team sick.”

Erb has limited time as a Bowie soccer player, so she wants to ensure that she makes an impact on her peers that will be a part of the program in the coming years. Preaching hard work and positivity, Erb plans to depart as a captain that aided her teammates in achieving prosperity.

“I want the underclassmen to know that their attitude and work ethic will take them very far in life,” Erb said. “You don’t have to be the most technical player or score the most goals to have an impact on the field. If you work hard and put your heart into everything you do for the full amount of time you are on the field, you will be helping your teammates.”