In high school athletics, nothing hurts quite as much as coming one win short of a state championship.
Not that I would know, of course, as I never experienced that firsthand.
My high school contended for state championships in soccer on a regular basis, but as I lack any coordination when it comes to my feet, I was never a part of those teams.
So, I can only imagine the pain and frustration of working so hard for a full season, making it all the way to the final game, and just not having quite enough to pull off the victory.
This is the situation the Gainesville boys soccer team finds itself in. After making it all the way to the final game, the Red Elephants fell 2-0 to Woodward Academy, which had been in Gainesville’s shoes as state runners-up for the past two seasons.
After such a difficult loss, though, it’s worth reviewing the team’s season to see just how successful it has been.
In 22 games, the Red Elephants recorded 15 shutouts. Only once did they give up more than one goal, and that came against Woodward on Saturday.
They lost just twice (to Mill Creek and Woodward) and tied Habersham Central. They outscored opponents 76-8.
They lost their second game of the season, but rebounded for wins in 18 of the next 19. Saturday’s loss was their first since that defeat, which came on Feb. 16.
And all this came in a region of stiff competition, against teams like Johnson, Chestatee, West Hall and North Hall.
Impressive, to say the least.
Defeating vaunted St. Pius X for the first time in school history in the state semifinals was just icing on the cake.
Perhaps the team’s biggest success, however, was becoming just that — a strong team.
A state championship was not an expectation for this team. Sure, it was a goal, but there are plenty of great teams across the state that might have been a little better to start the season.
But each week and in every match, the Red Elephants improved. Where they began the season and where they ended the season were completely different places.
After the game Saturday, senior Charlie Bryant said it best.
“I love my teammates, and we gave it everything we had on the field,” he said. “The bonds we have cannot be broken in one single day.”
At the end of the day, that’s really the measure of success for this team.
The aforementioned statistics and gaudy record is nice, and another state championship trophy would have gone nicely on the shelf next to the one from 2010.
But nothing can replace what those players were able to accomplish together. They worked together, they sweated together, they won together, and, in the end, they lost together.
As this successful senior class departs from the school, that’s something that they can look back on and be proud of, no matter the result in their final game.
David Mitchell is a sportswriter for The Times. Follow him at twitter.com/gtimesdmitchell.