By Thomas Sellers Jr.
As clouds gather overhead the TRA Soccer Field Sept. 23, Senior Day went ahead as planned against the Ripley Lady Tigers. Lady Rebels Head Coach Stephen Starnes’ main objective was to get a victory for his five seniors in building toward the playoffs.
In an effect to make sure the game would be memorable for all his 12th graders, Starnes gave them the start. But even he didn’t know the storm that would pour down last in the first half would be symbolic for one of his seniors.
“We had one senior score her first two goals tonight,” Starnes said. “She asked all season, ‘Coach can I score?’ She pulled it off tonight with two. I was very happy for her.”
That senior who scored twice in the 6-0 victory over Ripley was Alicia Gutierrez. Battling a serve ankle sprain, Gutierrez added some extra gear to her normal soccer attire with a wrap, tape and brace.
Then she added her most sentimental pieces of her uniform. Chin guards from her late Godbrother Drew Carney.
“Somebody very close to me died in 2010,” Gutierrez recalled. “He was a stud soccer player. And my chin guards are his chin guards that I wear every game. I touch them before every free kick and before every game. Those goals were for him tonight.”
TRA held a 2-0 lead at halftime courtesy of a pair of Brianna Hall goals. Then the clouds opened up pouring down rain. The field became sluggish and kicks began to land short of their target. Visibility was limited for about 20 minutes of action.
Then the sky cleared up in time for Lady Rebels like Emily Crane and Ali Naumann to connect with goals.
But the highlight of the last 40 minutes against Ripley was Gutierrez fulfilling her promise to her late Godbrother.
“I think he gave me the strength to keep pushing through my injury, push through the tiredness and push through the rain,” she said.
The 9-year-old girl who looked up to her soccer role model finally achieved her goal to score for Drew’s memory and legacy. Now Gutierrez and the rest of the Lady Rebels are working toward of a goal of getting ready for October.
“Heading into the postseason I think we’re looking better – much better than we did at the beginning of the season,” Starnes said. “It took us a while to get thing rolling. Once we started rolling, we played more as a team. Our passing has gotten better which equals with our scoring getting better.”
TRA will have to continue the solid passing and taking advantage of scoring chances closing out the regular season.
“We’re playing some great teams coming up,” Starnes said. “We’re playing Fayette Academy next Monday. We play Sacred Heart this Thursday. If we pass like we pass tonight I believe we can take the W home. But we have to be on top of our game to beat Fayette.”
While those games were still in the near future, Gutierrez embraced the moment she felt on top of the world by scoring two goals for Drew.
“What I will remember most about this night just coming together with my teammates in the rain and getting those goals for Drew,” she concluded.