Searching for Stoppage Time

Even before I stepped foot onto the Andover Campus as a student, I knew that I needed to play soccer here. I remember coming to watch a game on a beautiful day in September. The game was against Loomis, and I watched from the hill as the two teams battled it out on Smoyer Field. The intensity and the passion that was, and still is, second nature to Andover’s soccer program immediately set off a trigger in my brain. I remember thinking to myself, “I have to wear that jersey.”

One year later, I was wearing that jersey on the bench of a predominantly Senior team. We had an incredible amount of talent; I’d venture to say that it was one of the most talented teams that Andover has put together in a decade. It was a hard team to break into, and while I did not see the playing field much, I learned how to ¨play with the big boys.¨ I experienced the joys of winning big, and I endured the pain of losing big. After we lost to NMH in the semi-finals, I saw the Senior guys, practically men, crying.

I couldn’t believe what was before my eyes; these guys I looked up to in virtually every aspect were crying after losing a soccer game. I had never done that. I didn’t understand. I recall one of them putting his arm around me and saying that I was so lucky to have three more seasons ahead of me. For a long time, I wouldn’t truly understand how true those words were.

My Lower season was the most exhilarating one I have ever been a part of on any team. Expectations were low not only around the league but also within our team; we had just graduated what was essentially our starting lineup. As Coach Scott never stopped reminding us, we were the underdogs in every game.

Being the underdogs ended up being our biggest strength as a team. We had to fight harder than anyone else to prove that we could run with the ¨big dogs.¨ When we lost to Exeter 3-1 in our last game of the season, it was heartbreaking. Although we avenged our loss to Exeter with a 3-1 victory in the semi-finals of the New England Tournament, we fell 3-1 to Hotchkiss in the Finals. While I was sad, I still did not feel the same emotions that the Seniors had displayed after the semifinals loss my Junior year. Maybe it was because no one ever thought we would make it that far, and we were just happy to be in the spotlight for a moment.

My Upper season was disappointing on a few fronts. Not only did I personally have a relatively poor season, but we all came in thinking that we were a little better than we really were; probably because we were in the Finals the year before. We ended up losing in the quarterfinals of the NEPSAC Championships after barely squeaking our way into the Top Eight. Since the season was rather disappointing for me personally, the end of the season did not elicit a lot of emotions. I knew I had one more season to make things right. I was so wrong.

Our Senior season came and went. And we went out with a bang. An undefeated season and a loss to a very strong Worcester Academy team in the semifinals left me feeling satisfied with the work we had done. It was the culmination of a very long journey. We had a handful of seniors who had been in the program for a while and were completely invested in creating a memorable season. It was sort of surreal; we just couldn’t lose. Scratch that: we wouldn’t lose. Every guy just cared way too much to see our undefeated season tainted by even one loss. We had learned from past seasons what would work and what wouldn’t work, and we leveraged that knowledge to our advantage.

The full circle was completed when we finally lost to Worcester in the semifinals. It just came crashing down on me when the referee blew that final whistle. Through the tears building up in my eyes, I managed to find the rest of the Seniors before we left the field. We cried together on that field, just as we had done everything else together and just as I had seen the Seniors do when I was a Junior. I saw some underclassmen look at us curiously, just as I had looked at the Seniors three years earlier.

What’s incredible about Andover Athletics is that you’re a part of something bigger than yourself, something as big as the history, rich traditions, and the thousands of people before you. Seeing everything come full circle at the end of my final season made me realize that this thing, this intricate operation called Andover Athletics, was going on long before we got here. And this intricate operation will continue long after 2014. While that can make you feel infinitely small, it also means you’re part of something infinitely large. I prefer the latter view.

_Taylor Chin is a four-year Senior from Ipswich, Mass and a Sports Editor on _The Phillipian_ CXXXVI. He co-captained Boys Varsity Soccer and played Boys Varsity Lacrosse._