Valley Center’s girls soccer team is 19-0 but feels like it has to shake an underdog’s role.
“We are not a Cinderella team,” senior forward Madison Wedekind said. “I feel like we are stronger all around than we were two years ago (finishing third). Two years ago we played well, but there wasn’t as much chemistry as there is now. And all of our dominant players on the field were still sophomores, so we were young.”
Now those sophomores are seniors, and have Valley Center back in the Class 5A semifinals, where it will face Mill Valley at 5 p.m. Friday in McPherson.
There are eight seniors and five juniors on Valley Center’s team, many of which played a significant role two years ago in its run to state. Last year saw the team take a step back after Wedekind, the team’s leading scorer, was lost for the season with an ACL injury, and key midfielder Brittani Greenlee transfered.
Wedekind is healthy again, much to the chagrin of opposing goalies, and Greenlee is back. With that have come unparalleled success and the desire to finish what they came so close to in 2011.
“We were a lot younger when we went to state last time, so we didn’t really want it as bad as some people that have been working for it all four years,” Greenlee said. “I think we want it really bad because we know this is our last year.”
And the greatest difference between them and the other three teams battling for the 5A title is the expectation to win. Unlike Mill Valley, Carroll and St. Thomas Aquinas, Valley Center isn’t known for being a traditional soccer power.
Meaning the Hornets don’t have the same pressure to win as everyone else.
“They were never told you have to go back to state to have a successful career,” coach Jeff Burger said. “Our goal is not to win. If winning is your goal, then if you lose that last one then your season isn’t a success.”
This carefree attitude shows in the way Valley Center approaches each game and each practice. Burger wanted to create a fun atmosphere with two goals: to play at your highest level and to get better.
By never talking about winning, Valley Center has done just that — win.
“It’s a lot easier playing for a coach that you don’t always have to be worried about every little mistake you are going to get yelled at for,” senior forward Kylie Callender said. “We all have a lot of respect for Burger and know when it’s time to crack down. We have fun, but when it’s time to crack down we know, and he’ll let us know, too.”
As much as they would like to win, the Hornets’ real goal is to earn some respect. Valley Center doesn’t believe it’s a Cinderella, and thinks its 19-0 record and win over City League-champion Kapaun Mount Carmel in the quarterfinals should prove that.
But if not, they know another chance looms against Mill Valley.
“I think we can do it because we have all the right pieces,” Burger said. “I love Cinderella stories, but this isn’t a Cinderella story.”