It’s been said it’s not whether you win or lose, but how you play the game.
For the Trinity Prep girls soccer team, it’s a wonder they are playing at all.
The Crusaders have a team for the first time in 5 years, thanks mainly to several freshmen who had pushed the school to field one.
Ella Hickey, one of the team’s forwards and co-captains, couldn’t be happier.
“I didn’t know if soccer was going to happen this year, but all of a sudden we heard it was a possibility,” the sophomore said. “It’s really exciting and I’m definitely glad it’s back.”
The oldest girl on the team, junior co-captain Sophia Haeuser, doesn’t mind being surrounded by younger players.
“I’ve grown up with most of these girls, so that helps,” she said.
Haeuser was impressed with the determination of the freshmen.
“They really stepped up and showed everyone how much they wanted it to happen,” she said. “It was really cool seeing how much initiative they showed helping to get the team put together.”
But you can’t have a team without coaches, so Trinity Prep athletic director Jim Klaczak put an announcement in the newspaper.
St. John the Baptist Catholic School athletic director and teacher Milton Gallegos, who has coached the Napa High girls the last two seasons, said he was intrigued after his brother, St. Helena High boys coach Ozzie Gallegos, saw the announcement and sent it to him.
“I saw Jim at a meeting and jokingly asked him why he hadn’t called me yet,” Milton Gallegos recalled.
Klaczak took the initiative and suggested they have a chat about the job.
Milton Gallegos immediately called his friend, Adrian Guetter, who coaches with him at Napa High.
“I told him I didn’t know a lot about the program or the school,” Milton Gallegos said of Guetter, “and that I would only do it if he went with me.”
Guetter agreed to co-coach the Crusaders with Gallegos.
“The school really appreciated that we have experience building a soccer program together,” said Guetter.
Added Gallegos, “The school didn’t want to join the league, the Sacramento Metropolitan Athletic League, unless they saw there was going to be longevity to the team. With 12 girls on our team being underclassman, we felt like the next 3-4 years there would no problem fielding a team.”
The Crusaders were young, and a handful of them had never played soccer before. But Gallegos and Guetter saw that not as a problem, but an opportunity.
“We had the opportunity here to build this team from ground up,” said Guetter. “When you have girls who’ve played a lot of soccer, you can have bad habits you have to unteach; we have to put girls at positions they’re not used to playing because of where we need a certain level of skill.
“With this team, their response is ‘Show me how to play this position and what I need to do.’”
Noted Gallegos, “Aside from goalie, our girls have said all we need to do is tell them where to play and what they need to do. We’ve continued to move girls around, now that we’ve played a few games, and the girls aren’t complaining.”
But by the coaches and Klaczak had the details worked out, their first game was only five days away. The Crusaders had time for only two practices before travelling to Sacramento for that contest, a league game against Cristo Rey.
“We only lost 3-0 to an experienced team.,” shared Gallegos. “Our girls showed a lot of grit and fight from the very beginning to keep the score respectable.”
That’s not all they showed, according to Guetter.
“We saw that this was a team with heart. Every game that we’ve walked away from, on top of continual growth, development and skill, the team has shown a ton of heart,” he said. “These players have shown so much school pride and have really stuck with the program despite playing teams with 5 to 7 more players. Many of our girls have to play the entire game, and those are the situations when character is revealed.”
Just finding a place to play their games is another challenge the Crusaders have faced. Because the Redwood Road school has very limited space, the team practices on a field that’s about half the size of a regulation pitch.
“Despite that, the girls don’t look lost on a full-size field,” Gallegos said. “It’s impressive because they look like they’ve been there before.”
Normally a school plays a schedule that’s roughly half home games and half away. But because of the large amount of rain in the Napa area recently, Trinity Prep has had to play all of its games in the Sacramento area.
“With the weather and shortage of fields in Napa and all the soccer teams we have here, there was just no availability of fields here, so we’ve ended up having to travel every game,” said Gallegos. “In fact, only two schools in our league have their own fields.”
Given all the challenges the Crusaders have faced, no one is surprised the team is off to a 0-9-1 start. Trinity Prep not only had to play two of its recent games on back-to-back days, but the first was in Roseville against John Adams Academy and the second was against Leroy Greene Academy in Sacramento.
Despite that, the Crusaders almost pulled off their first win against Leroy Greene, taking a 2-0 halftime lead on goals by Hickey and Haeuser before the Lions roared back to win 4-2.
“Because of all the travel, the girls started the game on a quarter tank,” explained Gallegos, “and by the second half their tanks were on empty.
Five days before that, Trinity Prep had pulled out a 3-3 tie with Leroy Greene, getting 2 goals from Josie Haeuser, 1 goal from Abigail Jurgens and 1 assist from Katelyn Warner.
“This team doesn’t get down. After losing a game, they’re right back at practice with smiles,” Gallegos said. “The girls and their parents always support us no matter what the outcome is.”
Added Haeuser, “We’re not really discouraged to have lost all of our games because we’re such a young team compared to all of the teams we’re playing. We only have 29 kids in the school and a lot of our players have never played soccer before.”
But that could change soon.
After 10 long road trips, Trinity Prep is scheduled to finally play a home game at 4 p.m. Monday against Lodi Academy at Napa Valley College.
“We think we can get our first win,” said Gallegos. “We’re tired of being the new team with the cute story. We think we can legitimately compete for a win.” “
“We’re really excited about it,” added Haeuser.