DMC Girls Soccer Takes Home First State Title
June 14, 2022
Concluding that the 2022 DMC Girls Soccer Team had a wildly successful season would be an understatement, to say the least. Coming off of a close loss last year in the 2021 State Championship, the team was excited about their potential for this past season, as there was immense opportunity for newcomers and returners alike to step up and into the large shoes left by the graduated seniors. As opposed to the 2021 season, where the goal was to merely qualify for the state tournament, the standard for the 2022 season had been set. The expectation was to not just make it back to the state tournament, but to finish what they started in the previous year- to win it all.
In an interview with Head Coach Dan Webster about his approach to the 2022 season, he considers the fundamentals established in the "over-the-top success that was the 2021 season" as the foundation that made the championship this year possible.
"Last year was based on leadership and belief," he said. "There were no expectations—even making it to the state tournament was a pleasant surprise."
The success of that 2021 season sprouted from the team's unified, championship culture. He talked about the absence of pressure that year. The team was able to play for each other and for the Lord, directed with the strong leadership of the senior class. The team did not have to worry about living up to any expectations except their self-established, positive beliefs concerning their own potential. It was easy to believe in 2021 when the team was not predicted to have the success they experienced. This was the main contrast between the runner-up and championship seasons. When describing these differences, Coach Webster emphasized both the need for leaders to step up and the presence of expectations that existed entering this past championship season. The previously established beliefs and unity central to the program's culture were the roots that the team this season could return to in the face of adversity.
Naturally, leadership worked itself out during the season. Joslyn Helgens ('22), a senior captain on the team, tore her ACL in the fall. Whether she would be able to play at all this spring with her injury was questionable, landing her on the sidelines at the beginning of the season. "I'm not going to lie- it was hard to have to sit out," she said. "But, it gave me the necessary insight on how to lead, better interact with individual teammates, and made me more appreciative of the time I ended up getting to have on the field this season."
Helgens ended up getting cleared to play just a few weeks into the season, and her new perspective on leadership made a world of difference as she led the team to a record-breaking season and a highly-successful showing at the state tournament. Junior captain Sami Webster ('23) recounts the difference in leadership from the beginning to the end of the season, saying, "Not having Jos (Joslyn) on the field at the beginning of the season was difficult. Once Joslyn was back, it was easier to work out the kinks from the beginning of the season."
Expectations also played a role on the team over the course of the 2022 season. Coach Webster said, "This year looking on paper, there was a huge expectation—to make it back and win it all. That takes a toll on the team, and so you have to approach the team differently."
Coach Webster explained that managing these expectations throughout the season proved to be increasingly challenging and became a large focus. In fact, he recounted that, at one point mid-way through the season, the team was so caught up in managing these expectations that they temporarily lost sight of the "belief" component that got them so far the previous season. In response, he reintroduced a question to the team that is all-too familiar for any player Coach Webster has ever had, asking them, "What do you believe?". This question was enough to refocus the girls and propel them forward approaching the regional games—allowing them to create their own beliefs together concerning the team, rather than adopting the expectations placed upon them as beliefs.
For Sami Webster, it was taking belief and incorporating the unity required to make it a reality that made success possible. "We had to re-learn unity after last year and believe—together." She continued on, saying, "every person on the team was valued and important."
Adding to that, Helgens said, "expectations got to us for a little bit. But when we calmed down and remembered why we were playing, things got much better." Things got much better indeed, as the second ranked Lions earned a top seed in their state-qualifying regional bracket and cruised through the first two rounds, mercy-ruling both teams and ending the games before the end of regulation time.
Play was going smoothly in the regional final game, too, until an obscure situation led the goalkeeper, Maren Miller ('23), to unintentionally earn a red card with twenty minutes left in the game. Per state-administered protocol, this meant that she was ejected from the game and prohibited from playing in the next game.
"I was in disbelief," she said. "I didn't really understand why I was getting a red card until it happened."
Unfortunately for Miller and the team, the next game that she was required to sit out for, happened to be the state tournament quarterfinals where they were to play Van Meter, a very talented conference team. Playing a good team at a state tournament is no easy task—let alone without your starting varsity goalkeeper. This adversity was one of the factors that brought the team together as they continued to advance throughout the tournament.
Finally, after winning two hard-fought games at state, the Lions made it back to the 1A state championship. They were set to take on an all-too-familiar opponent: the 5-time defending state champions, Davenport Assumption. This was the same team which ended the Lions' dreams of winning the state championship in 2021. So, as you could imagine, the girls were ready to avenge the past season's loss, and they did so in thrilling fashion.
While the game was low-scoring, it was an exciting and entertaining battle in its entirety. The team was forced to execute at the highest level they had played at all season—requiring everybody to play as one, for One. Junior Isabel Garcia ('23) had the lone goal of the game. She said, "I didn't think it went in until I heard everyone cheering. I was in disbelief for a second, and then Sami (Webster), G (Gianna Bennett), and Olivia (Lombardi) ran over, and it was just amazing. After that, right before the kick off, I just stood there for a second and prayed. I thanked God and asked Him to help give us strength to push that extra mile for the remainder of the game." The stellar defense of the Lions allowed their sole goal to be enough to come out on top, winning the title game 1-0 and bringing home their first state championship in only the seventh active year of the Des Moines Christian Girls Soccer Program.
But for Garcia, the captain of the all-tournament team, winning a state title was not the sole definition of a successful season. She believed that a successful season meant an experience filled with lasting community, friendships, and memories. These things- the foundational pieces of a championship culture- are what made their season successful, regardless of whether they would have hoisted the trophy at the end. Winning a championship was a byproduct of their success.
Even more excitingly, the team has the bar set just as high for next year. While the graduating seniors will be missed, the team is already anticipating big things to come. Sophomore and member of the all-tournament team, Jenna Roberts ('24), said that she is approaching the next season with even more confidence, and that the returners are ready to take on bigger roles.
Garcia said, "I'm so ready for this next season. We're losing some key players, but I think we can find our way to the championship once again. We're going to have to come together and work even harder this coming year, but I think we'll be able to do it. As long as we remember who we play for and try not to let the expectations define us, we will be just as strong next year."
The 2022 Des Moines Christian Girls Soccer Team finished with a record of 21-1, the best in school history. They broke every record imaginable, including: wins in a season (21), consecutive wins in a season (20), team goals in a season (136), team assists in a season (96), least amount of goals against (7), individual goals in a season (Isabel Garcia- 40), individual career goals (Jenna Roberts- 55), individual shut-outs in a season (Maren Miller-16), team shut-outs in a season (18), and individual assists in a season (Isabel Garcia- 26). For the Des Moines Christian Girls Soccer team, this past season and all of these accomplishments proved to be grounded by beliefs: individual players' beliefs in themselves, their teammates, and the Lord.
Coach Webster asked the girls what they believed. And, while I cannot answer for them, I can tell you what I believe. I believe that not only are the Des Moines Christian Lions the reigning state champions, but more excitingly, that the program has some very big things in store.
About Megan Miller:
Megan Miller grew up at Des Moines Christian School, graduating with the class of '21. She was involved in Student Council, National Honor Society, basketball, and soccer. She is now studying Economics at Luther College in Decorah, Iowa. Following the conclusion of her first year, she has returned to Des Moines Christian for the summer and is working as the DMC Marketing Intern.