McAlester is charging into a new frontier.
The McAlester girls soccer team made its way into the playoffs for the first time in program history, with the first round scheduled for May 4. And while she's excited for the future, coach Charlotte Moss said this milestone has been years in the making.
“I just feel like its a culmination of hard work, and we want to make sure and show these kids that their hard work results in something,” Moss said. “It encourages them to take that into their adult life.”
Moss said that soccer in McAlester really started with the formation of the McAlester United youth soccer program.
That helped garner new, young players to the sport that have now grown up to be on the high school varsity teams.
“I think it started with just the youth soccer to begin with,” Moss said. “And what we’re seeing now is those original McAlester United players that grew up playing, and that makes a difference.”
Moss said building a program starts with coming in, setting goals, and holding kids accountable. When her tenure began with the young program, she was the only coach working alongside parent volunteers.
But now, the programs have grown to two full staffs for both the girls and boys teams, with deep benches and many more becoming interested with the sport.
Assistant coach Rebecca Ruiz recalled what it was like at the beginning of year before games began that helped set the tone for the Lady Buffs.
“It started preseason,” Ruiz said. “We were focused from there, telling them ‘this is a special group’…but I feel like they are really self-motivated when we came in.”
Moss said it’s been important for her team to improve every day, and that even though they’ve reached this goal, there’s still a lot of road left to travel for this program.
“Yes, you celebrate moments…but when you get there, the whole point of life is to do better each day and be a better person than you were the day before,” Moss said. “So, if we say we’ve arrived and we stop there, do we ever get a state championship? And that’s the end goal, right?"
Moss also mentioned how hard the Lady Buffs have worked this season, including in games where they were met with adversity.
She pointed to the Durant game, where a 3-1 win helped to seal a spot in the postseason.
“Most likely that was going to be the game that would make or break the playoff journey,” Moss said. “And they went out in a pretty physical game and showed that they were willing to do what it takes to get there and that was what they wanted.
“I think they come out with that same determination in a playoff game just because they’re there and that’s what they want,” she added. "They want to win.”
Moss also said she was grateful for all of those that have been behind the soccer teams and helped push the programs forward.
From school officials, to fellow coaches, to parents, she said this milestone is a testament to the McAlester community.
“It takes an entire community to make things like this happen,” Moss said. “I feel like coach (John) Homer, our athletic director, has been behind us and pushing for it. We as coaches have been pushing for it, the youth coaches have been pushing for it, their parents…when they say it takes a village, it does. And our village is working hard.”
Contact Derek Hatridge at email@example.com.