High School Sports

No. 1 Silver Foxes use pressure to keep pushing

For the Dutch Fork girls soccer team, today is not just Monday. It’s game day.

Tonight, the unbeaten Silver Foxes host J. L. Mann in the Class 4A Upper State final, and the squad is determined to earn one more game day for the 2015 season.

“We want to get to the state finals and be undefeated all the way through,” forward Emily Jermstad said.

The Silver Foxes, 23-0-1 and ranked No. 1 in the state, are angling for the program’s first state title bid. Last year, the squad reached the semifinals in the Lower State before falling to Wando. J.L. Mann (24-1-1) was a state finalist in 2014.

“We keep pushing because we love each and we want to keep playing and we want to win state,” said midfielder Hayley Younginer after Dutch Fork earned the semifinal berth with a 2-1 overtime win over Dorman on Friday.

It was their 21st consecutive win since Feb. 28, when they tied with Academic Magnet in the Viking Cup at Spring Valley. They have outscored opponents 112-8 through the season, allowing no more than two goals per game. With goalie Abby Schmidt at the back of a staunch defense, the Silver Foxes posted 18 shutouts.

But coach Mike Mauldin said he has tried to de-emphasize the Silver Foxes’ win streak.

“We don’t worry about (our record). We take each game as they come,” Mauldin said.

“That’s all we’ve been concerned about the whole season, and what we’ve told our girls. No matter what the record is, no matter the situation, on any given night any team can beat any other team.”

The Silver Foxes said their coach has done well to remind them of weak spots and guard them against overconfidence. Protecting the goose egg in the loss column of their record has been both a driving force and an added weight this season, they said.

“It’s been a lot of motivation because we want to keep that title. We want to go and intimidate these teams and let them know that we’re a force to be reckoned with,” Younginer said. “But it has also been pressure, because then we have to live up to that. We have to bring our best on the field every day, and we cannot have any let downs.”

Mary Jordan Hiller said, “It’s definitely been pressure, but I like pressure because that’s what makes us.”

Mauldin said he is proud of the way his team has responded to each challenge, including their win at the Soccer at the Beach tournament in Myrtle Beach in March.

He credited leadership from Hiller, Jermstad and Younginer, as well as another handful of experienced seniors and future college players, for keeping the Silver Foxes level-headed and motivated.

The players said Mauldin has been the team’s biggest motivation.

“He’s always there for us,” Younginer said. “He’s always pushing to be better and he just makes us that much better, that much closer, like a family.”