Suspended at Perfection

A Look at Inside the Undefeated 2020 Jordan High School Girls Soccer Team

Freddy Stanley, Chief Editor

On March 12th, 2020, hundreds of fans packed the stands at Durham County Stadium to watch the Jordan girls soccer team match up against the Riverside Pirates in the Bull City Cup final. The undefeated Falcons were playing their biggest game of the season, but the game meant so much more.  The girls on the field weren’t just playing for the city championship, they were playing in what they knew very well could be their last game of the season. For the seniors on the field, the last game of their high school careers.

Since the beginning of season the girls have been driven with the will to win, starting a perfect 5-o. Even though the Jordan had failed to post a winning season since freshman Brianna Pinto tore up Barringer Field in 2015, the 2020 team was eager to put the past in the past and change the culture of the program.

“One of the biggest things that Coach Marchione and I tried to instill was a culture of positivity,” said Head Coach Justin Finger, reflecting on the success of the program in his first year in charge. “We told the girls to expect success and to lift each other up. They took that to heart and really supported each other. I believe that led the team to change the culture of the program.”

The message caught on quickly with the players. According to senior Riley Ferguson the change in mindset made all the difference. “Mr. Finger and Ms. M have both made major changes to the team mindset,” said Ferguson. “I think that is what has really made a difference in how the team has interacted with one and other on and off the field in a positive way.”

This message of positivity and unity translated into immediate success.  In their first game of the season, the Falcons squared off against Southern High School in the Bull City Cup Quarterfinals. Not making the mistake of overlooking their first round opponent, the girls made easy work of the Spartans, beating them 6-0. Five different players scored on the day with at least one player from each grade level getting on the score-sheet.

Coach Justin Finger pointed towards the group effort as one of the reasons for the team’s success. “Every single player on the team has contributed to the overall success,” said Finger. “We had certain players stand out in certain games, but it has really been a team effort. I think every player was important.”

The second game of the season saw more of the same for the Falcons. On March 3rd, the Falcons traveled across Durham to play Hillside High School for their first conference match. Showing no mercy, Jordan walked away from Hillside with a 9-0 win. The win against the Hornets saw two standouts for the Falcons. Senior Olivia Barefoot grabbed a hat trick on the night and junior Taianna Hill slotted home a staggering four goals of her own.

The very next day, the Falcons traveled to Northern High School to play in the Bull City Cup semi-finals against the Knights. Their toughest game yet was destined to be a tightly contested battle, considering the history between the teams in recent years. The Northern Knights had knocked out the Falcons in each of the last two Bull City Cups, beating them in the finals on penalty kicks in 2018. The Knights had made a point to single out Jordan as their rivals, and the Falcons wanted nothing more then to beat them under the lights on their home turf.

At half time it looked like history was going to repeat itself for a third time. The Falcons found themselves on the wrong side of a 1-0 deficit. Driven by revenge, the Falcons came out strong in the second half. With goals from senior Maddie Morrison and freshman Victoria Tita, and a strong performance on the defensive end, the Falcons came back to win the game 2-1. This victory would send the Falcons to Durham County Stadium for the second time in three years to play in the finals of the Bull City Cup.

“There was pure joy after winning at Northern,” said Coach Finger, looking back at the game. “That game had been a fierce rivalry, and they had not won it in the past 3 years. When they won that game, they all finally believed they could be a great team. Their smiles and joy after that game were unbelievable and I will never forget it.”

Before the Falcons had the opportunity to play for some silverware, they had to make the journey to Panther Creek High School for their second Tri-8 conference match.  Panther Creek’s field had not been kind to the Falcon girls or boys teams in recent years, with Jordan unable to get a win since the Tri-8 era began in 2018.  This stat did not deter the Falcons. With the new culture of positivity instilled in the program, and the great form they had found early in the season, the Falcons rolled south to Panther Creek believing that they could win.

After 80 minutes of regulation and two overtime periods, nothing could split the Falcons and the Catamounts. With the score tied at 1-1, the game would be decided by a penalty kick shootout. The Falcons needed someone to step up and be a hero. That someone was senior goalkeeper Katie MacDougall. MacDougall didn’t come up with just one crucial save, the senior saved four of the five penalty kicks she faced, winning the shootout and the game for the Falcons.

Now at 4-0, the Falcons were going into the Bull City Cup Final on a high. After years of disappointing seasons, the Falcons couldn’t stop winning games. It seemed like everything was going right for the Falcons. Until everything came crashing down.

The morning of the Bull City Cup final, the North Carolina High School Athletic Association (NCHSAA) announced that all athletic activities would be suspended until April 6th due to the outbreak of COVID-19. Starting on March 13th, all athletic activities would come to a halt. The NCHSAA ruling would break the Jordan girls soccer team up for a least a month, and the players and the coaching staff both knew it would likely be longer. But the ruling allowed teh Falcons one more game — one last time on the field — and a shot at bringing home the Bull City Cup.

At 8 pm. on March 12th, the Bull City Cup Final kicked off under the lights of Durham County Stadium in front of hundreds of fans. Student, parents, and faculty of both schools packed the stands to watch the girls compete for champions of Durham. The game started our fairly even, the Falcons having the majority of the possession, but neither team getting much action in front of goal. Midway through the first half, the Pirates were able to draw first blood. Hitting hard on the counterattack, Riverside senior Stephanie Barbosa slotted home the first goal of the game, putting Jordan on the wrong side of a 1-0 deficit. Just minutes later, Jordan junior Tianna Hill made sure that the Falcons would not enter the half down a goal. Breaking through the Pirates back line and providing a cool finish, Hill tied the game up a 1 a piece going into half time.

At half time, Coach Finger continued to preach positivity. Encouraging the girls to leave it all on the field in the second half, Finger left the half time huddle confident in his teams ability. “4-1,” Coach Finger told the Falcon Post walking away from the half time huddle, “watch it happen.”

The Falcons came into the second half looking like a whole new team. Bombarding the Riverside goal for the majority of the second half, the Falcons truly looked unbeatable. Freshman Victoria Tita got on the score sheet for the Falcons, and Tianna Hill added to her tally on the night to give the Falcons a well deserved 3-1 victory. In a game in which they were truly dominant, the Falcons were crowned champions of Durham.

The world may have been closing down all around them, but the Falcons stormed the field at Durham County Stadium filled with pure joy. Even if it was just for a moment, nothing else seemed to matter. They had done it.

In just five games the Falcons were able to equal their win total for the last two seasons combined. In these five games the Falcons had dominated their opponents by a combined score of 21-3. The 2020 Jordan girls soccer team had turned a program that had just one conference win in two years into a team that no one wanted to play.

The Jordan High School girls soccer team hadn’t just been noticed in Durham, they were starting to get state wide, and even national recognition. As it stands, the Falcons are 14th ranked in the North Carolina and #60 in the entire country according to MaxPreps. A ranking that likely would have continued to rise if the season was continued.

Even though the 2020 Jordan girls soccer team have everything to be proud of, but this season will always be the season of what could have been. This team at the potential to win not just the Bull City Cup, but a conference and maybe even a state championship. And everyone on the team and the coaching staff knows it.

“My emotions after the Bull City Cup were bittersweet,” said Coach Finger reflecting on the season. “I was so happy for the girls to go out there and win a trophy. But there was a weird cloud hanging over it. Like, could this be our last time together? I struggled to sleep for a couple nights after that, thinking about the team and what could have been.”

“I was really happy to finally have a winning stride after the four years of playing for Jordan, but it was a sad ending since it was so short lived” said senior Riley Ferguson. Even though it was cut short, Ferguson was happy for the time she had as a Falcon. “Many tears have been shed, but I’m happy I got to live through the experience of being able to play for the varsity team all four years and gain life long friends and family.”

Even though this might be the end of the road for Ferguson and the other seniors on the team, the future remains bright for the Falcons. Many players from the 2020 cup winning team will be back on Barringer Field come spring of 2021. Ferguson hopes the winning ways of this year’s team will continue on for years to come. “Although my senior season ended early, I hope that the girls in the future learn how to keep the undefeated mindset and continue to win title after title.”

As of right now the NCHSAA has yet to officially cancel the remainder of the 2020 season — but the soonest play could resume is May 15th. Even though there is a chance that play will be continued, the chances appear very slim. Across the country many states have canceled the remainder of their high school sports season’s already. Even in our own state, the North Carolina Christian School Association (NCCSA) have already gone ahead and canceled the remainder of their sports season.

Even if the 2020 Jordan High School girls soccer team have already stepped onto the field for the last time together, they have everything to be proud of. They brought Jordan a Bull City Cup, and have changed the culture of the program into one that wins. If the season is in fact canceled, the 2020 team will forever be perfect. In more ways than one, they will be forever undefeated.