CARMEL — The Guerin Catholic girls kept saying it, over and over again. It’s just that nobody was listening.
Nobody believed them coming into the state tournament with a losing record, or when they shocked Class 2A No. 3 Carmel in the sectional championship. Only once they also took down No. 2 Avon in the first round of regionals did people start hearing what the Golden Eagles knew about themselves: They could leave their mark on the 2016 postseason.
While Guerin was unable to push further than the regional championship, its season ending in a 2-0 loss to No. 4 Brebeuf Jesuit on Saturday, there were no hung heads or sunken spirits in the minutes following the loss.
The year was done, but the pride would last.
“We told them before we parted ways (today), ‘There’s not a damn thing to be upset with or disappointed in,” Guerin coach Jonathan McClure said. “How hard they were willing to work for themselves and, more importantly, for one another, to go up against the toughest road to get to the state final is unbelievable and truly commendable.”
Though framing something as symbolic is an original sin of sportswriting, there is perhaps no better example of the tenacity the Golden Eagles showed than its senior goalkeeper Chandler Edwards, who overcame a back injury to stand tough with her team in its final game.
Edwards, who broke her back freshman year, aggravated her injury after slamming into the goal post last weekend in the win over Carmel and was originally told she would miss the next 12 weeks.
She stood on the sideline and watched with pride as freshman Sarah Stagge played her role well in Wednesday night’s win over Avon, believing there was “no one better” than Stagge to fill in. But feeling better than her diagnosis indicated, Edwards and her family sought a second opinion.
“I was not ready to sit out and watch my team,” Edwards said. “I wanted to be a part of this. We made it so far and so we just got a second opinion and they were like, ‘There’s no risks.’”
McClure got a surprise call from the Edwards family late Thursday night, saying that “a family decision” had been made to allow her to play based on that second opinion.
“Stagge was unbelievable in the Wednesday night game, but at the same time, you’ve got a senior co-captain that’s ready to go,” McClure said. “How do you tell that kid no?”
You don’t, and McClure didn’t. Despite allowing two goals in the final tally to one of the state’s top girls soccer players, Edwards dove, rolled, punched and fought for her Golden Eagles teammates until the end.
In kind, Guerin mirrored Edwards and kept things going as long as it could, especially the seniors. Midfielder Lauren Rice went toe-to-toe with Michigan recruit Alia Martin on several occasions, as did defenders Jordan McCurdy and Leeann Beaty. The same could also be said for senior midfielder Sarah Hartman’s efforts throughout the tournament.
“It’s kind of like our renaissance and our rebirth,” McClure said. “(The seniors’) leadership is part of why we were able to do at the end of the year what we were able to do, so for the girls to be able to learn from girls like that — and leadership and character like that — it pays off huge.”
Follow IndyStar reporter Jordan J. Wilson on Twitter: @Wilsonable07. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org .