As his team happily cycled through a shooting drill 30 yards away, shouting and laughing and smiling, South Burlington High School girls soccer coach Curt Belton explained how that’s what it was like before his team started winning.
Before the Rebels got healthy.
“The positive attitude was there and then when we started getting the personnel back, the positive attitude just expanded and you could see the confidence of the team just grow,” he said.
Hobbled by injuries, the Rebels were goalless for the first three games of an 0-4 start.
Since then, however, boosted by the return of senior Christiana Carmichael and junior Alyssa Schlenter, South Burlington (3-4) has won three straight, outscoring opponents 10-3.
“On the bench, I knew our team definitely had more skill than what they were showing on the field,” said Carmichael, who recovered from an ankle sprain to join the Rebels against Mount Mansfield, their first victory. “By the fourth game it finally clicked in.”
By the fifth game, a 4-1 win against the Cougars, South Burlington had its foothold.
The Rebels’ patience and easy chemistry held on long enough to avoid cracks in their upbeat attitude that could have surfaced after a fifth or sixth consecutive loss.
“There’s always that chance. It was a big thing for them to have that win and do some serious, good scoring,” Belton said.
“The team chemistry off the field is amazing, I don’t think there’s two people who don’t get along,” Carmichael said.
By the sixth game, a 3-2 comeback victory over Colchester, which defeated South Burlington 4-0 in the season-opener, the Rebels tasted redemption.
“We totally caught Colchester by surprise the second time we played them,” Belton said. “They got the first goal and thought they were on another roll and then all of a sudden we got the next two and they were in trouble.”
Belton said the return of Carmichael to the back line and Schlenter in midfield solidified a group of players who had to grow up quickly at new positions.
These include freshmen Posie Nash-Gibney and Cameron Peyko — each already a regular in the lineup.
Nash-Gibney, a center back, said the team’s supportive atmosphere was crucial amid the early struggles.
“Everyone supports each other and even if you mess up they’re still there for you,” Nash-Gibney said. “And we started out with a lot of mess-ups and it’s made us better as a team.”
The improved speed and cohesion on defense has paid off for the Rebels’ attack, too.
Forwards Shannon Flaherty, Kayla Gilding and Alyssa Tenney all benefit from quicker transitions to attack. More winning tackles mean more possession and more possession has allowed the trio to click and make better runs into more dangerous areas.
“As a result of all the misfortune we suffered injury-wise, I’ve got two freshmen that have been starting and playing full matches,” Belton said. “It’s kind of been a good thing for our team.”