Jodie Corless steps onto the field, knowing that she and the Fillies would be in for a fight today. She slowly paces the sideline, talking with her teammates. In her British accent, she softly discusses strategy and jokes to lighten the mood.
Warm-ups begin and Jodie jogs out onto the field. Her trademark hairstyle marks her path, a blonde bun on top of her head swaying back and forth as she runs.
The team lines up, each player with a teammate across from them. They kick the ball back and forth. Most of the girls are talking, but Jodie is quiet. She’s focused on the ball and has a gritty look on her face.
Before the game on Sept. 30, Coach Jimmy Ballenger had told Corless and the ABAC team that Darton was the toughest team they’d face all year. Jodie thinks she’s ready, though. All she needs to do is her job on field and rely on her teammates to do theirs.
Warm ups end and the Jodie bounds to the sideline where she strips off her white warm up shirt that reads “Fillies” across the front. She trades it in for a clean and sleek white home jersey, with her number 8 on the back.
Bright white jerseys of the Fillies litter the field and stand out against the green grass, making the players easy to spot. Jodie takes a spot near the opposition’s goal. If the battered midfielders can get the ball to her, then the Fillies might just have a chance to score.
For the next 45 minutes, however, she seldom sees the ball.
At halftime, the Fillies are in poor spirits. Darton had controlled the entire first half and scored two of their five goals in the game’s first four minutes. Jodie and the rest of the team hang their heads as they trudge off the field.
However, instead of scolding his team, Ballenger greets them with a smile and encourages them to keep their heads up. During the break, he cracks jokes and keeps the mood light and fun. Jodie’s top-notch lifts a bit.
The Fillies take the field for the second half with a rejuvenated spirit. They run with more energy and defend with greater tenacity than in the first half. Jodie moves up to play closer to midfield. She deflects a pass with her quick foot. Then another. Darton seems unable to move the ball consistently.
Yet, despite their best efforts, the Fillies can’t reach the goal, losing by a final score of 6-0.
When the game ends, Jodie walks off the gloomy field and over to the bench. She gathers her belongings and walks back to her room. She knew going in, it was going to be a battle. She played her heart out, along with the rest of the team.
Her solace is that while the Fillies had a tough time generating offense, they were able to play great defense in the second half, holding Darton to only one goal.
And the season isn’t over.
The Fillies play Darton at least one more time. As she heads back to the lockers, Jodie seems optimistic that they can beat them. And it will be the last game of the regular season. It sure would be a great way to finish.