Wilton Warrior Words: Farewell, Wilton Soccer

Libby Connolly

Libby Connolly

Hearst Connecticut Media

Dear Soccer,

My earliest memories of you remain grounded in half-eaten orange slices at halftime and cold autumn days at the youth fields, sporting a reversible Wilton pinny that was far too large while oftentimes kicking the ball towards the wrong goal. For the past 16 years, you have been my life (except during a brief hiatus in first grade, when I quit because I hated the feeling of wearing shin guards). While I can assume that I had no idea what I was doing on the field, I knew that I had a blast doing it.

I have spent countless weekends at random hotels for tournaments, trolling the halls with my teammates and making far too much of a raucous until either a noise complaint was filed or our game-night curfew was actually enforced. There were so many mornings that I woke up at an ungodly hour, traveling three hours out of state to play a groggy Saturday morning game. I cannot even express how many times I have said the words “I can’t hang out, I have soccer.” And yet, despite all of these sacrifices, I wouldn’t trade a second of it. Lifelong friendships were made during those long car ride conversations, nighttime hotel shenanigans, and on the field.

A short two weeks ago, I put on a Wilton soccer jersey for the last time. At the time I didn’t know it would be the end, but amidst a season of uncertainty and unprecedented times, we were told to play every game like it would be our last. And although the game ended in a heart-wrenching loss to none other than the Ridgefield Tigers themselves, I know that every single person on the field did exactly that. We played until our muscles were physically giving out and turf burns adorned every knee.

The bench had hoarse voices but still cheered louder than ever. Anyone in attendance that evening will tell you that the final minutes of those semi-finals were not played on endurance or stamina; we were running on the purest essence of passion for the game. I could not imagine a better showing of Warrior spirit to anchor my concluding memories of Wilton soccer. Nonetheless, no silence has rung louder than those interminable moments after the game. Thirteen seniors grieved, reflected, and reminisced about our final moments as Wilton varsity soccer members.

These past few weeks have given me perspective as to how lucky I am to have ended my soccer career under the lights at Kristine Lilly field, with both Wilton teammates and former Ridgefield club teammates by my side. Despite being briefly sidelined with a concussion, I am so inexplicably lucky to have experienced a season at all, and my genuine wishes go out to the remaining senior high school athletes for an opportunity to have closure on their sports as well.

I will miss the excitement of an athletic dismissal at noon during playoffs, even though we all convinced our teachers to let us leave five minutes earlier because “I have to go to the trainer before the bus leaves.” I will miss singing at the top of our lungs to Taylor Swift on the bus rides, while the coaches watched from the front in pure horror. I will miss the thrill of calling “first for sophomores” at team dinners so we didn’t have to wait behind eight other people to get a generous helping of pasta and garlic bread. I will miss rainy-day film sessions, where we would cower in our seat and await the coaches’ criticism after watching a blatant mistake. I might even miss the pit in my stomach when we arrive at practice to see the unmistakable formation of cones set up for a fitness practice, and hearing that dreaded phrase “You don’t need your shin guards yet, just put your running shoes on”.

So, soccer, you have given me tears and laughter, anxiety, stress, and joy. But above all, you have given me friends for life. You taught me to carry my wins and losses with humility, pride, and respect. I did eventually adjust to the feeling of shin guards, and I am no longer that tiny, insecure freshman on varsity; I have grown up on these fields. And while I would carry a million more water jugs or run a hundred more six-pack sprints just to play another game, I know that all good things must come to an end. An enormous thank you is due to my parents, teammates, and coaches, but most importantly, thank you, soccer, for being my first love and giving me a final season I will always remember.

Libby Connolly is a senior at Wilton High School. She shares this column with three classmates.