Woods Charter Girls soccer coach Stewart reflects on heartbreaking championship loss

Matthews, NC – In a dramatic finale to a stellar season, the Woods Charter School girls soccer team fell to Christ the King High School in the NCHSAA 1A championship game, 5-0. Coach Graeme Stewart, in a post-game interview, provided a heartfelt reflection on the loss, the season’s journey, and the future of the program. Despite the disappointment, Stewart’s pride in his team and optimism for the future shone through his words.

A Season of Triumphs and Trials

Resilient Journey Through Challenges

Woods Charter’s journey to the championship was anything but smooth. Throughout the season, the team faced numerous challenges, including injuries to key players and stiff competition from formidable opponents. Nevertheless, they displayed remarkable resilience, pushing through adversities to reach the finals.

“We had injuries, we had challenges during the season, and we still have an injury of one of our key players,” Stewart acknowledged. “But they kept believing, they kept fighting, and for us to get to this point and prevail against some very good teams in the East… I couldn’t be any more proud of them.”

The team’s tenacity was evident in their ability to overcome obstacles, which earned them a place in the championship game. The loss to Christ the King, a team known for its quality players, was a tough blow, but Stewart’s admiration for his players’ perseverance was clear.

Analyzing the Championship Game: A Tough Start and a Strong Finish

The championship game itself was a tale of two halves. Woods Charter struggled in the first 20 minutes, conceding three goals and putting themselves at a significant disadvantage. Stewart attributed the early setbacks to a lack of execution despite thorough preparation.

“We practiced and we prepared for it, we just didn’t do it in the first 20 minutes,” Stewart explained. “We came out flat, and they punished us. They’ve got quality players, and they punished us.”

However, the second half showcased a different Woods Charter team. They made adjustments, fought back valiantly, and showed the determination that characterized their season. Although they couldn’t overturn the deficit, their spirited performance in the latter part of the game was commendable.

The Emotional Impact on Players

Heartfelt Messages to Seniors

For the seniors, the loss was particularly poignant. As their high school soccer careers drew to a close, the defeat was a bitter pill to swallow. Stewart’s message to them was one of unwavering pride and appreciation.

“One day doesn’t change, in my opinion, a fantastic season, a fantastic group of kids who’ve given their all for this team,” Stewart said. “They’ve represented the school amazingly, and today doesn’t change that. I’m so proud of every single one of them and what they’ve achieved.”

He highlighted the contributions of senior player Leyla Noronha, who had been instrumental in the team’s success over the years.

“Sometimes things don’t work out in life the way you want them to, but nothing changes the way she is as a person, what she means to this program, what she has done for this program,” Stewart said, speaking about Leyla. “She’s put this team on her shoulders countless times over the years.”

Building for the Future: Challenges and Opportunities

With the departure of ten seniors, Woods Charter faces a rebuilding phase. However, Stewart remains optimistic about the future. He emphasized the cyclical nature of high school sports and expressed confidence in the upcoming talent.

“We’ve lost 10 seniors now, we’re going to have to rebuild,” Stewart noted. “We’ve got some good kids coming up from the middle school that I’m sure will buy into what we’re doing, and we’ll just start again.”

Stewart’s confidence is grounded in the team’s established culture and the strong foundation they’ve built over the years. He believes that the principles and values instilled in the program will continue to guide the team’s future success.

“The platform of the program doesn’t change, the way we go about our business isn’t going to change,” Stewart asserted. “The personnel does, and we just keep pushing and striving to do everything that we can do.”

Community Support: A Pillar of Strength

A Small School with a Big Heart

One of the standout aspects of Woods Charter’s soccer program is the unwavering support from the school community. Despite being a small school with only 180 high school students, the community’s enthusiasm and dedication were palpable throughout the season and especially during the championship game.

“They filled up this side of the stadium, they were loud the whole way,” Stewart said, expressing his gratitude. “We’re not as big as Christ the King, we’re not as big as pretty much anybody we play other than a couple of teams. I’m so proud to be part of this community.”

Stewart, whose own children attended Woods Charter, spoke passionately about the school’s impact on its students and the supportive environment it fosters. He views his coaching role as a way to give back to the community that has given so much to him and his family.

“It’s an amazing school. It changes kids’ lives. It prepares them for the next step,” Stewart said. “I do this as a way of trying to give back. Anything I do can help the school with this, but I love this group and this community.”

A Collaborative Effort: The Role of Assistant Coaches

Stewart was quick to acknowledge the vital contributions of his assistant coaches, emphasizing that the team’s success is a collective effort. He praised the dedication and expertise of his assistants, many of whom are former players who have returned to contribute to the program.

“Everybody talks about head coaching me, it is not just me,” Stewart stated. “I am hugely lucky to have Izzy, Elliot, Max, and of course, Caleb. It is very much a team coaching thing. I do not have a monopoly on good ideas, and I look to them all the time.”

The return of former players as assistant coaches not only strengthens the coaching staff but also reinforces the sense of continuity and tradition within the program. It’s a testament to the positive impact that the program has had on its players, inspiring them to come back and give back to the team.

A Season to Remember: Pride and Perspective

Despite the heartbreaking loss in the championship game, Coach Stewart and the Woods Charter girls soccer team have much to be proud of. Their journey through a challenging season, their resilience in the face of adversity, and their strong sense of community are achievements that extend beyond the final score.

Stewart’s final message encapsulated the essence of the team’s season: resilience, pride, and a commitment to growth. “For us to even get in this place once is a big deal. For these guys to achieve what they’ve done for the last three years is really quite incredible,” Stewart reflected.

Watch on YouTube at Woods Charter Girls Soccer Coach Stewart after loss to Christ the King in Championship Game – 6.1.24

00:15 Team came out flat in the first 20 minutes

  • Struggled against quality players
  • Made adjustments and fought back in the second half

01:09 Coach Stewart expresses pride in team despite loss

  • Coach is proud of the team for their efforts and performance against tough opponents, especially the seniors
  • Recognizes the talent and quality of Christ the King team, congratulates them for their success despite losing key players

02:03 Coach Stewart expresses pride in team despite loss

  • Stewart lauds the team’s dedication and representation of the school
  • Mentions disappointment but emphasizes continued pride in achievements

02:52 Coach Stewart expresses pride and gratitude towards the seniors post-game

  • Leyla is struggling to come to terms with the game’s outcome
  • Coach Stewart emphasizes the importance of the seniors and their contributions to the program

03:47 Coach Stewart discusses building off of past successes and challenges.

  • Team learned from previous losses and has a plan to rebuild with new talent.
  • Program’s fundamentals and approach to the game will remain consistent despite changes in the team.

04:35 Teams in the East will be gunning for us as we’ve managed to prevail the last three years.

  • Preparation and readiness are key to coming back stronger.
  • The support from the Woods community, despite being a smaller school, is crucial and fills the team with pride.

05:21 Coach Stewart emphasizes pride in team’s achievements despite loss

  • Coach Stewart highlights the team’s commitment to community and doing things the right way
  • Recognition of support from Mr. Brian and the importance of learning and perspective

06:10 The importance of having former players as assistants

  • Coach Stewart appreciates the support and input from former players serving as assistants.
  • The collaborative coaching approach with former players contributes to team success and mutual respect.