When you reach a certain point, level of expectation does not matter. Whether you’re the favorite or the underdog, losing hurts just the same.
Mooreville, having won the Class 3A state title last year and returning most of those players, was considered by at least this writer as the favorite Saturday. But when it was over, Newton County had won, and senior Morgan Leslie was trying to hide her tears behind huge sunglasses.
“This is the one I wanted to win all through high school,” Leslie said through quivering lips. “I wanted it worse than I wanted it last year, I wanted it worse than I wanted it the year before. It’s like the biggest disappointment.”
Mooreville’s seven seniors have been playing together since seventh grade. They’ve won a lot of games, including state championships in 2003 and last year. A bond had been formed, and that made the loss especially bitter.
“All these girls are my family, and they’ll always be my family, even if we’re graduating,” Leslie. “We’re still going to be close.”
West Union, playing in the 1A championship series, wasn’t even supposed to be here. Why, the Lady Eagles were only the third-best team in their county during the regular season. But Ingomar played too many games, and Myrtle was knocked out by Smithville, which West Union beat in the North finals.
Coach Andy Kirk said his young team – two seniors, one junior – was just happy to be here. The run to Jackson has been “icing on the cake.” He even said, “we just have no expectations.”
Even so, the tears were flowing just as heavily from West Union eyes as from Mooreville eyes. This was the point of no return, emotionally speaking. “It’s amazing how we got this far,” West Union senior Autumn Denham said.
But once there, joy or sadness awaited each team. What happened before didn’t really matter. The winners celebrated, the losers cried, and you certainly couldn’t tell by looking that one team hurt more, or less, than another.