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Authors: Alex Morgan

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BOOK: Saving the Team
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“I'm, um, on the soccer team.”

His eyes widened in surprise. “The guys' soccer team?”

“No!” I shook my head quickly. “I'm on the girls' team. But nobody's here. We're supposed to have practice now.”

“The girls don't practice here,” he said, stating the obvious. Then he offered something useful. “They're across the street, at the community park.”

“Steven!” shouted some boys from across the field. “Get over here. We have to start!”

“Sorry. Gotta go,” Steven said, trotting off backward while pointing across the street. “You better run.”

I picked up my duffel and sprinted across the street in the direction he'd pointed in. Peering through the trees bordering the park, I spotted the girls' soccer team in the distance, and jogged over to them.

I broke into a sprint again and ran up to Coach Flores, who was talking to some of the players.

“I'm so sorry. I went to the wrong place,” I said, still panting.

“No problem! I'm glad you made it,” she said with a smile.

My old coach back in Connecticut would have made me run laps for being late, but I didn't tell Coach Flores that.

“Get in line and get ready to have fun!” she said cheerily.

The team was in one long line, zigzagging through a series of cones, dribbling soccer balls. Dust swirled around everyone's feet. Instead of the lush, well-maintained grass of Kentville's soccer field, the community park's field was basically dirt with a few tufts of weeds.

I shuffled into line with Jessi, Emma, and Zoe. “Where were you?” Jessi asked.

“Back at the field outside school.”

“Like we'd ever practice there,” said Jessi. “That's reserved for the boys. We get to use it only for actual games.”

“But we had tryouts there the other day,” I countered.

“Yeah, on the first day of school,” Jessi said. “The boys' coach didn't want to overwhelm his boys with tryouts on the first day, so we got sloppy seconds.”

“I just found out from Coach that we get the field for a game or practice only if the boys are at an away game,” Emma added. “It's so unfair, right, Zoe?”

Zoe nodded. “I heard the seventh graders last year complaining they were second fiddle to the boys' team,” she said regretfully. “I can see what they meant.” We all looked bummed out at the news.

A girl standing in line in front of us turned around. “If we win some games, maybe we'll get some more respect around here.” She had long blond hair with bangs cut straight across her forehead.

“Hey, Brianna,” Emma said. “I thought after tryouts you
said you weren't going to be able to play soccer.”

“I am kind of booked up,” Brianna admitted. “What with chess club, Model UN, and the upcoming science fair. And I've got to keep my GPA up—I've still got a perfect four-point-oh. But I figured I would try to add soccer into the mix. After all, healthy body, healthy mind.” She tapped her forehead.

I laughed to myself. I had a feeling Brianna would love my mom's green smoothie, which Mom always called brain food. Maybe Brianna would trade Maisie some fruit punch for one! But I felt myself frowning as my mind went back to where the girls' team ranked.

“Let me get this straight,” I interrupted them. “The girls' team never gets to practice on the actual field? How are we supposed to get familiar with it?” At Milford whoever had an upcoming game got priority. That wasn't the case here, I guessed.

“That's not all,” Brianna said. She pointed to the end of our field.

Something was missing. “Where are the goals?” I wondered.

“I was wondering the same thing, so I asked Coach as soon as I got here. See those trash cans down there?” Emma said, indicating two big bright orange cans spaced a few yards apart. “Those are the goalposts.”

“How do we know how high to kick the ball?” I asked. Without any crossbars it would be hard to know if a ball would count as a score.

“Coach said we just kick it, and if she calls it a goal, it's a goal,” Emma said. A junky field, trash cans for goals, and a coach who acted more like a preschool teacher than a soccer coach. Were all of our practices going to be like this?

“What drill are we doing?” I asked.

“We're dribbling through the cones,” Jessi said. I watched the few girls ahead of us go.

“Are we dribbling the cones any special way?” I asked.

“Not yet. Coach just said to go through them. Any way you want,” she said. Back at Milford, each time through the cones we'd focus on something different. Maybe just left-foot touches, or keeping the ball close with short dribbles for extra control. Something to learn and get better at. Here nobody seemed to be concentrating very hard on what they were doing.

On my turn I raced in and out of the cones, double tapping the ball on each crossover.

“Nice! How did you do that?” exclaimed Emma from behind me. “Let me try.” When she stood still, Emma looked as athletic as Mirabelle. They were about the same height and athletically built. It was when Emma moved that the resemblance crumbled. As Emma tried to do the double tap, she kicked the ball too far ahead each time, which meant she had to run to catch up to it, and she overshot the cones.

I felt my back stiffen as Mirabelle laughed from behind us. Jessi twirled around to face her. “You do it, then.” That
was absolutely the wrong thing to say. I had no doubt Mirabelle could double tap. Triple tap even. Of course, when Mirabelle's turn came, she whipped through the cones perfectly. “Beat that,” she said, gloating.

Ignoring her, Jessi went through the cones pretty perfectly herself. But when she turned around to see Mirabelle's reaction, Mirabelle was ignoring her, talking to a group of eighth graders and laughing. “Figures she'd pretend she didn't see me,” Jessi said with an eye roll.

After ten more minutes of us dribbling around the cones, Coach Flores got us started doing a passing drill. If you could call it that. In Milford we would have called it a warm up. The whole thing consisted of standing around with everyone in a big circle, with one ball being passed around. You had to call out the name of the player you were going to pass to before you kicked the ball. It was kind of a mega-yawner.

But with the Kangaroos it was also an exercise in patience. You would think that not knowing everybody's name yet would make the drill more difficult for me, but no, that was not the case. Someone would call out “Grace!” and the ball would go to Mirabelle. “Anna!” and Emma would get bonked in the face.

“Nobody really knows what they're doing, do they?” I asked Jessi.

She shrugged. “It
only the first practice. But Coach Flores doesn't seem to care a whole lot about teaching us skills, does she?”

I looked over at Coach Flores, who was smiling like we had all just won a game. I never thought I'd meet somebody who was
nice, but Coach Flores seemed to fit that description. She stopped smiling just long enough to blow her whistle. “It's five o'clock!” she said, grinning once again. “Gather round, everyone.”

“I hope you all had fun today! And congratulations for making the team!” I did a mental eye roll. All you had to do to make the team was show up! “You are all officially Kicks!” Some of the girls cheered at the mention of the team's nickname. “No pressure, but I wanted you to know our first game is at the end of the week,” Coach continued once we'd all formed a circle around her.

week?” Mirabelle asked.

“Yes, on Friday night,” she said. “But don't worry, you girls are looking great.”

“But the game wasn't even on our schedule,” Mirabelle complained.

“Oh, it wasn't?” said Coach Flores, looking confused. “I'm sorry. That is completely my fault.”

How could we possibly have our first game when we barely even knew one another's names? Coach's touchy-feely-everyone-have-fun-no-pressure style had left us completely disorganized.

“We'll be traveling to Victorton, so we need at least eleven of you to show up. Otherwise tell me in advance if we need to forfeit. I know Friday's the weekend. And since I left if off the schedule, I'll understand if you guys
made other plans.” I swear, if she weren't our coach, I would have thought Coach Flores was encouraging us to skip the game.

“But if you do want to play, you'll have to get your permission slips signed to ride the bus.” A stack of permission slips was passed around. Another sunny smile lit up her face as she looked around the circle. “Anyone have any questions?”

Mirabelle raised her hand. “We don't even know who our captains are yet. Are we going to choose them before the game?”

“Hmmmmm.” Coach looked thoughtful. “What if we had one captain for the eighth grade and another for seventh?” The eighth-grade girls huddled together, Mirabelle in the middle. A lot of loud, intense whispering could be heard. It sounded like they were arguing.

Finally a tall, thin girl wearing red-and-white-striped socks emerged from the huddle. She didn't look happy.

“The eighth graders want Mirabelle as captain,” she said.

“Thanks, Grace.” Coach smiled at her. “Mirabelle is our eighth-grade captain.”

Grace frowned slightly. I had seen her at tryouts. She was quiet but a good player with natural athletic ability. I didn't even know her, but I found myself wishing she were the eighth-grade captain instead of Mirabelle. Let's face it. I'd want anybody to be captain over Mirabelle!

Mirabelle looked around at everyone with a smug smile on her face.

“Okay, Mirabelle. You're our first captain. Any other nominations?” Coach asked.

“I nominate Devin!” Jessi said loudly and with a defiant look at Mirabelle.

I could hardly believe my ears. “Wh-what, me?” I sputtered out in surprise. “But I'm brand-new at this school! I hardly know you guys. Shouldn't you be captain?” I asked Jessi. She was a great player.

Jessi shook her head. “You'll be great, Devin.”

If I had been back home, I would have been happy to step up with Kara, but this wasn't Milford or the Cosmos. I was still just getting the lay of the land here. And it was way too soon for me to be telling girls I barely knew what to do.

Out of the corner of my eye, I saw Mirabelle studying me. “I'll second Devin,” she said. “Devin for co-captain.” She smiled sweetly.

My mouth dropped open. Why did Mirabelle want me to be captain with her? And why was she being so nice?

“Are we all in agreement?” Coach asked. Everyone nodded. “Okay, Devin and Mirabelle are our co-captains!”

I was officially a captain of the Kangaroos. I hardly knew how it had happened. Was Mirabelle setting me up? I had no idea. I guessed I'd find out soon enough.


As it turned out, the girl Kangaroos weren't the only team with a game on Friday—the boys' team had a game as well, at home. And unlike our game, which not even we knew about until Wednesday, the boys' game was getting major hype. They even called a pep rally for Friday afternoon, to be held in the school gymnasium.

At our practice Thursday night Coach Flores had asked us to sit up front near the boys during the pep rally to support our fellow Kangaroo soccer players. But now that we were there, it seemed like we were only in the way.

“Girls, can you step aside a little bit? We need some room for the banner.” Coach Valentine, the boys' coach, shooed the girls' soccer team away from our front-row seats to make room for a giant banner. It had been carefully hand-painted, with the words “Go, Kangaroos! We're #1!” done up in neat block letters. Each of the
s were
even little soccer balls. The gymnasium was packed too. Soccer was obviously a really big deal here at Kentville.

I had gotten to know some of the other seventh-grade girls on the team after the last practice, and they were really nice. We all sat together in the front row, wearing our blue-and-white uniforms. All our jerseys were kind of old, and some of the numbers were faded. Coach Flores had to use masking tape to remake my number thirteen. Everyone thought thirteen was an unlucky number, but it had always been good luck for me, like my pink headband.

I was sitting with Jessi, Emma, and Zoe. Also near us were Frida, Brianna—the girl I had met on Wednesday—and Brianna's friends Anna and Sarah, also seventh graders. Mirabelle and her eighth-grade pals were on the other side of the row. Which was fine by me. They hadn't actually gone out of their way to be friendly with us—especially Mirabelle.

“What are we, chopped liver?” Anna, who had short, curly black hair and dark brown eyes, asked. “ ‘Girls, can you step aside a little bit?' ” she said in a dead-on imitation of Coach Valentine's nasal voice.

“If we want to get the red carpet rolled out for our team, we're going to have to win some games,” Sarah told her. She wore her long brown hair in two French braids.

BOOK: Saving the Team
8.09Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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