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Authors: Alex Morgan

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BOOK: Saving the Team
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It turned out Emma was a foosball queen. She defended our goal like it was nobody's business.

When we were winning 10–0, Jessi and Zoe finally forfeited.

“We give up!” said Zoe. “Have mercy!”

We were doubled over laughing when Mrs. Kim came downstairs. “You girls hungry for s'mores?” she asked.

We all looked around at one another questioningly, smiles slowly dawning on our faces. Could we actually manage to stuff down more delicious food? Of course we could.

“You bet!” Emma called out to her mom.

Emma took us out by the pool again, where her mom had set up a small fire in their wrought-iron fire pit for us to make s'mores. The sky was clear and there were stars everywhere.

“Do you know about the dance next Friday night? We
should all meet here. We can get dressed together,” Emma suggested. “And one of my brothers can drive us.”

“There's a dance?” Zoe asked.

“Yup,” said Jessi. “The theme is Neon Nights. Sounds pretty cool, right?” She got a dreamy look in her eyes. “I wonder if Cody will be there.”

I was kind of wondering if Steven would be there too, but I didn't say anything out loud. Instead I looked up at the sky. “Look, a shooting star!” I pointed.

“Make a wish!” Emma cried out. We all squeezed our eyes shut, wishing with all our might.

I wished that the Kicks would start playing better. I had a feeling I wasn't the only one who made that wish. We all wanted the team to be good. With everything such a mess, wishing seemed like the only thing we could do now.

When it was almost eleven and time to go to sleep, Mrs. Kim brought out some hot chocolate, four sleeping bags, and some pillows. We fell asleep with the whole galaxy above us, and Jessi's soft snoring as a sound track.


Wishing didn't work. Things weren't getting any better for the Kangaroos. In the locker room before our home game against the Newton Tigers that very next Monday, Mirabelle gave her version of a pep talk.

“You guys stink!” she yelled. “Get it together this game. You got to want to win! Got it?” she said threateningly. Some captain. What was she going to do, beat us all up if we lost? Jessi slammed her locker shut loudly and shot Mirabelle a glance that could have melted an ice cube. Mirabelle took the hint and shut up before stalking out of the locker room.

The trouble we were having off the field spilled onto it. There was no sense of teamwork. At the game only the seventh graders participated in the sock swap, while Mirabelle glowered in anger. Coach Flores started all the eighth graders again, filling in with the seventh graders
as needed. Once again the strategy didn't work.

Zoe still hadn't gotten over her soccer stage fright, and Frida hardly paid any attention to the game at all. As a Tiger came in with a low, fast kick to the side of the goal, Frida stood to the side, her eyes closed while her lips were moving. What was she doing? Not watching the game, obviously. The ball flew in without our goalie even noticing.

Mirabelle's screams could be heard across the entire field. “Frida, pay attention!” she hollered, her face turning red with anger.

Emma had a good run going with the ball, but once again tripped and went splat on the field, leaving the ball wide open for an interception. Grace and Anjali, two of the eighth graders, played a great game. Grace's quiet intensity was an asset on the field. For the seventh grade, Jessi, Brianna, Sarah, and Anna were solid, good players, and I tried my best. But we just weren't connecting. Once again we couldn't overcome the chaos. The game was a total disaster. The Kentville Kangaroos were now 0–2 to start the season.

“What were you doing out there?” Mirabelle asked Frida after the game, exasperated.

“I was practicing my Academy Awards acceptance speech,” Frida said defiantly. She wasn't afraid of Mirabelle. “It seemed like a better way to spend my time.”

Mirabelle rolled her eyes. “Useless,” she muttered under her breath. There was nothing she could do. We were
stuck with Frida as goalie. Nobody wanted the job, and since Frida didn't even want to play, she didn't care what position she was in.

Mirabelle turned her intense gaze on me. “Devin, we captains need to talk.” She stalked off to the side of the field. Not knowing what else to do, I followed her.

“We can't afford to keep losing,” Mirabelle told me. “We're not going to make the end-of-season tournament like this,” she continued. “I want us to put on a good showing, especially for the Pinewood game.”

“I heard you had some friends on the Pinewood team,” I said innocently.

Mirabelle stared at me. “Jessi tell you that?”

I nodded. Oops. I hoped I hadn't stirred something up.

She glared at me. “Don't listen to everything Jessi says. But it is true, I do have some friends at Pinewood, and I have to make a good impression at that game. Devin, you want to win too, right?” Mirabelle stared at me intensely.

“Of course I want to win,” I replied.
But you need strategy to win,
I wanted to add. And as far as strategy went, we had none.

“Good. It's obvious Coach doesn't care much about making the team better, so as captains it's our responsibility.” Mirabelle had a look on her face that would stop a rampaging bull in its steps.

“I know,” I said. Mirabelle definitely wasn't my favorite person, but I had to agree with her. “I don't get it.”

“You know she used to play college soccer, right?” Mirabelle asked.

“She did?” That totally surprised me. “No way! You'd never know. She doesn't teach us much of anything.”

Mirabelle shrugged. “I know. Anyway, maybe the better players, like you and me, should play more minutes.” It was flattering that Mirabelle thought I was on her level. Or close to it.

“And I think Jessi and Brianna have been great too,” I offered.

“Jessi? Oh, come on,” Mirabelle said dismissively. “She doesn't try hard enough. Trust me, I know her. We used to be friends.”

“She told me you guys grew up together,” I said cautiously.

“Jessi used to be better than me at soccer. I mean, sports always came super-easy to her. But when I started getting better and joined the travel team, she got jealous.” Mirabelle shrugged.

That didn't sound like the story I'd heard, but I kept my mouth shut.

“Anyway, we should talk to Coach about this playing-time stuff,” Mirabelle said. “You gotta back me up when I say the better players deserve to play more.”

“Okay,” I said hesitantly. “Isn't that unfair to everyone else on the team, though?” I was thinking about what Mirabelle's solution would mean for the rest of the team—for players like Emma, in particular, who loved the
game but weren't necessarily stars in the making.

“Look, you're a captain,” Mirabelle said. “This is what captains do. We help the team make decisions,” Mirabelle continued, her voice rising. “It's for the good of the team.”

“All right, all right, I understand,” I said, backing down. It would be nice to try to win a game or two. But was it worth the price of fairness?

After the next practice Mirabelle and I went to go talk to Coach Flores. Jessi raised her eyebrows as she saw us walking off together. I shrugged helplessly. Mirabelle kept lecturing me all the way to Coach's office. “Remember, we have a goal here. We'll make it happen if we stick together. Got it?”

“Sure,” I said, rushing to keep up with her as she speed-walked down the hall. Something about this didn't feel right.

When we arrived at Coach Flores's door, Mirabelle breezed right in without knocking.

“Hello there, girls,” Coach Flores said, her usual grin plastered on her face. “Take a seat.”

“That's okay,” Mirabelle said. “This will just take a minute. Devin and I, as co-captains, thought that it would be better for our next game if
got to choose the positions and substitutions,” she said, her voice sugary sweet. “Just for one game, to try it out. I think it would really help us learn responsibility and teamwork.”
I did a mental eye roll. Puh-leaze! Coach might be too nice, but even she wouldn't buy Mirabelle's sugar-and-spice act. Or would she?

Coach hesitated. For a second I was sure she wouldn't go for it. I mean, she was all about equal playing time for everyone. “You guys decided this?” she asked, looking at both of us. We nodded together.

“Well, if you girls want to try doing the lineups, I'm not against it. Just make sure everyone agrees to it and people are enjoying themselves. And above all, be fair.” She emphasized the last word.

“Taken care of! We already asked them. They're all very excited about it,” Mirabelle said with a winning smile. It was a flat-out lie. My jaw dropped open, but I couldn't get the words to come out of my mouth to contradict Mirabelle.

Coach raised her eyebrows, looking surprised. “If everyone agreed,” she said, “then I'm all for it. It's nice to see you two captains being proactive.”

I felt a little sick inside. This wasn't right, but I didn't know what to do. To tell the truth, I was afraid to stand up to Mirabelle.

When we left Coach Flores's office, Mirabelle was crowing. “See how easy that was? Now we have a shot at winning. I'll tell you who I think we should play. Then we'll tell them before our next game.”

So much for being co-captains.

I was starting to get the idea that Mirabelle was very
good at getting what she wanted—no matter what the cost. I felt guilty that I hadn't stood up to her. I should have said something to Coach Flores! Would all my new friends be mad at me?


I felt totally nervous and guilty about our new lineup strategy. Well, make that Mirabelle's lineup strategy. Apparently as co-captain my job was to stand there and nod while Mirabelle did all the talking.

Mom, Dad, and Maisie were waiting for me in the parking lot. We drove home together, with Maisie complaining loudly.

“You promised me I'd get a juice box at Devin's next soccer game,” she protested. “If I have to go to all these games, I want a treat!”

My mom sighed. “I forgot to pick some up. I told you that.” Even though juice, soda, and sugary snacks were forbidden as a general rule, we did get them as treats and for special occasions.

I wished the biggest problem in my life were the lack of a juice box. I sighed loudly and just stared out the window, not saying anything.

We pulled into the driveway. My mom and dad exchanged looks. “Maisie, come in and help me set the table for dinner,” Mom said.

Maisie, still grumbling, followed Mom into the house.

Dad grabbed a soccer ball out of the trunk. “Want to kick the ball around a little bit before we eat?” he suggested.

I shrugged. “I guess.”

We walked to the backyard. Dad lobbed the ball toward me, and I halfheartedly kicked it. We kicked the ball back and forth for a while in silence, my dad giving me time to unwind.

BOOK: Saving the Team
12.09Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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