Things were already going to be different in the 2020 season than in Dave Mattson’s first five years as coach of the Hillsboro High School girls soccer team, even before the COVID-19 pandemic reared its ugly head.
The team graduated nine seniors last year, with several having held starting positions since they were freshmen. The group, which included five all-conference honorees, finished their careers with 46 wins in four years, the most in the program’s history.
Despite the mass exodus of talent and just two seniors with varsity experience, Karli Mackey and Morgan Battles, Mattson was excited for the next chapter of Hillsboro girls soccer. With a large group of freshmen coming in, the program had near record numbers with 32 players on the field for the first few practices before the shutdown.
“I was really excited for the sophomores, juniors and seniors to have the chance to step up,” Mattson said of the group’s time to shine. “We had six to eight starters last year who had been starting since their freshman year and it was going to be a test to see who stepped up. It was really fun to see, from a leadership perspective.”
Mattson, whose daughter Sally is one of the new ninth graders on the roster, also expected less of a learning curve for the freshmen, who he had coached for the since sixth grade.
But now that excitement has been dampened due to the latest announcement that schools will remain closed until April 30, which will wipe out two-thirds of the Lady Hiltoppers’ scheduled season.
“Until today, I was kind of holding out hope that we would be able to play, but I think the governor’s announcement today means we’re done,” said Mattson. “When I saw the numbers continue going up in Illinois, and the counties around us getting their first cases, that’s when I thought this was probably not going to work.”
Depending on IHSA regulations, Mattson is hoping to have something for his team over the summer once life has returned to somewhat normal.
“I would like to set up something competitive for them as soon as I can, whether that’s against other teams or who knows,” he said. “Whether it’s 6-on-6 or something similar, I want to give them something to do, something to remember.”
For Mattson, that’s the whole point, to give these players the opportunity to get out on the field and play the sport they love.
“They’re not super disappointed about school, but they’re disappointed about soccer season. It’s tough.”