Amber Lucy’s eyes swelled as she fought back tears.
Call them tears of joy and heartache.
Lucy and her Glenwood girls soccer teammates had just won its third straight regional title game on Monday and qualified for the state soccer tournament. Teammates hugged, some cried, and the crowd of more than 300 on hand cheered the hometown Rams.
The game was different for Lucy.
For Lucy, who graduated in May, the regional final would be her last for the Rams. She would leave later that night for enlistment in the United States Air Force.
The Rams senior described the victory after the game as “bittersweet,” sniffing away tears.
“I’ve been blessed to play with these girls and they’ll do great at state with or without me,” Lucy said. “It’s great to have been part of the team. They’ll do awesome.”
Knowing this was their captain and leader’s last game, regardless of outcome, the team wore red, white and blue bandanas in her honor. It was teammate Gretchen Dehn’s idea. Even the coaches wore the bandanas.
“It was really sweet of her,” she said. “They wanted to do a tribute to me for my last game.”
Lucy was scheduled to be processed and sworn in on Tuesday in Omaha. By that evening she was expected with other enlistees at Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio.
As a hard-working defenseman and team’s top sweeper, Lucy is a three-year starter but you’re not likely to see her name among post-season all-star teams. At 5-foot-2 she’s often a head shorter than the strikers she battles and yet, her play is integral part of the Rams’ No. 3 ranking and their third straight trip to state.
“She’s a senior and her leadership in our back three is so important to EVERYTHING we do,” said Glenwood coach Caitlin McIntosh after the Rams’ regional win.
Lucy isn’t bitter about missing state or having to leave her team. She knows she will always be a part of the 2012 Rams, regardless of the outcome at state.
“It’s been so great playing with this whole team but especially with the seniors,” Lucy said. “I’ve grown up playing with these girls so it’s been a blessing to have competed and succeeded with them through the years.”
She won’t be able to communicate with her team during her induction but she hopes to get an update as soon as she can.
“I won’t be able to call but hopefully my dad will send me a letter. I’ll be pretty excited. We all worked so hard to get there, this was where we wanted to be, and it’s great to see us get there even if I can’t be there. I’ll be there in spirit for sure.”
In a time when we are blanketed with generalizations reminding us of the irreverent nature of youth and its declining value placed on commitment, Lucy would seem the antithesis of that media created stereotype.
Lucy played in the regional final knowing full well it was her last game in a Ram uniform and there was nothing to be done about it. She didn’t pout. Didn’t stomp her feet. She played in her typically rugged form, kept the Rams’ defense in line and when it was over – her team the winners by shutout – she hugged her teammates, shed a few tears and honored a commitment she made months earlier.
If that doesn’t deserve Player of the Game honors I don’t know what does.