The 2019 season was a rollercoaster for the Lady Bulldog soccer team.
Bad luck was the name of the game for the Lady Bulldogs, as they couldn't catch a break in the goal-scoring department for most of the season. Rolla was a young team led by a pair of seniors in Carlee McCormack and Elsa Wise. The captains had to try to keep spirits high, as frustration set in throughout the season.
Despite that frustration, Rolla found their footing. The Lady Bulldogs made a playoff push and claimed a District Championship by defeating their Ozark Conference rival Camdenton 2-0, before a tough 2-0 loss to Union in Sectionals.
This was an interesting season for McCormack, who won a District as a freshman, but hadn't earned a second plaque until now. After setting a high bar early in her career, it was tough for the Rolla grad to know what to expect coming into a senior season surrounded by players who had never won a District Title.
"Honestly, it was a little tough coming into the season," said McCormack. "My freshman year, we won so many games and that's what I expected a lot of seasons to be like. Going into my sophomore year, that season wasn't as bad. It was kind of up and down, but we still had this much bad luck. And even last season, we didn't win Districts, but we didn't have this much bad luck.
"This season we went into five overtimes and nothing was going right for us," continued McCormack. "Districts came along and we really came together more than we ever had this season. We just wanted it so bad and we deserved it. I think working to that and getting it was very exciting."
While the regular season was frustrating with just eight wins, McCormack thinks that bad luck they experienced all season helped forge a group that refused to back down from a fight. They were determined to win their District and they accomplished that goal.
"I think what made us want to win that District Championship so bad and made us work so hard was all the bad luck in the season," said the Rolla grad. "We couldn't finish for a majority of the season, we couldn't get that one goal and I think all of that built up frustration. Taking it out in the District Championship really is what made us win. It pushed us."
Not only did Rolla win a title, but they did it on the backs of their two seniors. McCormack scored the first goal of the game, which helped her earn her first postseason honor of District Player of the Year in Class 3 District 10. Her classmate Wise scored a second goal in the second half to seal the victory. That moment was extremely satisfying for McCormack.
"I couldn't have asked for a better way to win that game," said the Rolla captain. "Elsa and I have played together since she moved here in seventh grade and she started playing with my club team, the Rolla Knights. For us to be able to win that District Championship was very emotional."
After winning the District Championship, the individual honors came in for McCormack. She was named the Player of the Year for her District, before earning first team All-Conference honors. After that, McCormack was named All-Region in Class 3 Region 3, capping off her list of accomplishments with a second team All-State honor at the tail end of last week. She could hardly believe what she was seeing when she checked her Twitter notifications and saw the list of awards pile up.
"Honestly, I was very surprised when I was announced as Player of the Year. I had to triple-take that Twitter notification to be sure that was my name on there. I was so shocked," said McCormack. "Then to be named second team All-State, I really didn't expect that. Coach Howard had kind of hinted that I was going to make the All-State team, but I was like 'I'll make honorable mention that that will be cool.' I first looked at the honorable mention list when it came out and to see that I made second team, I was shocked."
Rolla head coach Mike Howard saw McCormack as the heart of the team this season. She set a tone and the rest of the team followed her, which is why he pushed for her to earn all the awards she received.
"Carlee had a good season for us. She stayed positive and the rest of the group followed. In her final two games she shut down two of the better players in the state, Kennedy from Camdenton and Gaebe from Union. We don’t usually man mark any players but the few times we have over the past four seasons it has been Carlee doing it," said the Rolla head coach. "Not only was she a influence defensively but she scored a great goal in the district championship game from distance for the game winner. She is physical, has good pace and connects almost all of her passes. Very happy for her and she will do well in college."
While the awards and the District Championship made for a great senior year, one of the best things about McCormack's final season at Rolla was playing with her sister Tatum, who was a freshman this year. Having the chance to play with your younger sister at the high school level was an experience McCormack wouldn't give up.
"This season has been the most special for me," said the Rolla grad. "Playing with my little sister, playing with all the people I grew up with and getting all of these awards, it's very good.
"Honestly, I have some mixed emotions," continued McCormack on playing with the younger group that included her sister. "I want to play with those girls too, but I can't. And for my sister to be playing the position that I played my freshman year, I wonder how she's going to do next season and what her senior year is going to be like. I just hope it's the best for her."
While her high school career is in the books, McCormack isn't done with soccer yet. She will player soccer at Webster next season, reuniting with another former Lady Bulldog, Ryleigh Grommet. She's got a bit of a head start, as she's played on Webster's summer team. She's excited to be starting this journey at the next level with a new program and so many fresh experiences on the horizon.
"It's very exciting getting to meet all these girls and get to know their playing style before the season starts," said McCormack. "I like them a lot. They're very funny, very outgoing, but when it's time to play they mean business on the field. I'm very used to that, because that's how I've always been. I joke around and have fun, but when it's time to play, it's time to play."
Rolla now has a group of girls that are in the same shoes as McCormack was four years ago when she won her first District Title as a freshman. Her advice to them is pretty simple, if you want to get to the point when you're winning another District and earning All-State honors, you have to put in the work.
"My advice is to trust the process, because it's all going to work how it's supposed," said McCormack. "And to really work hard. Don't get down on yourself if you lose one game or two games or five games in a row. What really matters is how you play in that postseason. Once it's the postseason, everyone is 0-0. When you're playing, be confident and don't expect everything to be handed to you, you have to work for it. If you expect it, it's not going to come."