MICDS girls soccer coach Jack Fischer was confident his program would win a state championship.
His belief became a reality in his fifth season as the head coach at MICDS. The Rams scored a dramatic 2-1 overtime victory over Orchard Farm to claim the Class 2 state championship in the match played at Soccer Park in Fenton.
"I knew we'd have a chance at some point," Fischer said. "Once culture becomes established and you have players completely buy in and gain experience, it starts to become realistic. It's all about the process."
It was the first state championship for the girls' soccer team. It came in its first trip ever to the Final Four, as well.
"I always thought this team had a chance to be very successful," Fischer said. "We had enough returning players, some excellent leadership, postseason experience ... and desire. What we had to get right was the mindset and mentality of getting better every day, growing closer as a group, trusting each other and taking ownership of our standard of play."
The Rams began their march to the state title by winning the program's third district title. MICDS got past Westminster Christian Academy 2-1 in two overtimes. In the quarterfinals, MICDS stopped Rogersville 2-0.
Those two victories showed the Rams they had what it took to make a big run in the Final Four.
"Without a doubt that gave us momentum," Fischer said.
The trip to Springfield to play Logan Rogersville was also important.
"We stayed ... overnight and bonded as a team. It was a neat experience and brought us closer together as a group," Fischer said.
In the semifinal, MICDS defeated Pleasant Hill 3-0.
"We were awesome in this game," Fischer said. "I was a little worried (about) how we'd respond to the occasion at Soccer Park with so many fans and the pressure. But we started brilliantly and put them on the back foot. It was one of our best games of the year and that is hard to do in a state semifinal."
That led to the title match against Orchard Farm. It was the first championship game for both teams.
Fischer wanted his squad to play like it was capable and to enjoy the situation.
"Rather than focus on the opponent, we focused on being true to ourselves, playing our game and leaving everything we had out on the field," Fischer said.
Junior forward Madolyn Mackin scored the first goal.
"Their defender made a mistake and Madolyn was ready to pounce for a breakaway," Fischer said. "We worked with her a lot on her finishing and she slotted it in the corner nicely. Very impressive given the situation. That gave us belief."
Orchard Farm tied the game by scoring a goal at the 68-minute mark. Neither team could score again, sending the game into overtime.
"Once we got through the end of regulation and caught our breath, I was more confident," Fischer said. "We needed a chance to regroup after they scored because they took it to us for most of the second half. The intermission gave us that opportunity. We made one change tactically to get a stronger hold on the game and it paid off. We got back to our game and created a few chances that would eventually win us the game."
This season, MICDS was experienced playing in overtime. The Rams were 2-1 in shootouts and had beaten Westminster in two overtimes in the district title match.
"We also played two overtime games in districts last year," Fischer said. "I knew those experiences would help us in this situation."
Senior midfielder Campbell Schultz scored the game-winner 13 minutes into overtime for the Rams.
"Campbell drew a foul about 10 yards into the opponent's half," Fischer said. "As we have all season, we brought our goalkeeper Parker Scheele up for a dangerous service. Campbell had told me that she had been unmarked in these situations all game so we thought we'd have a great chance if we got in this scenario. Parker served in the perfect ball and Campbell beat the goalkeeper to it for the goal.
"You couldn't draw it up any better. Two of our best players and leaders stepped up to make a play to win the state championship."
Schultz led the Rams with a team-leading 16 goals this season.
"We poured a lot into that game and really poured a lot into the whole season," Fischer said. "Everyone was mentally, physically and emotionally exhausted, and, in that moment, it was all worth it. I will have the elation on the girls' faces etched into my mind forever. It was really special to see them celebrate together and to see how happy they were ... All of our hard work and preparation paid off and we were rewarded for it."
The Rams finished 16-6. Orchard Farm wound up 20-6-1.
"Give credit to Orchard Farm," Fischer said. "They are an outstanding team."
Fischer liked the effort displayed by his team, which got better as the season progressed.
"There are a lot of teams in the area that play great soccer and probably deserved a chance to do what we did," Fischer said. "What I can say is that I think we deserved it based on how hard we worked and how much we improved. I think we deserved it because of how physically and mentally tough we were. That toughness has accumulated due (to) our experiences throughout the past two years, and that benefited us tremendously in the final.
"We earned the opportunity to play for the title and we played well enough to win it."