A promise kept: FRC women win GVC crown
|The Feather River College Lady Golden Eagles are the 2014 Golden Valley Conference champions for a second consecutive year. This year’s championship came Tuesday, Nov. 4, as FRC beat Butte College, 3-0.
Lady Golden Eagles retire Holland jersey, take conference championship
In a game that will never be forgotten by any member of the 2014-15 Feather River College women’s soccer team, the Lady Golden Eagles won the Golden Valley Conference title Tuesday, Nov. 4, on a 3-0 victory over Butte College.
The title marks back-to-back championships for head coach Don Williams and is the third in his five years (the team also won it all in 2011) at the helm of the team. It is also Feather River’s seventh crown in the history of the conference. With the regular season at an end, FRC leaves the pitch with a 14-3-3 record overall and an 8-0-3 record in conference.
The win, although vastly important to the team and Williams, was rightfully overshadowed before the whistle blew to start play by the retirement of the No. 4 jersey belonging to Grace Holland.
Holland, 19, of Park City, Utah, died last month after a party near Prattville.
After the presentation of Holland’s jersey to her family, who traveled from Utah and Florida to attend the game, a rousing rendition of “The Star-Spangled Banner,” with the refrains of the spiritual “Amazing Grace” woven into it, was played by local harmonica master Johnny Walker.
And then, there was a game to win.
Straight out of the gate, in the fourth minute of play, sophomore Ryann Abeyta started FRC with a goal at the box, courtesy of fellow upperclassman Sherifatu Sumaila to take the 1-0 lead. The defense of Feather River stepped up at that point, with freshman keeper Matilda Bylund saving a pair of shots on goal by Butte.
The remainder of the first half and most of the second 45 minutes was a vast wasteland in scoring as neither team made it into the back of the net.
The tide changed, however, in the 63rd minute as Sumaila attacked the Butte keeper with a boot on an assist from Samantha Buchanan. With five minutes left in the game, Las Vegas native Shannell McDonnell nailed the Roadrunners’ coffin shut with a scoring drive after a pass from sophomore Hillary Wall to hang the doughnut on Butte, 3-0.
Sumaila led FRC with five shots on the day for three shots on goal, a score and an assist, while Abeyta had four boots at the net for two shots on goal, an assist and a goal. McDonnell, who had a goal, and Megan Stow each had two shots on goal.
After the game, Grace Holland’s sister Sarah spoke about her sister and related a special memory the two shared in the bond of soccer while overseas.
“I’m very proud of Grace,” Sarah said. “I remember when we played soccer together in Italy. It was about seven years ago and we met a team of Italian boys and we were the only two American girls playing soccer with them. They could barely speak any English, but we could kick the ball around with them, so we were pretty popular.”
Sarah is a student at Florida Gulf Coast University in Ft. Myers and is studying a dual major of forensic studies and criminal justice.
Holland’s mother, Lauré Holland, said she was overwhelmed by the amount of love shown to her, her family and her daughter by the Lady Golden Eagles.
“I love my women’s soccer team at Feather River College and I am very proud of all my girls here,” Lauré said.
One of Holland’s best friends on the team, sophomore keeper Stacey Cavill, said, “I think the whole squad was strong from the start and wanted to win conference on sophomore day and on the day we retired Grace’s jersey,” Cavill said. “Having her family here was huge for everyone and I think everyone was ready for this.”
Sophomore Emily Smith is Cavill’s classmate from Perth, Australia, and roommate. She said the team’s promise to Holland’s family came true in the championship match — and related how strong her teammate was on the pitch.
“We made a promise to Grace’s family that we would win the conference in her memory and today we made that come true,” Smith said. “Grace was always a fighter, she never gave up and was always a fighter on the field for us.”
Williams added that, in addition to Holland’s memory, comments made in 2013 by the leadership of the Roadrunner squad were a large part of the motivation toward a second back-to-back GVC championship win.
“This is big for us, as a back-to-back championship alone, which is hard to do,” Williams said. “Honestly, aside from Grace, the head coach of Butte gave a huge motivation when he walked off the field last year and told us it was his team’s turn next year and that he would trade back and forth with us. So, I owe him a ‘thank-you’ for moving us in the right direction. We needed to do this for Grace, but we also needed to do this for the team and since we have lost her they have pulled together even tighter. They love each other and Grace very much. They are family.”
The Lady Golden Eagles will now get a well-deserved rest from game day action — the next foe for FRC will not be known until Nov. 18 when the statewide soccer seedings are complete for the first round of the playoffs.