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The 2013 season was a tale of two halves for the Grant County Braves’ soccer team.
Grant County ended the first month of the season with a stellar 9-2 record and was among the region’s best in both goals for and against.
The Braves were also fresh off a Dry Ridge Toyota Cup championship.
But the second half of the season was just the opposite as the Braves went 1-6 the rest of the way, including Monday’s 4-0 loss to Walton-Verona in the 32nd District Tournament at Simon Kenton High School that ended Grant County’s season.
While admitting his disappointment with how things went down the stretch, first-year Grant County coach Garrett Griffith was quick to point out that his team didn’t let up as the season progressed, the competition just got better and was more experienced.
And that was the case in the district tournament opener against Walton-Verona, which returned far more players from last year’s squad than Grant County.
“We didn’t play our best game tonight,” said Griffith. “But going into a game like this, for a team like us, it’s tough because we count a lot on our younger players and that puts them in situations that they’re not used to. This was a district tournament game, something most of these guys have no experience with, and it showed. We came out a little timid.”
Even after falling behind early, the Braves battled the entire way and never gave up, something Griffith was pleased about.
“We responded well,” he said. “We had long stretches where we would build some momentum and control the game, we were just never able to capitalize on our chances. Every time we would get something going, Walton would score a goal and take the momentum away.”
Griffith, as well as his pllayers, were all visibly upset with Monday’s exit from post-season play.
Griffith made it clear he feels his team is more talented than it’s performance showed versus Walton-Verona.
“We are much better than we showed tonight, no doubt,” Griffth said. “I don’t think 4-0 is any indication of how good our team is. But we knew coming into the game that a lot of their guys were returning from last year and a lot of our guys were new or inexperienced. So we knew it was a dangerous game going in.”
But even in defeat, Griffith had no problem finding positives. He pointed to the Braves’ 10 wins, the most for the program since 2009, and Grant County’s five-game winning streak and Dry Ridge Toyota Cup championship as examples of what the team is capable of.
“Tonight’s loss, it’s all part of growing up,” he said. “But there is a lot of positives to take from the season. I’m sure the guys are all angry that it ended so early, and that it ended the way it did. But there are lots of positives.
“We return a lot of players, so we’re only going to get better,” added Griffith.
More disappointing than losing the game, according to Griffith, was having to bid farewell to four seniors, Robby Nelson, Samson Reed, Brett Smith and Dustin Williams. The four meant more to the program than their stats will ever show, said Griffith.
“Those guys provided great leadership and it was good for them that we had a good year,” said the coach. “Those guys won 10 games and that’s very good. They played a major role in those wins. They were always contributing, and pushing the younger guys to get better. They helped us a lot, and we will miss them.”
While he will have to deal with replacing the departed seniors, Griffith is excited about what the future holds for his team. The coach, while celebrating what his team accomplished this season, is already making plans for the off-season strength and conditioning program that he expects to help take his program to the next level.
“I’m excited about getting started on next season. I’m ready and the guys are ready,” he said. “This year was a pretty successful year, but the future is bright for us.”