What’s EMHS’s Secret

Posted: April 8, 2013

HARRISONBURG – One look at Eastern Mennonite High School’s sideline last week might have been puzzling to the casual fan, what with a decorated vintage-style trash can labeled “team of grace” on the cover sitting near the bench.

One look at the Flames probably has opponents just as perplexed, with them wondering how to score on a team that EMHS fifth-year girls’ soccer coach Jason Capps called “the deepest” he’s fielded.

Sophomore midfielder Taylor Pisk scored her team-leading eighth goal and was one of six different goal scorers for EMHS as the Flames defeated The Miller School 6-0 on Thursday. Eastern Mennonite then beat Chatham Hall 7-0 on Friday.

See a trend? The Flames have 13 shutout victories in their last 14 games dating back to last season, including five playoff wins.

But what’s with the trash can?

Well, in 2010, after a last-minute loss at Liberty Christian, Capps could not get the Flames to move past the bitter defeat.

“So before we left that locker room, I told them they had to throw everything in the trash,” Capps recalled. “I wanted to see them physically throwing something into the trashcan and leave that feeling there and then we’d come back and win the championship there – because [LCA] won the 1-seed – and we did. We came back and won the championship on that same field.”

Now, the Flames – a 9-0 team seeking its eighth straight Blue Ridge Conference title and a return trip to the VISAA Division 2 state championship game – have their own personal trashcan to rid themselves of drama.

“It’s definitely awesome,” said senior forward Rebekah Hertzler, who leads EMHS with five assists. “It’s just nice to be able to physically throw something away and get all of the junk or whatever you’re dealing with in your day out of your system.”

While focus on the team has come naturally, Capps also instituted a team motto this season that he picked up during a mission trip in South Africa in 2010 during the World Cup. Not unlike the Swahili phrase “Hakuna Matata” made popular by Disney, it’s a problem-free African philosophy.

“Ubuntu,” which is written on the back of EMHS T-shirts and means, “I am because we are.”

Eastern Mennonite is clearly a team of multiple threats to score (13 Flames have at least one goal) and remains the class of the BRC with its superior passing and routine defending, led by senior defender Molly Hine.

“I think that’s something we definitely work hard at, is to have defense not just be a part of the back line,” said EMHS senior Hannah Pellegrino, one of four captains and three goalkeepers utilized by the Flames. “It is a whole team responsibility to take care of the ball and keep it as much as you can.”

 Pisk, perhaps EMHS’s most dangerous player on the field with her ability to create shots for herself and others, wore a Navy football sweatshirt after the game that didn’t even belong to her. It belonged to Hine, who wasn’t at Thursday’s game due to a college visit.

That only further validated the family atmosphere that has contributed to high expectations for the Flames, state championship expectations. That will mean getting by Tandem Friends, which handed EMHS its only loss last year, in the state title game, 4-0.

With a stress-eating trashcan and talent all over the field, the Flames believe they can do it, especially since an outstanding playmaker such as Pisk doesn’t have to feel pressured to put the team on her back.

“I’m a bubbly person,” said Pisk, who made animal noises during down time Thursday and jumped around wildly to stay warm while playing center back for the first time in her varsity career. “I think that my aggressiveness comes from – I mean, it’s not really something you can really develop. You just have it. And I have that instinct and that desire to get the ball.

“And I think part of having a positive attitude towards everything, it helps me just want to get the ball for my team, because I know they can do something with it.”

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