By Anna Calkins, Staff Writer
Payton’s boys’ varsity soccer team saw unprecedented success this year in their season. After an unusual season last year, where the full team was made up of 58 students for the 4-week season vs. 140 students in 2019, the team made a comeback for one of their best seasons yet. Team captain Bobby Cupps ’22 described the season as “historic” and added that the season shattered expectations and made Payton proud. They were successful, finishing first in the conference and winning 22 games across the entire season. Not only did they win city championships for the first time in Payton history, but they also advanced to super sectionals in the elite eight. So, what made this year the record-breaking one?
The season began in August, with tryouts taking place in the second week. After the team was chosen, they began practicing and continued long into late October, layering up with winter jackets when needed. Head Coach Escobar, when interviewed, explained that the guys “put in a lot of work outside of the season, to get stronger, faster, better.” A typical week for one of the players means practice every day, plus reviewing film before games and more. “It was a beautiful thing, to see how the things we talked about began to happen on the field,” said Oliver Bruce ‘22. Based on how the season went, the commitment the team made definitely paid off.
Coach Escobar also said the players are not only “good on the field, but they’re also a bunch of great guys. You know, they’re a nice, tight group.” The varsity team had 18 players total, made up of 13 seniors. Since most of the team had been playing together for a while, there was a dynamic on the field that brought the game up a level. “The bonds we shared off the field were instrumental in how we fought for each other, and picked each other up or stepped up when others fell throughout the season,” said Cupps. One first-year varsity player also explained how the team was very welcoming and everyone was quick to pick each other up. The team also had a consistently talented roster this year. “Every guy on the field is skilled,” said Coach Escobar. He went on to say that any guys going in off the bench could come in and pick up right where the other left off.
The team also has a lot of appreciation for their coach. Bruce explained how Escobar would “stay late after school in the offseason to give us access to the gym. He gave us workouts to help build the strength and athleticism necessary to give us an advantage over our competition. He thought about our potential as a group and made choices for our future success.”
When asked what the secret to the team’s success was, Coach Escobar said “everybody thinks team first.” The team came in with lofty goals and took each game one at a time, bringing them far. Cupps recounted that “from the first game onwards we continually improved and checked off our goals of Conference Champs, then City Champs, then Sectional Champs.” They could have even gone farther in State Championships, players speculated. Bruce said, “the understanding that every game could be our last is what pushed us over the top in terms of success.” Every win meant the world to them. With the team all pulling in the same direction, they were able to accomplish amazing wins. Cupps also described how they were all “so invested in the season that each plaque we earned seemed to be the greatest moment of our lives.”