All Terrance Ashbridge wanted was a chance to play soccer for his school. The sophomore Rapid City Christian student is a basketball player and goal-keeper, but the Comets haven't had a soccer team in recent memory.
For Ashbridge, that wish became a reality this season. It was decided after last season that boys' and girls' teams at Douglas would merge with Christian.
"I was happy about the numbers but I was wondering what I would get, but luckily it worked out because the kids I got are amazing, not just skill wise but personality wise," Douglas/ Christian boys' coach Mike Wall said. "It was just one of those wait and see type of deals."
The boys' program got eight players total, six for varsity and two for junior varsity.
It was an adjustment for all involved. Players wouldn't just have to learn different styles of play, they'd have to learn new names and jell with players they had never met before, let alone played with.
"There’s always that awkward moment of you not hardly knowing anyone there, learning names and things like that," defender and Christian student Nick Babb said.
Most Christian students jumped at the opportunity with open arms. Noah Bohling and Gavin Eldridge were ready to transfer to Rapid City Stevens for the chance to play soccer for their high school.
"I already feel like a team, and I’ve moved from team to team before, with a lot of teams it takes a lot longer," Bohling said. "With this team it just felt like a team right from when we started playing."
The challenges of running a program with two schools instead of one school was something that Wall hadn't considered before the season started.
Even communicating when and where practice would be became harder than he thought.
"The kids that played with me last year, they kind of know what’s expected and they helped the Christian guys understand what was coming and what was expected but those guys also have a work ethic, they were ready," Wall said. "The kids weren’t the problem it was just getting information to their parents."
Part of the problem was that Christian did not have the correct email address for Wall on file, meaning with a week to go before the Patriots started practice he hadn't heard from any Christian players.
Speed-bumps aside, Wall said the merger has been a great experience. Last season the Douglas boys team had 26 players, plenty for a varsity team. The problem was forming a junior varsity team.
With the addition of the Christian players Douglas now has enough to fill out its program, and the Christian players have a program to play for.
Levi Vaden Bos, who scored three goals in Douglas/ Christian's 7-4 loss to Hot Springs Monday, was one of those players. He had taken a year off from soccer before this season, and the junior had never played high school soccer for the Comets.
He was excited to be playing for his school, but he was also a little bit nervous. What would the players from Douglas be like? Would he and his Christian teammates be accepted?
He would quickly find out that he liked the answers to both of those questions.
"I was a little excited because it was a way for me to get back into soccer, I took a year off, but I was a little hesitant because I didn’t know what to expect, I didn’t know what the team was going to be like," he said. "It’s a struggle (getting to know teammates at first) but I’ve really connected with most of our varsity, it feels like I have their backs and they have mine and it’s only been a couple of weeks."
Many of the Christian players have played club soccer, so it isn't as though they didn't have any team to play for, but they all admitted it's different when you are representing your school.
Even if it's only half of the team name.
"It’s more fun to play for more of a reason," midfielder and Christian student Payton Causey said. "You’re playing for championships, you’re not just playing to play."
This season the boys' team has earned its first win as a new program, topping Mitchell in the first game of the season 2-1. Currently the boys are 1-2-1 while the girls are 0-2-0.
Wall said he's hoping to build the boys program but does think the Patriots can do a little more than just win a game or two.
"The goal is to get to state. The skill level we have, and I’m not talking bad about any school here because every school is really good, but a lot of teams lost a lot this year," he said. "State is the one we want but realistically we’re trying to build the program, let people know we aren’t the beaten horse that we’ve been the last few years."
Whether or not the Patriots boys or girls make it to state, there are more players to build the Douglas program and Christian players have found a place to play.
Although as the weeks and games go by, it is no longer becoming just the Douglas program. It's fast becoming, and many think it already is, the Douglas/ Rapid City Christian program.
"It was a little hard at first, for the first week and a half just getting to know everyone, but over time, even though we’re two different schools, we’re like one in a way," Ashbridge said.
The Patriots boys team is next in action against Rapid City Central Thursday at home starting at 6:30 p.m. The girls will also be taking on Central Thursday with its game starting at 5 p.m.