IGNACIO – The weight of the moment overcame Ignacio High School sophomore forward Abbi Barthel.
“As the clock was ticking down, all I could think about was, ‘This is really happening,’” Barthel said. “The whistle blew for full time, and I just knew that I was going to come off of that field crying no matter what, but thankfully, they were happy tears.”
Barthel, daughter of James and Katie Barthel, has played soccer since third grade – the same year the Ignacio High School girls soccer team had previously last won a match. On Saturday, the sophomore forward helped IHS break the seven-year losing drought when she scored the game-winning goal in the 76th minute and helped IHS top Center High School 2-1 on the road.
“I played at Bayfield Parks and Rec because we don’t have an Ignacio Middle School team,” Barthel said. “In fifth grade, I had started hearing from different people, ‘Oh, Ignacio, they’re not good. No, no, they’re terrible. They’re never going to win another game again.’ I said, ‘You know what? I want to be a part of the team that breaks the streak.’ I was determined and said, ‘I want to be a part of the team that changes the name for Ignacio soccer.’”
Throughout her career as a Bobcat, Barthel had been agonizingly close to breaking the streak – twice.
Last year, IHS lost both times to Center in 1-0 decisions. Barthel was determined that 2019’s result would be different.
“It was on my mind since that day last year,” Barthel said. “I have been working so hard to bond with my forwards. Caitlin Chapman and I did indoor soccer with our coaches and a few other girls that showed up every once in a while, and we got the rhythm down, the trust, and it shows. I think that we came into that game and the mentality of, if we’re going to win this year, it’s going to be today, right here, right now.
“The only thing I’ve ever known is to lose. It hurts to walk away every game that you’ve played so far with a broken heart. Because although you put everything out there, you still couldn’t get it. But to finally get the taste of victory for all of us was so unexplainable and amazing.”
The turnaround for the program, Barthel noted, has been nothing short of remarkable. Two seasons ago, IHS conceded 83 goals and scored just once in the entire season. On Saturday, the Bobcats came back to win, scored twice and netted the winner deep into the game with only four minutes to play in regulation.
Freshman forward Alannah Gomez scored to tie the match at 1-1 and was the other key piece of the puzzle in Saturday’s win.
Gomez, daughter of Chandl and Miguel Gomez, knew about the losing streak that eventually reached 86 matches but was not deterred from coming out to play for the Bobcats.
“The streak never stopped me from coming out. If anything, it only made me that much hungrier to try and beat it,” Gomez said. “I’ve been playing for six or seven years now, so I’ve lost games now, but it’s not heartbreaking to me because I’m used to it. You just have to keep your head up and look for the best of it.”
When the final whistle blew Saturday, word spread like wildfire across Ignacio and La Plata County.
“I got texts and floods of emails,” said IHS head coach Alisha Gullion. “Everybody was so happy for us, and in the halls, everybody was saying congratulations that we finally did it. It was so awesome to see, and we want to build off of this moving forward.”
Monday afternoon’s practice was worry-free and light-hearted. Players were laughing while practicing shots on target, while Gullion took a moment to soak it all in after the team began to warm up.
“Right before we broke the huddle, I told them that they’d always be remembered for being the team that got in the win column again,” the second-year IHS coach said.
“We are definitely enjoying this right now, but come Friday, we’re determined to get more than just this one win and we want to keep momentum going.”
After getting her first win of her high school career, Barthel is ready for more. Ignacio will go for two in a row against Del Norte (4-1-2. 3-1-2 Class 2A Region 4) at 1 p.m. Friday at IHS.
“We now have that taste of victory and we want more,” Barthel said.