Any soccer team that is 2-8 and has scored 12 goals all season might send the average coach into a mild state of depression. But Mary Rieger is far from average.
In her second year as the girls soccer coach at Wilson, Rieger has accepted the losses and problems associated with starting a team and directed her endless source of energies toward building a competitive, entertaining unit that will be able to compete with other area teams. Since no other schools in the D.C. Interhigh League have girls soccer teams, Wilson has played the more experienced, talented teams in private school leagues.
"We have been outplayed by better teams, but I can't be disappointed because the girls have given their maximum effort each game," said Rieger, an art teacher at Wilson. "I'm trying to build a cohesiveness among the players and it's getting there. I have about a dozen sophomores and 10 returning players from last year and they're eager to learn the game. They are our future.
"I'm going to stick with this team because I feel, despite the losses, we have accomplished quite a bit in just two years. And we'll continue to improve."
Wilson finished 4-4 last season, but this year Rieger scheduled tougher teams in the Potomac Valley Association and Independent League. She also applied for league membership, but was rejected by both.
"They had their reasons for refusing us and I understand that. We're a public school and they are private schools and have been playing together for years. They've been good about giving us games," Rieger said, "but at some point, I'd like to get us in a league."
Until that day arrives, Rieger, who plays sweeper for D.C. Dawn of the Washington Area Women's Soccer League, is working to improve the players' individual skill level, instill a winning attitude and appreciation for the world's most popular sport.
Wilson recently lost, 1-0, in double-overtime sudden death to St. Andrew's, a game Rieger said was the most intense and emotional she has been associated with since she's been coaching.
"The girls' skill level was marvelous," Rieger said. "They played soccer instead of kickball."
Continuing play tough against most opposition, Wilson recently dropped another a 2-1 decision to Georgetown Day.
"It's tough teaching girls to be more aggressive and go after the game," she said. "I know it takes time and I'll have to be more patient."
At the beginning of the season, Rieger didn't have a goalkeeper until a 5-foot, fiesty junior named Gretchen Barry volunteered to play the position. She has been nothing less than sensational.
"I brought in one of my (Dawn) teammates, Lisa Heinz, who worked with Gretchen one day," said Rieger. "She picked up things quickly and has really played very well for us. She might be the shortest person on the team, but she was the only person who wanted to play goalie. Even the referees have complimented her play in our games."
Other key performers include midfielders senior Kerri Galloway and junior Tessa Vaughn and junior winger Susanna Shaller.
Wilson closed out its season this week.
"Determination, desire, discipline and dedication. Our philosophy here is built around the four Ds," Rieger said. "If the players do their best to follow that philosophy, what more can a coach ask?"