Since Mallory Edwards was a little girl, she always wanted to be on Salem high school's girls soccer team.
"When I think back to being that four and five year old playing soccer my dream was to be here at Salem high school on the varsity team, be a leader of the team and I worked hard for it and it came true," Edwards said.
Her childhood vision came to fruition but not without a little help from those closest to Mallory--her family. Her folks, J.R. and Shannon, supported Mallory in everything she did. Though, there was a time--because of J.R. and her brothers--Mallory wanted to play football. Mom and Dad gently guided her a different direction and soon soccer became a perfect fit.
"I have a great deal of pride in her and all of our children," J.R. said. "The sports and the games are great but they're just that, they're games . They teach, shape and form their character. The kind of young lady she's become and the character she's developed will carry her well beyond her soccer years."
"I think soccer has taught her how to be strong as a woman and be successful a leader," Shannon said.
The game has also taught the seven other seniors on the Salem girls soccer team to be strong, successful women. This class is one of the biggest and most decorated in program history. But there is one accolade that many of the girls say is missing--a state title. For two years in a row, Salem has come up short by a single goal in the state final.
"When we lost the first title two years ago it was tough," head coach Josh Jones said. "But last year's loss was probably the toughest we've dealt with in our 17 years."
"It's a pretty big chip cause it's kind of like if we get there there's no other option but there's no other option but to get there," senior Lily Barnes said. "Though I feel like it's the only thing we have to work towards and it's the only thing we haven't done yet."
With that mindset, these girls have entered the 2018 season with a mountain sized chip on their shoulder.
"The mental toll that two state losses takes is a lot," senior Rachel Massey said. "This year, we're out for blood."
Twenty years from now, these girls may still feel the sting of defeat from the two state final losses but that's life. It's not always going to go how you wanted it to. Sports creates winners and losers in the moment but to these eight Spartan seniors there's so much more that goes on between those white lines--emotions and experiences that can never be taken away.
"There's something about suffering with someone," Massey explained. "I know that sounds terrible but when you suffer with someone it definitely strengthens your relationship because you can relate and connect on a deeper level."
"There's so many more things that go into it then just the sport," Barnes said. "So many more bonds created and so many more relationships that are formed because of it and I think that makes it so much bigger and mean so much more."
"Soccer has given me friendship I could never dream of having," Mallory said. "On and off the field those girls would do anything for me and I'd do anything for them."
This is it for this special group of seniors--one last season as a soccer team but it's their sisterhood that will last forever.