Southern Columbia’s dominance in Class A girls soccer over the last four years has been a result of more than just talent and hard work.
The Tigers have won three of the last four state championships due in large part to the family atmosphere within the program.
“Everyone always asks us what makes this team so special, and our answer is always the same: family,” Southern Columbia assistant coach Jen Stine said. “Through good and bad, they always know they have a family of 40 or more teammates who are with them every step of the way. They all know their role and take a lot of pride in it. They embrace the moments they have together.”
That attitude starts at the top with Tigers coach Derek Stine, Jen’s father.
“We preach year in and year out that this is a family,” Derek Stine said. “We work together. We bleed together. We do things together. They buy into everything we want them to. They are just a fantastic group of kids.”
The Stines balance each other well, creating a culture that has allowed their players to thrive.
“Coaching with my dad is a unique experience,” Jen Stine said. “We actually are very different people. We complement each other very well. To be honest, I don’t think we would be able to do this without each other. It is an all-or-nothing deal.”
It’s something the players have bought into, as well. That was on display during Saturday’s state final. Each of the Tigers’ four goals were celebrated with large group hugs, which carried over to their celebration after the final whistle sounded on a 4-0 win over Greensburg Central Catholic.
“I have sisters, but these girls are my sisters, too, and they will be for the rest of my life,” Summer Tillett said. “This team will always be special to me. Us having a family bond means everything to us.”
Tillett, a senior, played a role for all three state title teams.
“We started this history back when we were freshmen,” Tillett said. “To make a name for ourselves as a team is a great feeling.”
Southern junior Loren Gehret, who scored twice and had two assists Saturday, deflected any credit directed at her to the team as a whole.
“We knew coming into this game that if we applied pressure, our defense played great and (goalkeeper) Mackenzie (Palacz) played great, we were going to win,” Gehret said.
All those things happened as the Tigers earned their second state crown in a row. What made it even more special was Southern Columbia graduated only one player from the previous season’s team, so this group of Tigers experienced a title run together again.
“We’ve had pretty much the same team come back as last year, and we all work so well together,” senior Cassidy Savitski said. “I’m really proud of the amazing things we’ve accomplished.”