A Time To Stand Strong
Release: 12/13/2016

Sometimes you have to step away. I had to step away. I had to take a deep breath, turn off the television and step back from that which had hurt me. I have the tendency to internalize pain, a tendency I know is bad for me, but I do it anyway. Losing the College Cup game in penalty kicks? That hurt. That knocked me down. As a student who has invested her entire four years at Carolina into sports--soccer in particular--this game hit hard.

It took me two full days to be able to sit down and really write this. This isn't about me, though, and ultimately I gritted my teeth and placed my fingers back on the keyboard to get this out. This is about a team, a group of men who've sacrificed so much to be a part of the North Carolina soccer program, who've given their hearts and efforts to the jersey they don every week for their university.

Soccer is hard. I've always believed in the mantra ‘you cannot love that which does not hurt you.' It's my philosophy for watching sports. I know no person, game, or outcome is perfect, and I know it's going to hurt, but I give it my all because the euphoria of those good times is far beyond worth the struggle of being a fan.

This is not the time to weep, not the time to crumble with defeat and vow to never watch sports, play sports, or anything of the sort. This is a time to stand strong, despite the pain, and keep moving, because those men on the Carolina soccer team deserve our strength and support to stand upon.

Now is not a time to lament missed opportunities, or think of all the possibilities that could have arisen. The game has passed.

Now is the time for celebration. Swallow the lump in your throat and realize just what these men accomplished and smile. Think fondly of the achievements of the North Carolina soccer team and breathe out in relief that these men are our men, because they fought valiantly and that's all you can ask for.

As with any passing season though, it comes time for goodbyes. Senior Colton Storm was emotional after the game and Carlos Somoano, when asked to address his senior class, got choked up as well. “I don't know if I can talk about the senior group. You are going to have me up here crying like Colton. Just such a good group. You saw Colton; he laid his heart out there on the field. They gave so much to our program, university. These are guys that you love. You love your teammates. I love them like sons.”

That love, though, is exactly why these boys play. They play for the friendship, for the family they create on and off the field, and for the love of the game. It's not about a ball and a net and fancy cleats with which to kick. No. Soccer is about family and love and finding a home in an activity rather than a physical place.

“No one looked back and said if that, and if that and if that,” said Storm on the team's emotions after the game. “We stuck together no matter what and were going to be family at the end.”

“So we stick together because that's what we always do,” added junior David October when asked about the end result.

Take a deep breath, soccer fans. These guys that you've come to support over the seasons are still a part of Tar Heel family, no matter the result. You can't change the past, you can't dwell on it, either. You can take solace in the fact that your team was strong, competitive, and unyielding in its efforts. You can take pride in the fact that there was no giving up, and no accepting of defeat until the very end.

“It's not easy to swallow, but at the same time we talked about accepting our fate and whatever comes I'm very proud of these guys,” said Somoano. “They gave everything to each other, so I have no regrets.”

Advice and solace come in all sorts of places. Sometimes we have to crack open our old children's books to find what we're looking for. In this case, I sought the wise words of Dr. Seuss: “Don't cry because it's over, smile because it happened.”

Written by Olivia Henley for GoHeels.com

UNC North Carolina Men's Soccer

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