The alarm, with its annoying siren sound, went off at 5:05 a.m. Breakfast was a cup of yogurt.
A few minutes later Abbie Seamans was in the car on this Aug. 15 morning, on her way to Bolton’s first girls soccer practice. Her younger brother was in the passenger seat, to be dropped off at a boys soccer practice. On the way they picked up Gabrielle Mowery, a seventh-grader trying to make the varsity.
The irony did not occur to her at the time, but five years earlier Seamans was a 90-pound seventh-grader in the back seat, being driven to her own first practice. Now she was a senior getting ready for her sixth season. She had grown up playing varsity soccer.
“It definitely went by really fast,” she said a few days later as tourists milled about on Lake Shore Drive, across from Bolton’s home field.
In a way, this was the beginning of the end of her teenage years. Graduation was a few months away; college and the real world were not so far off.
But first there was a school year and a soccer season ahead, and like many senior athletes, her fall would seem impossibly busy. The coming weeks would be a complex web of classes, homework, activities, games and practices. She would kick a few hundred balls, travel 2,000 miles on buses and try to map out her future.
And there would be the chase for a title, though she was trying not to think about that as summer came to a close.
* * *
On the final day of August, Seamans and her teammates boarded a school bus that took them 108 miles north to Chazy.
Aside from the distance, it wasn’t a tough road trip. School hadn’t started yet, so there was no homework to worry about, and it wasn’t coming after a long day of classes. During the school year, many players sleep during bus rides to games.
Seamans had more on her mind than most. Coaches from SUNY Plattsburgh would be at the game to watch her play. It was one of the colleges she was considering attending, partly because of its soccer program.
As they closed in on Chazy, players began pulling out equipment and cleats to get ready for the game. The odor of worn shoes permeated the bus.
Coach Patrick Morency handed out his game plan — a sheet of paper showing the starting lineup imposed on a soccer field, with points of emphasis off to the side — then faced his players from the front to run through it. One of his main points is a subject he came back to throughout the season: stay connected.
Seamans listened from the second row of the bus, the seat right behind Morency, a spot she’d occupied since seventh grade. The team’s other two captains, Madelyn Pratt and Caitlyn Speranza, were nearby.
As captains, they occupy a middle ground on the team — part labor, part management. Morency will use them to filter messages down to the players. They, in turn, will let him known what the team is thinking.
As the team’s speaking captain, Seamans is first among equals. She’ll call the coin flip before the game (she went with “tails” all year, for no particular reason), talk with officials on the field and start some team activities. Morency has jokingly called her the team’s “assistant coach,” and as a sixth-year player, her voice carries a heavy weight on the field.
The bus pulled up to the field in Chazy in plenty of time for the 7 p.m. start. “No pants ... too hot!” Seamans called out from the front, and players went out to warm up in their shorts on a warm, humid evening.
Getting ready for a game is a day-long venture for Seamans. She’s had dehydration issues, so a 32-ounce water bottle is a constant companion throughout any game day. For a while she was gulping down a homemade nutritional drink she described as “nauseating” and “disgusting” before games, but she later switched to magnesium pills that help her retain fluids.
She’s strained her quads before, so she wore distinctive pink sleeves on her upper thighs throughout the season. The biggest concern, however, is her ankles.
Seamans has sprained both ankles on multiple occasions. Before each game, Morency spends about 10 minutes applying thick tape that wraps around the bottom of her feet to keep them from turning in an unnatural way.
There is one advantage to this, Seamans ruefully points out. She’s been told she shouldn’t have any problems with her knees. The ankles will give out first.
The Eagles got their season off to a strong start with a 3-0 shutout of Chazy, the defending Section VII champion. In the first half, Seamans scored a highlight-reel goal, driving a ball into the net from a low angle on the left side.
She met briefly with Plattsburgh head coach Tania Armellino and assistant Frantzy Noze after the game. It turned out they had arrived late and missed Seamans’ goal, and her heart sank a little when she heard that. But she knew Plattsburgh was interested, and there was a long way to go before any choices had to be made.
* * *
It’s a big decision for any high school senior. The choice of college will shape everything that happens down the road. Friendships will be made, careers will be picked, lives will be charted.
Seamans had known for a while she probably wouldn’t be a Division I recruit, but soccer would still be a big factor in her college selection. At the Division III level, she was good enough to be recruited.
SUNY Potsdam had been in the mix since her older sister Olivia began playing there two years ago. Abbie has visited the school many times and knew the players. Olivia was very much in favor of Abbie coming to Potsdam, and would miss no opportunity to remind her they could play together again.
They had always shared soccer, starting as kids playing in the back yard with their brothers. Abbie and Olivia grew up in a bedroom with an overflowing basket of soccer socks in the corner, dozens of soccer T-shirts stacked in a closet organizer, a poster from North Carolina on the back of their door. They played together for four years on the high school team.
So Abbie faced a conflict — play with her sister or strike out on her own. There was a time when following in Olivia’s footsteps was unappealing, but the idea had grown on her.
“Before, I definitely didn’t want to just follow my sister,” Abbie had said in August. “Now it’s kind of like, it’s not a big deal.”
Plattsburgh was a relatively new player on the scene. She liked the coaches and was planning an official visit in September. But as Labor Day approached, Potsdam remained at the top of her list.
High school classes started on Sept. 7, and Abbie Seamans’ life got very busy. The days of seniors sliding through their final school year with minimal work are a thing of the past. Her academic load for the fall included AP psychology, statistics, English composition, and college-level economics and personal finance courses good for college credit.
Soccer was in the back of her mind when she set up this course load. If she can amass college credits now, she can take a lighter load during her fall semesters of college, during the soccer season.
On the field, the Eagles dropped back to reality with losses to Beekmantown and Lake George, so their prospects remained somewhat uncertain. There was talent, but it was also a young team. Seamans and Caitlyn Johnson, the goalkeeper, were the only seniors on the roster.
Two years ago, with Olivia leading the way, Bolton had won its first Section II title and gone on to the state final four in Cortland. They didn’t set a goal of getting back there, but the possibility of a return trip hung in the air.
“We haven’t talked about what we want to accomplish in our senior year,” Johnson said during the season, “but it is understood that we both want to accomplish something.”
From a personal standpoint, Seamans had her sights set on the school’s all-time assist record. She had watched her sister surpass the 100-goal mark two years ago, but that seemed out of reach to Abbie. She was 35 goals away at the start of the season.
* * *
Student council meetings at Bolton take place during a late-morning activities period in a first-floor conference room. On Sept. 21, 11 students crowded around a small table to discuss the upcoming Spirit Week. Seamans, the council’s president, sat at one end of the table with the water bottle in front of her.
A flood of ideas spilled across the table from all directions. Seamans mostly laid back until it was time to sort things out.
Even off the field, she draws from soccer to shape her leadership style.
“I’ve learned a ton from Mr. Morency, just the way you react around people, how it affects them, and how what you say affects other people,” she said.
Seamans is also president of her class, treasurer of the National Honor Society, treasurer of the key club and a member of the drama club. At a small school — her senior class numbers only 15 — it’s not unusual for students to be involved in several activities.
She’s building her resume, even if she doesn’t think of it that way. Down the road, she’ll have to make a living doing something other than playing soccer.
On the field that week, the Eagles played a home game against Whitehall and a road game in Granville. They were games that the veterans knew they should win handily, and they did, by scores of 13-0 and 6-0. It’s an uncomfortable fact that many games in girls soccer simply aren’t competitive.
Those games are no fun for the losing side, but it can also be a no-win proposition for the better team. There is the danger of getting into bad habits, and if the game gets out of hand, there’s the problem of how to handle it.
“You don’t want to keep scoring on them, because it makes you feel bad,” Seamans said, “but you also can’t play keepaway, because that’s rude.”
That weekend, Seamans made her visit to Plattsburgh. She went to a class, talked with players (who, she said, can be pretty open about the ups and downs of a program), went to the team’s practice and stayed overnight in the dorms with one of the freshmen.
The next day, Olivia was in town with Potsdam for a game against Plattsburgh. After the game Abbie met her sister and some of the Potsdam players poked fun, calling Abbie a “traitor” for considering a rival school.
In fact, Abbie was looking at Plattsburgh in a very serious way.
“I liked it a lot,” she said. “Much more than I expected.”
* * *
Before home games, Bolton players gather in room 226, coach Morency’s social studies classroom. Posters of historic figures line one side of the classroom; a Manchester United flag hangs on the other. A bag of old soccer balls in the corner acts as a beanbag chair.
Morency has soccer videos playing on the screen in front as players pull out their soccer gear. On Oct. 6, highlights of the 2012 European Championships played while Seamans stretched on the side.
After everyone was settled in, Morency brought up the game plan on the screen and talked about that day’s game against Hadley-Luzerne. His key point: Defense first. He underlined it in red on the screen.
Athletes tend to be creatures of habit and Seamans is no different. On game days, fellow senior Helen Imbrosci braids her hair during 10th period. Then Morency tapes up her ankles. She always sits in the first seat on the right side of the classroom. She puts her socks on, then shin guards, then cleats. The team always warms up the same way; always sits in the net during halftime.
The Eagles went on to beat Hadley-Luzerne 8-1, but at this point, their regular-season fate had been decided. They had lost to Lake George the week before, ending any chance of getting a share of the Adirondack League title.
In the second week of October, a big economics test had Seamans worried. At one point she was convinced she would fail. She got an 83 — below her average, but better than she had expected.
She was doing about three hours of homework per day and it was a challenge to juggle that with soccer, volunteer work and other activities.
“It’s a lot of workload, for sure,” she said. “Coming into 12th grade I did not think I would have more work than I did my junior year.”
Oct. 13 was the Senior Game, a traditional date for almost every high school team in every sport. Seamans and Johnson were honored in fading light after the game with family and fans gathered in the center of the field. There was an exchange of flowers with her parents, Andrea and Brett.
Only later did she find out she’d broken Bolton’s all-time assist record, surpassing her sister. She also scored a pair of goals, bringing her career total to 96. Getting to 100 goals now seemed a very real possibility.
* * *
That weekend Seamans made her official visit to Potsdam. She stayed with Olivia, went to a class, toured the campus and hung out with the team. Olivia continued to sell the idea that they could play together in college.
Abbie left knowing there are pluses to Potsdam, including the coach, Mark Misiak, who’s recruited her since Olivia joined the team. Still, there were other things she found appealing about Plattsburgh.
That Tuesday, seeds came out for the Section II tournament. Seamans went online during the school day to find out the Eagles were seeded second in Class D and would host Salem in the quarterfinals a week later.
The 100-goal mark had crept into her mind. There was something appealing about that nice round number and the idea of joining her sister in the Century Club.
She was heavily defended and scored only once in a 7-0 win. In the final minute, with the outcome long since decided, she had a breakaway on the right side, but sent the ball over the goal. She put her hands on her head. The games would get tougher from here, the defenses would be stronger. Maybe that miss would cost her the 100th goal.
Later, she scolded herself for having selfish thoughts.
“The Salem game was the first time that I was actually thinking more of myself than the team,” she said. “After that game, I kind of realized, if I keep harping on myself about it, I’m not going to get it.”
Morency knew the 100 goals was on her mind, and told her, “Maybe somebody else had a bigger plan for you and they’re saving it for a bigger moment.”
The Plattsburgh coaches, Armellino and Noze, had driven down to watch the game. Afterward, Seamans and her parents met with them in the seating area above the field. They talked about soccer, college and whatever.
By then Seamans had realized the college decision would be tougher than she’d envisioned. Potsdam and Plattsburgh remain the top contenders, but she would later decide to make a long-shot bid for Division I Pepperdine and check into one other school. She originally thought she might pick her college by December, but the choice could go into January.
Whatever she chooses, she’ll have the support of her sister.
“I want her to go to Potsdam,” Olivia said, “but I want her to make a decision on her own, so she doesn’t come here and be disappointed. I want her to go someplace she loves, even if it’s not where I am.”
Three days later Bolton faced Northville in the semifinals, and it was a relatively easy 4-0 shutout. Seamans scored one goal, bringing her to 98. Their opponent in the championship game, five days down the road, would be Adirondack League rival Fort Ann.
Halloween fell on that Monday, two days before the Class D title game. It was a cool day in Bolton and the streets were empty, the tourists having left long ago. Players arrived for practice surprised to find that the netting had been removed from their goal posts, as if their season had finished.
Toward the end of practice, Morency had the team playing a small scrimmage. Suddenly Seamans went down in a heap. Everything stopped. Cries of pain filled the air as she held her right leg.
And her first thought was: It’s all over.
* * *
Seamans thought it was a broken ankle, the injury she had feared. She was down on the field for 10 minutes. The other players huddled off to the side. A gaggle of trick-or-treaters wandered by on Lake Shore Drive, oblivious that a season hung in the balance.
Morency pressed along her leg, looking for damage, but couldn’t find anything broken. He helped her to the sideline, then went across the street to Stewart’s for ice. Later Seamans’ mom arrived, and together with the coach, they carried her to the car.
Seamans spent the night periodically putting her ankle in a bucket of ice and found that more painful than the injury. There was a giant black-and-blue welt on her ankle (Morency later said it was a Grade I sprain). She didn’t think there was any chance she could play in the sectional final.
On the day of the championship game she came to school — athletes at most schools can’t play if they are absent that day — and it meant a field trip to Glens Falls for a regional Key Club meeting. She knew she would give it a try that night, but still felt pain during the day and wondered if she’d just be a “decoy” on the field while her teammates tried to win the game.
On the bus trip to Lansingburgh, Morency kept the atmosphere light. Junior Madeline DeLorenzo was talking about filmmaker James Franco being in Troy to film a movie. So Morency pulled out his cell phone and the team tweeted out a goofy video inviting Franco to attend the game.
The pain was still there in warmups, but once the game began, Seamans forgot about it. She scored the 99th goal of her career on a direct kick in the first half. Mowery, the seventh grader she had driven to practice on the first day, also scored. The Eagles were outplayed by Fort Ann in the second half — Seamans said it seemed like a “nightmare” — but they held on for a 2-1 victory and the sectional title.
Seamans and the rest of the team raised the plaque and celebrated. There was a TV interview, and she didn’t know what to say. She posed for several pictures, including one holding the plaque with Mowery — the team’s future and soon-to-be-past standing side by side.
The only thing they left without was a James Franco sighting.
Three days later, on the first Saturday of November, the Eagles were scheduled to head to Stillwater for a state regional game against Eldred. It was the last game they needed to win for a return to Cortland and the state final four.
Seamans woke up around 9 a.m. Her mom made breakfast and she spent some time talking with Olivia, who had come home from Potsdam for the game. On the way to school Abbie picked up Imbrosci, who came along on the bus as the team’s unofficial hair-braider.
Abbie Seamans was wearing her ratty old practice cleats, as she had in the sectional final, so she could fit an air brace around her injured right foot. Early in the game the bottom of one of her cleats came off and started flopping around. She came off the field, Morency taped them up and she quickly returned.
Moments later there was a free kick. Seamans sent the ball into the goal off the bottom of the crossbar, turned and jumped into the arms of Pratt. Only when she looked into the stands and saw posters about the chase to 100 did she realize she’d joined the Century Club. It was the only goal of a 1-0 victory.
Everything that happened two years ago was happening again — the sectional title, the regional title, a Seamans reaching 100 goals. From the bleachers, Olivia said it looked like a replay of two years ago, except this time it was Abbie in the starring role.
But could they go all the way?
* * *
Two days before the state tournament, the players assembled in room 226 for a scull session. Morency showed videos he’d found on the Internet of Poland, their next opponent and then the top-ranked team in the state. His assessment: They are fast, athletic, intelligent. He circled the word intelligent.
“We have to accept the fact this is a monster task,” Morency said, “but not an impossible task.”
Seamans watched with her head resting on her hand. She was thinking that she didn’t want what happened in the state semifinals two years ago — a shutout at the hands of Arkport — to happen again.
The next morning they got on the bus for Cortland at 7:30 a.m. Fire trucks escorted them all the way to Exit 22. They were overstocked with donated food and drink from local businesses.
There was a banquet that night at SUNY Cortland where each team did a skit. Bolton brought foam mannequin heads and performed a mannequin dance that has to be seen to be understood. Seamans roomed that night with Summer Foy and Chelsea and Caitlyn Speranza. Before falling asleep, they talked about how they wanted to come out strong the next day.
They woke up the next morning around 7:30. Breakfast at the hotel was terrible. Most of the players ended up across the street at Dunkin Donuts.
The game at Homer High School began at 10 a.m., and at first Bolton stayed with Poland. It was scoreless at halftime, but the tide turned against them. Poland scored once, then twice, then a third time. Seamans got upset, then got mad at herself for getting upset when there was still soccer to play.
But she knew the end was inevitable. The minutes ticked away, then the seconds, and Poland celebrated a 3-0 victory. It had gone just like the state semifinal of two years ago. Seamans walked off the field into the arms of Morency, and the tears came.
She met with family, then walked to the bus alone, the game ball under one arm, the ever-present water bottle dangling from the other hand.
The bus ride home was uncomfortable. She didn’t want to be OK with losing. She put her earphones in for a while and tried listening to music. There was sad talk with teammates about how they’d never play together again. The mood changed as they pulled into the school parking lot, and Morency announced: “No practice on Monday.” Everyone laughed.
When Seamans got home she went upstairs to her bedroom and threw her soccer backpack on the floor. It sat there in front of her dresser for several days, waiting to be unpacked, an act of denial that six years of varsity soccer had come to an end.