The minutes wound down in Alyssa Kirk’s final soccer game in a Temple uniform, and she couldn’t fight back the tears.
The lone senior on the team had grown up in her uniform, entering the program a stubborn walk-on fighting for playing time on a 12-loss team.
During her four years, she scored game-winning goals, earned a scholarship and became the leader of a team that finished as one of the most successful in school history.
In her 74th and final game in that uniform, she walked up to the team’s locker room white board, where each player had written their goal for the game. Her’s was simple.
“Give everything I have left,” she wrote.
In a 2-1 loss to Southern Methodist in the first round of the American Athletic Conference postseason tournament, Kirk’s team fell behind to a late-game goal by Mustangs forward Lauren Guerra and desperately tried to salvage its season.
Kirk, with tears in her eyes, fought to get one last chance at the net.
“I looked at the clock right away and saw we still had seven minutes,” Kirk said. “I had to give it everything I had, but going down that late in the game is tough. When there was five minutes left ticking down in the game, I definitely couldn’t keep the tears in my eyes.”
Kirk’s final minutes were noticed by her teammates as she put in the effort to try and save the game.
“You could see a spark of energy from her,” junior forward Kelly Farrell said. “You could just see she was really playing out her last seven minutes, you could see it was really touching for her.”
“I think the last seven minutes she knew, ‘This is the last time I will be able to play out here with my best friends,’” Farrell added.
The efforts proved fruitless, however, as the team fell one game shy of recording the most wins of any women’s soccer team in school history, suffering the same fate as they had the year before.
For coach Seamus O’Connor, watching the final seven minutes of Kirk’s career was profound.
“The clock was there and she knew it,” O’Connor said. “It has to be a weird feeling, knowing the clock is ticking down on your own career.”
“We all felt kind of guilty,” O’Connor added.
Following the game, an emotional group lined up and gave its leader a chance to say goodbye to each of them before leaving the field.
During the postgame celebration of Kirk’s accomplishments, O’Connor reflected on his only senior’s impact on the change of culture among the program.
“She’s played a big role [in making a change],” O’Connor said. “It’s one thing for me to say it, but it means a heck of a lot more from a fellow player. It’s just me and her that’s survived these past four years, we’ve grown with each other and our roles have changed and our roles have grown and now we’ve both got major roles with the program.”
“She was a feisty one when she came in and she thought she knew everything,” O’Connor added. “It’s crazy, in the four years we’ve grown to know each other and it’s amazing. … If you told me the first time I met her she would be a huge player in [the program], I would have shaken my head and said, ‘No way.’”
Kirk, who finished the year with the second-highest point total of any player despite playing an outside back position that doesn’t serve itself to tallying points, played a big role in the team’s historically successful year.
However, it was her efforts off the field that left the biggest impression on her coaches and teammates.
“Everybody has an Alyssa story,” O’Connor said. “Everyone has their favorite moment with her. She’s just developed that personality of ‘the one that cares.’”
EJ Smith can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and on twitter @ejsmitty17