CHAGRIN FALLS TWP. — When it comes to dealing with a brand new situation, Eric Hoffer might have said it best.
“Every new adjustment is a crisis in self-esteem.”
Ashley Ruehr can certainly relate to such an unsettling message. In fact, the 20th-century American philosopher’s statement may send chills down the jittery teenager’s spine.
“It was a little odd at first,” the Aurora senior defender admitted.
And perhaps unnecessary too.
Ruehr’s soccer team had one of its most successful seasons in recent memory last fall. The Greenmen captured a piece of the Suburban League American Conference championship in 2018. They also reached a district title game for the first time in six years.
So why would Aurora’s sensational curriculum vitae be ripped to shreds so callously?
For starters, Ruehr and her just as befuddled teammates were no longer hearing the voice of their previous leader. Domenica McClintock was named the Greenmen’s head coach during the offseason.
Ruehr’s new boss didn’t plan to completely demolish Aurora’s version of the Singer Building.
Nevertheless, it’s highly unlikely that McClintock endorsed a popular slogan regarding a place that makes its home within the greater Mojave Desert.
“What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas.”
For McClintock, cleansing all traces of “Sin City” were absolutely necessary if her talented but unfledged feet specialists were going to reach their full potential.
This bathing process, on the other hand, proved to be rather unorthodox. That’s because it involved perspiration rather than purification.
“We had some really tough fitness tests,” Ruehr said. “It was tough to get through and we really worked hard in the summer, but I know it paid off, especially now.”
It sure did.
Despite entering the postseason with a losing record, the Greenmen advanced to a district title game for the second consecutive year.
Fourth-seeded Aurora brushed aside top-seeded Kenston with a stunning 2-1 victory in Chagrin Falls Township. The Chagrin Falls’ Division II district semifinal contest took place Monday at Bombers Stadium.
Ruehr, a team captain, helped lead a defense that prevented the high-powered Bombers from assaulting her net. In fact, after Elyse Myles’ goal cut the Greenmen’s lead to 2-1, Ruehr and the rest of her back-line troops kept Kenston scoreless for the final 66-plus minutes.
Protecting her own net has been Ruehr’s specialty throughout her career. Therefore, performing a humdrum task like this one in a do-or-die atmosphere was a piece of cake for the ironclad senior, right?
“It’s nerve-racking, but it is fun,” Ruehr said. “I know that my teammates have my back. I know that we’re communicating really well on the back line and we’re really meshing with each other.
“We know that we just have to get the ball up the field, especially towards the end when the time is running out.”
Ruehr knows her “time is running out.” She has known about these harsh circumstances since her first practice back in August, as a matter of fact.
Thus, when a new order was established, Ruehr certainly had a right to feel uneasy.
She wasn’t alone. Her teammates felt this overwhelming anxiety, as well.
“We didn’t know what positions were going to be filled,” Ruehr said. “We didn’t know where the incoming freshmen would be and how that would turn out.”
Ruehr and her teammates can breathe a bit easier now that the leaves have changed to an assortment of colors.
Like the deciduous trees during autumn, Aurora’s metamorphosis from callow cubs to enlightened monarchs was just a matter of time.
“We had some adjustment period, but as soon as we got into the groove of things, we learned to play well with each other,” Ruehr said. “It was a hard transition at first, but it worked out in the end.”
As it turned out, “the end” was put on hold for at least another few days.
The Greenmen are scheduled to play second-seeded Chagrin Falls in a district final Thursday at Streetsboro High School’s Rockets Stadium.
Much like Monday, Aurora pulled off an impressive upset when it eliminated the Tigers from last year’s postseason tournament.
But that’s ancient history now.
The 2018 version of the Greenmen was led by 12 gifted seniors. This year’s bunch has very few remnants from the previous autumn.
However, as its late-season surge has proven, that’s not such a bad thing. Aurora has adjusted to its new surroundings quite nicely.
In other words, don’t expect the Greenmen to take Jimmy Carter’s infamous speech too seriously.
With all due respect to the former United States President, a “crisis of confidence” no longer applies on West Pioneer Trail.
Instead, the Aurora players may prefer something more akin to another former commander-in-chief.
Like Barack Obama, the Greenmen have demonstrated an “Audacity of Hope.”
And that “audacity” comes from a sense of urgency, according to the former Chicago politician.
“Change will not come if we wait for some other person or some other time. We are the ones we’ve been waiting for. We are the change that we seek.”
“We knew we had so many seniors leaving us, but we were really hopeful that we would make it far again,” Ruehr said. “We knew it was going to be a tough journey, but we worked hard in the summer and we made it this far. I’m really proud of our team.”
Reporter Frank Aceto can be reached at 330-541-9444, firstname.lastname@example.org or @FrankAceto_RPC.