When Glenelg senior midfielder Gretchen Gurganus got called up to varsity late in the 2008 season as a sophomore, she instantly became a part of a state championship girls soccer team. She savored the moment, soaked it all in and then thought how great it would be to win another one in her senior year. Now she is a starter for the No. 5 Gladiators (13-3-2), who are seeking their seventh state title Saturday when they take on Middletown in the Class 2A final.
Usually playing on the left side, Gurganus brings tenacity, relentless defensive pressure and good ball skills. She's also the player on the team who keeps the mood light. When asked to describe Gurganus, longtime coach Dean Sheridan wrote: "Besides her soccer, one of the things that sets Gretchen apart is her amazing personality and positive impact on everyone she touches." In addition to soccer, Gurganus plays lacrosse and is a member of the Interact Club, which raises money for Ugandan children. Her favorite class is marine biology and that's what she would like to study in college.
QUESTION: What's it going to take to bring home another state title on Saturday?
ANSWER: It's really how hard we come out there. It's not just our skill, but we have to be mentally prepared more than anything. Just thinking about the game all week is going to help us play our best.
Q: How does it help having been there before and knowing what to expect playing in such a big game?
A: We know what it feels like to lose because last year we lost in the semifinals. In my sophomore year, I was pulled up to varsity and we won, so we know both sides and how to handle different situations. The scary situations — like if we get down a goal — we know what it takes to get back up.
Q: What is Saturday going to be like not playing until 7:30 at night?
A: That whole day is just going to be waiting! Same when we played in the semifinals — I was just waiting and waiting. And then the bus ride was just a blur to me because I was just thinking over and over about getting on the field.
Q: What do you think makes this year's team so special?
A: Just the fact that we all work together really well. We're all very close out on the field, and we know everything about each other.
Q: You're known as one of the team pranksters; is that the case, and how does it help the team?
A: Pretty much all day, every day, I just like to goof around. All the captains are like, "Gretchen, be serious and focused." But if I focus, we're not going to win. Me and Megan Pawtowski, we just laugh and laugh. Even during warm-up, everyone is silent, but we crack jokes all the time. It keeps things real. I feel if we're serious all the time, it's not us. Keep it real.
Q: What is the Interact Club all about?
A: We help raise money for Ugandan children because they're like children of soldiers over there. That really makes me feel good — just to know you can help make a difference. When I was a freshman, I thought I would never join a club because I already had too much schoolwork and stuff. But Interact Club changed it all for me because you see there's so much other stuff to build on.
Q: What colleges are you considering?
A: I've applied to a lot of different ones. I'd like to go to Central Florida, but the thing is, I really want to stay close to my parents. They're both deaf and really mean so much to me.
Q: With your parents being deaf, what kind of effect has that had on you growing up?
A: They understand you a lot. When I'm feeling down, they can look at me and tell and they know exactly what's wrong. They really show you what it is to care about someone. I really love them so much.
Q: When did you first get interested in marine biology?
A: I always liked ocean stuff, but last year I went to Sea World and loved it. I wanted to be a trainer, but I don't want to be one anymore. Not because the trainer died … just the fact that [the animals] are all caged up. I couldn't support that, so I'd rather study them out in the wild.