Duchesne Head Soccer Coach Patrick Turner laid it out clearly for us when the season began. The Pioneers, aiming for a third straight girls state title with a lineup dominated by a senior class that had known plenty of success in recent years. A team that was loaded with talent that will play at the next level would need to stay hungry and healthy to have a shot at a three-peat at the prep level. And, he said, the team would be tested early, with matchups against Incarnate Word, Pattonville, and St. Dominic.
The Pioneers went 0-3 in that opening stretch, but the biggest setback may have been the loss Kylie Johns with a torn ACL and other knee damage against St. Dominic that ended her senior season and could cost her a freshman year at Lewis and Clark.
“I was distraught,” Johns wrote in an email to STL Preps. “One, I never thought that would happen to me, even though I know it very easily could have, and two because it was my senior year and I wasn’t going to be able to play the rest of that season or take part in my senior night game.”
“Needless to say, she was heartbroken, along with the rest of our team. We met as a team and agreed to dedicate the rest of the season to Kylie and stand by her side on her road to recovery,” Turner wrote. “As weeks went by in the season, Kylie stayed positive, she has stepped into a coaches role for us. She comes to every game and every practice. If there’s someone on the team not playing to their potential, Kylie will let them have it.”
But as Senior night beckoned, Turner wanted to make sure Johns could have that, too.
“When I started preparing information on Senior Night, it broke my heart that Kylie wouldn’t be able to start the game and take the field with her team. So I did what any coach, parent, or friend would do….try to make it happen, I mean it’s worth a shot, right?”
Turner tipped off Kylie’s family to the plot but otherwise kept it from her. Also key was getting buy-in from the opponent. “We got in contact with the coaching staff at Borgia and they were all for it. This wouldn’t have been possible without the tremendous display of class and sportsmanship of the Borgia Soccer Program,” he said.
“Kylie had no idea until the last player was called in the starting lineup on senior night. I had Kylie by my side, I put my arm around her and asked her “You trust me right?” She quickly responded “yes”, so my next words (along with some tears in my eyes) “you’re starting at right back tonight”
“And in that moment my heart dropped and my eyes just started pouring out tears,” Johns recalled. “As I grabbed Bryn’s hand from St. Cletus kindergartens class, and walked out onto Duchesne’s home field, my home field, one last time as a starter. Hearing “Senior defender, number 9, Kylie Johns” may not seem like something big for others, but for me it meant the world. As we took the starting lineup and we started with the ball, as when Jane Skaggs then received it and kicked it out. I was then taken out. I played less than a minute and loved every second of it.”
Turner said she got a well-deserved standing ovation from the entire crowd. The Pioneers went on to win 4-0, with the team on a three-game winning streak heading into the last ten days of the regular season. The team is now ranked number 2 statewide in Class 2. But that wasn’t important on Thursday.
“This is what high school sports are all about. As a coach, I felt it was my responsibility to give this young lady, who is like a daughter to me, one last chance to take the field with her teammates. At the end of the day, it’s not about winning or losing, it’s about the positive impact coaches make on their players lives,” Turner added.
“She was out on that field less than a minute but LOVED every second of it,” wrote Tricia Lay, Kylie’s mom. “We are so blessed to have a coach that cares about his team as much as Patrick Turner and his staff. My daughter will NEVER forget this moment and I am forever grateful to Patrick for providing this special time in her life.”
“I will never be able to explain how thankful I am to you knowing I got to start my senior night, and hearing my name being called out on the starters list when I never thought that would happen again,” Johns said in thanking her coaches and the Borgia staff. “Thank you for turning my senior year/season into something great even when something this bad has happened.”