Texas gathered at center field Sunday for a group huddle and team photo. All smiles and celebration after a second-straight victory at Mike A. Myers Stadium.
Around them, staff members slid four large blue bins into place like markers for an impromptu drill. No one on the team knew what was about to happen.
“They told us after the game, ‘Go get something out of the bins,’” junior midfielder Kayra Dollas said. “And so everyone after the huddle ran to the bins.”
The team broke out in all directions. The lids came off.
In an instant, a flurry of water balloons filled center field, offering cool relief from the afternoon sun. Screams of surprise and disbelief rose from the stadium as half a dozen players ran for cover. Others members grabbed balloons of their own and joined the fight. No one was safe, coaches included.
“I was standing, and (Angela) was actually ducking underneath me,” Dollas said.
After the fight, the bright remnants littered the pitch like confetti. The balloons marked a celebration — not of victory, but of teamwork.
“I think they were really proud of us and they wanted us to have a little fun and celebrate, even though it was kind of cruel,” freshman forward Emily Strouphauer said. “But we enjoyed it a lot.”
A family birthday pulled Strouphauer away from the scrum, but she said, “If I were in that pack, I probably would be been throwing them at my teammates.”
Kelly said the unusual post-game activities provide an extra spark to the team. She acknowledged the grind of a college season — especially for Texas’ freshman — and the need to keep things light. And in a schedule which revolves around six days a week of soccer, any chance to let loose is a welcome one.
“The players — they’re so young, and have a heightened sense of awareness, and everything is new,” Kelly said. “It’s real, they’re here. So we always try to find ways to take off the load a little bit. Because ultimately they are playing this game because they’ve loved it their whole lives, and we don’t want them to miss opportunities to be able to take a deep breath and find the joy in it as well.”