Columbus soccer coach Rusty Oliver and defender Ivey Burbrink have been a leading tandem for the Lady Blue Devils for four years.
Their final two together, Burbrink's junior and senior seasons, both resulted in runner-up finishes in the state soccer playoffs. Talk to either person, and they credit the other for the team's success. In reality, it was a great combination of the two.
For their accomplishments in 2013, they are the Ledger-Enquirer All-Bi-City Girls Soccer Coach and Player of the year.
For the boys award, they go to Hardaway keeper David Scott and Pacelli coach Mike Dempsey.
Repeat of success
After coming so close to a state
championship last season, Burbrink said she knew it would be tough to repeat the feat this season. The team had lost some key players and retained only two seniors for the 2013 season.
She and Oliver had the same mindset about what it would take.
"It's the work and the determination," Burbrink said. "We knew we had the skills and we knew what it was going to take after last year."
Oliver also knew it would take someone special on the field to direct the players when he couldn't. Luckily, Oliver said, Burbrink was ready to step up.
"She was a great leader for us all season," he said. "I can't always make the decisions for the team during the game. Decisions happen on the field, and she was ready to lead everyone from day one. We wouldn't have done what we did without her."
The team's success was largely contingent on its ability to bond, as well, Burbrink said. There was a team cookout to begin the season and an ice cream party instead of practice later in the year, among other things. She knows she played a part in helping the team come together, but she credited Oliver for being willing to recognize that on-field practice wasn't all the team needed.
"He's had such an impact," Burbrink said. "Like the ice cream. When you first start at Columbus, he's very intimidating. But he really does have the best interests of the girls at heart. Everything he does -- it's hard, and he coaches hard, but he just has high standards for everyone."
Those standards from Oliver are clear.
"I told them the state championship was a reachable goal," he said. "It wouldn't be easy, we had the toughest region in the state, but that was what we were shooting for from Day 1."
Boys soccer coach,player of the year
Neither Scott nor Dempsey accomplished the ultimate goal for their teams in 2013, but only one team in each classification is able to do that.
Along the way, both achieved a host of successes.
Scott was dominant in goal for the Hawks, recording 140 saves in 17 games, including three on penalty kicks. He also has a big leg that led to offensive opportunities at the other end for Hardaway.
Perhaps his biggest role, like Burbrink, was to be the coach on the field.
"It was important that me and Coach (Rick Iden) were on the same page so nobody gets confused," Scott said. "I helped everyone make sure they were in the right spot and tried to give directions in terms people would understand."
Other than that?
"I just put the ball out there and let the guys go get it," he said. "I just trusted them."
Scott said the leadership was a natural thing, but that he continued to improve throughout the season. That often came in the toughest of times, on difficult conditioning days when no one was having fun.
"That's when the team comes together," he said. "The easy days, you forget.
"Those tough days are the ones I'll really miss the most."
Similarly, Dempsey said one of the most important facets of his coaching this year was to allow his seniors plenty of control over the team.
The team was loaded with them, and he said the best thing was to let them do what they knew how to do.
"It's great knowing that we have guys that can do that on the field," Dempsey said of his seniors.
"If coaching isn't coming from on the field, then we'll fall apart."
The team rolled to a 15-3-1 record, making the season a success despite a first-round playoff exit.
"We wanted to do more, but you can't take anything away from these guys," Dempsey said.
"It was a great year."
David Mitchell, 706-571-8571; Follow David on Twitter @leprepsports.