The Staples soccer community was stunned by this afternoon’s death of Preston Hirten.
The hard-working, ultra-competitive midfielder — one of the sparkplugs of Staples’ 2006 FCIAC championship, state finalist team — collapsed during a training session at the University of Mary Washington. CPR was immediately administered, but efforts to revive him failed. Further details were not available this evening.
Preston was a special player, on a special team. I know, because for 2 years I was his coach.
Preston epitomized Staples soccer. He was not the biggest player on the field — but he did not have to be. He had speed, skill and talent — lots of all 3.
Above all, though, he had determination. Preston loved playing soccer, and he loved playing it with his friends. Whether it was 3-v-3 training, a championship match or — most recently — our summer “Watermelon Cup” league, Preston never gave less than his best. In doing so, he lifted the quality of play of everyone around him. You could not give less than your best with Preston around. And in the process, you had plenty of fun.
The 2006 Staples team is legendary for many reasons. Their road to the state finals included 2 incredible penalty kick games — each of which went to more than 8 shots each. The final was equally memorable: a golden-goal 2-1 loss.
But the team endured much more off the field. Several fathers died during and immediately following the season.
What happened that year could have diverted them, or caused them to lose focus. Instead tragedy united them, made them stronger. They set a standard of soccer, competitiveness, camaraderie and humanity that is their legacy.
Today’s news is the cruelest blow of all — and the most difficult test for them. But I know the soccer community will rally around them — and around Preston’s parents and his sisters — now, and in the days, weeks and months to come.
The 2006 Staples soccer team has been unfathomably diminished. But they still have each other. And — thanks to the bonds that Preston Hirten helped forge — they always will.