Elimination games are different. If we lose today, in our semi-final tilt vs Richmond, the season is over. That’s it. And as every veteran player and coach knows, soccer can be cruel. You can dominate possession and lose. You can outshoot your opponent 20-1 and lose. You can spend the entire game in their half and lose. When it comes to heartbreaking losses despite outplaying your opponent, there is nothing in the world quite like soccer.
That’s why I’m so proud of the businesslike way the girls approached this game. They’re on time, they’re focused, and they warm up well. They may even be a little nervous – did they really just forget the “Whose House? Our House?” part of the cheer? – but that’s a good thing. Some good old-fashioned nerves are a good thing. Means you’re alive.
And it all pays off in a near-flawless 40 minutes of dominating soccer. Avah, Valerie and Vivianne are stellar at the back, confidently cutting out counterattacks before they can start. Maddie comes way off her line to kick a couple long through balls out of trouble. All four defensive mids – Keshia, Sofia, Gabriela and especially Alexa – play well positionally and win the majority of the 50/50 balls. Jade and Jana are their disruptive selves. Natalia – The Maestro – directs the offence, and Camryn is a force on the left side. The Red & White Machine is a-hummin’.
And it’s too much for the Raiders. Right from the opening whistle we are the faster and stronger and hungrier team, and we immediately rip the game out of Richmond’s hands. Natalia converts on a direct kick, Carolyn pounces on a loose ball during a scramble in the box, Nat finishes in close, and all of a sudden it’s 3-0. When Natalia converts a penalty shot just before halftime to complete her hat trick and make it 4-0, the game is for all intents and purposes over. Your Spartans have booked their ticket to the final. At home. Wednesday. For the ETIAC playoff championship trophy.
Only one team gets to win the last game of the year. Only one team gets to walk off the soccer field with the playoff trophy held high. Only one team will hang around afterwards hugging (their teammates) & mugging (for photos).
We started way back in September, and now we have a chance at the storybook ending. In OUR HOUSE. In front of OUR friends and family. We’ve earned this chance. The brass ring is right there. Let’s go take it.