Coffee is the lifeblood that fuels the dreams of champions.
Okay, I’ve been busy. I know I’ve said that before, but this time I really mean it. Since I last posted, I’ve been to approximately 629 soccer games. No, really. I swear. April and May for me is like Tax Season for my parents. Long days of watching some good and some absolutely terrible soccer games. Now I know you’re are sitting there all judgmental, thinking “is she seriously complaining about sitting around and watching soccer all day?” And my rebuttal is “Dude! It is harder than you think!” Especially when some of the games are just that bad. I have to go to all these games because it is State Cup, and I am my club’s director of goalkeeping; so, from U11 through U18, I observe and help and give advice and admonish. But mostly I just sit and watch in the sun and rain and hope the goalkeepers don’t screw up, because it’s a lot of pressure being a goalkeeper in April and May in Oregon. One stumble or slip of the glove could cost your team the chance at a state title.
By the end of the weekends, my eyes are blurry, my knees hurt from the constant sitting and standing and pacing, and it’s probably not safe for me to drive home. (just kidding mom!) But it’s very much worth it to me, because I do love doing this and it’s great to see these kids having so much fun while achieving so much.
[On that note, let me tell you a little bit about this last weekend. Saturday is the culmination of the soccer year in Oregon: it's the day the State Cup finals are contested. All during the month of April, kids across Oregon (well, mostly up and down the west side of Oregon) have been competing in round robin, quarterfinal and semifinal games to make it to finals day. It's always the day before Mother's Day and it's what every classic soccer team works toward all year long. Shockingly enough, once Saturday is over the new soccer year starts on Sunday (yes, always on Mother's Day) with tryouts. So yeah. The kids who were state champions on Saturday had to tryout on Sunday to make the team again. Overnight, just like that, the calendar clicked over and the kids who were U12 soccer players on Saturday became U13s on Sunday. It's kind of a brutal process, and for me the weekend started mid-Saturday morning for our club's first final, and ended last night at about 9:30 when I finally got home from tryouts. I was practically mainlining vanilla lattes throughout the weekend.]
On Saturday my club had four teams competing for a State Cup Championship. We have always been a powerhouse girls program, and have been building up the boys program steadily over the years. Our U13 and U16 boys made it to the semifinals and quarterfinals, respectively, but lost and didn’t advance to the championship. (Coincidentally, the goalkeepers for both teams suffered freakishly similar head injuries prior to state cup and were not fit to play during their teams’ entire run) Out of five girls teams in the semifinals, we had four make it to the big day. Our U18 team kicked off first at noon; they played an extraordinarily talented team that typically beats them, but on this day, our girls prevailed with a 1-0 win; it wasn’t a pretty match to watch, but when you go a goal up against a team you probably should be losing to, it doesn’t really matter how you win, just that you win. Second to kick-off were our youngest team, the U12 girls; this is a team that is very dominant, and they proved just that by cruising to a 2-0 win. So far, so good, we have two state championships. Kicking off shortly after the U12s were our U17s; the goalkeepers in this side are ridiculously awesome and they were facing their nemesis who they have duled back and forth with over the years for the championship. This year’s edition could not have been more heartbreaking: after 90 minutes of scoreless action, the good guys score in the first 2 minutes of OT; however, there are still another 28 minutes of OT to play. The other team managed to score 2 in that time and we lost. Absolutely crushing.
Last up for our club was my U13 team. We were supposed to kick off at 3pm on the same field our U17s were on when they were done playing, but with the OTs we were moved to a different field and didn’t kick off until 4pm. This age plays 35 minutes halves and after 70 minutes of action we were still tied; the girls were so freaking nervous and they didn’t fully overcome that until they’d played about 60 minutes. So into OT we go; because we are younger, we only play 20 minutes and despite having an opportunity to win it from 4 yards out, our player shot the ball over the crossbar and we were doomed to determine the game with a penalty shoot-out – 5 rounds of alternating shots at the opposing keepers from 12 yards out. Our first shooter stepped up and drilled a shot low and to the left; the other team’s keeper stretched quickly and was able to make a great save. Their first shooter drilled her shot right inside the post. 1-0 Them. Our second shooter made it interesting and hit her shot just under the crossbar–the ball bounced down and we all held our breath to see if it would bounce up and out or up and in. It went up and in. Whew. Their second shooter slotted her shot low, just past the fingers of our keeper. 2-1 Them. Third round starts and our girl hammers her shot past the keeper who had no chance to save; their shooter goes low and this time our keeper got a good jump and made the save! 2-2 TIED UP. Unbelievably, our fourth shooter replicates the second and makes us all hold our breath as her shot rifles off the underside of the crossbar and … over the line. HOLY CRAP. They’re up and shooting for the other team is a girl who used to play for our team; she goes high toward the corner and our GIANT of a keeper gets a finger or three to the ball and deflects it off the crossbar and out of the goal. 3-2 to our girls. Our fifth shooter steps up to set the ball. If she makes it, the championship is ours! She takes a deep breath, steps back from the ball and … well, I’ll just let the pictures tell the story:
And the coup de gras:
So there it is. After all this transpired, we were given medals and crowned U13 champions. Then we had a pretty kick-ass pizza party that went long into the night. Might’ve been a tiny mistake letting it go that long, considering there were tryouts the next day and the girls were pretty wiped out by 9. It took a venti quad latte just to get me to the field the next morning at 7:30 for tryouts. We head to beautiful Lancaster, Calif. (blech!) next month to compete in the Regional Championships, but I’ll try to continue to post in the mean time.