Dan's Blog - Updated 11/18/2012 at 12:00am
Saturday, November 17th, 2012
National Championship v UC Santa Barbara
Let's be honest, coming into this game having lost to Texas who UCSB just beat and knowing that UCSB had won the last five national championships I was more than a little nervous about our chances. But, in the first five minutes this amazing group of girls had me settled down. They played brilliantly! We took the game right to UCSB and created two great chance very early. We were very unlucky not to score as a ball crossed into the back post found Keely Chandler who was very unlucky not to put us up 1-0 as the UCSB goalkeeper had one of those "look what I found moments". Credit to her for getting acrosss the goal and being in the righ place at the right time though. The rebound fell to Spartan who hit a defender with her chance and the ball was cleared. We played most of the first half in the UCSB half but they had some dangerous counter attacks and created some good chances of their own.
We went into the half tied 0-0 but we had gained a ton of confidence. The girls were loose and confident and it was a shame that the break lasted 15 minutes. We came out strong though and kept the momentum in our favor. We won a corner kick about six or eight minutes in and with the success we have had with our corners this week everyone was on the edge of their seats. Another great ball in from Keely Chandler found Sam Pace climbing the ladder to get a head on it and...1-0 MSU!
At this point, with the way the game had been going I felt pretty confident that one goal would hold up. DUMMY! UCSB showed why they have won five in a row as they completely flipped the game and had us on our heels. We could not regain the momentum and we were hanging on. UCSB had both a very dangerous corner kick and a VERY long throw in and both were causing problems. One such ball was played deep to the back post where a mass of bodies went up after the ball and after a brief scramble...1-1.
After the goal, the game evened out again and the remainder of regulation would be played in the middle of the field. We headed to sudden death OT tied at ones.
During the break we talked to the girls about digging down to find more than they thought they were capable of producing. We also talked about how the girls that were being given the privilege to play all of these minutes needed to be able to look all of the other girls in the eye and say "I gave you everything I had today" when they walked off the field, win or lose.
UCSB won the toss and kicked off. They got deep into our end only to be stymied by our defense once again. UCSB had the better of the first five minutes, again showing their National Championship heart. As OT wore on though, things again settled down and both teams created a few half chances here and there. We approached the mid way point still knotted at ones. We strung together a few passes and suddenly the ball was on the foot of Region III Tournament MVP Maddie Lucci who beat one defender with her first touch and another with her second and third touch and then...the keeper with her last! 2-1 MSU!
Unbelievable moment! I won't cheapen it with my words.
We had four players named to the All Tournament Team; Seniors Meghan Gorsuch, Katie Clarkin, Samantha Pace and Tracy Rymph. Goalkeeper Courtney Levy was named Most Outstanding Goalkeeper and Freshman Maddie Lucci was named Tournament MVP for netting the game winner.
Our midfield group went largely unmentioned here but they were outstanding this week. Junior Taylor Parker dominated every game at defensive center mid while senior Keely Chandler, juniors Morgan Haffey and Lauren Lokey and sophomore Michelle Mirasol worked their butts off to support both our back line and our forwards. Sophomore Sarah Dejonge and freshman Meg Galea also went unmentioned this week but they gave us great games as our starting outside backs and junior Taylor Pyden toughed it out through an excruciatingly painful hip problem that limited her time in the final few games to help us even have a chance at getting to the semi final game.
Finally, the championship was made even sweeter by having another alumn join us today and speak to the team before the semi-final. Laura Woldyk who played four years with us and helped to build the program to what it is today lives in Nasville now and made the trip over to watch the girls. To have a representative of such an important part of our clubs history witness our first National Championship was very special. It is important for our current players to understand why they have these opportunities and be able to put a face to the players that have allowed them to become the best team in the nation today.
Thanks to one of our founding players we also found out that this year was our 15th year as a club. Let's hope it doesn't take another 15 years to get our second.
To all of our MSUWCS alumni and coach Jim Flore...Today YOU are a National Champion! Thank yoou for helping to make this happen.
National Semi-Final v Virginia
Details from this game are going to be a bit hazy since so much time has past, it's been a loooong week and as you probably know, big things happened! I am also writing from the bus and the Taylor Swift song blasting in my ear may throw me off just a bit.
Anyways, we went in to the game knowing that we had to rest our starters and that we were going to need big minutes from the girls who had not played much throughout the other games. At the same time, the other semi final pitted Texas against UCSB which was going to be a battle. UCSB has won the last five titles and Texas has been runner up three of the last four years.
We got off to the quick started we wanted when, three minutes in Tracy Rymph got loose in the corner and drove a ball to the back post about 12 yards out. Keely Chandler brought the ball in and fired a shot back across the goal where Sam Pace ran on and tapped it in...1-0 MSU!
After some subbing, first year senior Laura "Africa" Mahr found herself in corner with the ball. She was able to get a cross off that found senior Olivia Kobayashi even with the near post about 12 yards from goal again. Olivia, off balance took a great touch to gather the ball in and with her second touch hammered the ball past a diving Virginia goalkeeper...2-0 MSU!
We began subbing heavily and got some much needed rest for some weary players. Now, we had used much of our bench this week but some players have only played a couple of minutes here and there. We have always prided ourselves on haviing a deep team and players that were always ready to get in when called on and provide the team with strong minutes but doing it in the National Semi-Finals is a whole different animal. Today though, with a dangerous 2-0 lead we had to get strong minutes from these girls in order to have a chance in the final. 2-0 is a precarious lead as one goal by the other team gives them a lot of momentum and only a slim cushion for the team in the lead. We subbed all 10 field players though and took a 2-0 lead into half time with our starters able to rest much of the half. Freshman Emmalee Skorich and senior Katie Saxe anchored our back line at center back. Junior Katie Barry and sophomore Blair Wolski held down the outside back positions. Freshman Katie Peterson moved into the midfield rotation with the main playing group while Africa, sophomore Mackenzie Fleischer, senior Olivia Kobayashi and senior Kelsey Hopper rotated through our three forward positions. These girls had kept themselves focused and ready and came up huge for us.
At the break we talked about finishing off Virginia with an early goal and putting the game away. We got just that when Tracy Rymph beat a player at the top of the box and just about decapitated the Virginia goalkeeper with a screamer just over her head...3-0 MSU. As we began subbing again immediately after the third goal, Tracy found Sam on the far post again where Sam calmly touched it in...4-0 MSU! The girls mentioned above finished the game off and kept our shutout and ruined any hopes Virginia had of mounting a comeback. Most of our starters were able to rest almost 30 minutes in the second half with the rest of the girls playing great soccer in their place. I just can't put into words how important this group was in our success this weekend.
With Texas and UCSB still locked in a 0-0 battle we headed back to the hotel to get lunch and ice baths, get checked out of the hotel and then right back to the field.
Friday, November 16th, 2012
Elite 8 Game v Colorado
Wow, long day. The girls are exhausted as are the coaches. After a very tight and physically and mentally exhausting game against Cal Poly we needed to get the girls fed and prepared for another quick turn around to take on Colorado at 4pm. We came back to the hotel where the girls had lunch and took ice baths to help rejuvenate the legs.
Back at the field we had a pretty lack luster warm up so Smurf and I were concerned that maybe the mental exhaustion was going to take its toll. As the game kicked off, Colorado was taking the game to us. We looked tired and tense at the same time and Colorado looked fresh. The girls responded pretty quickly and evened out the game after about 10 minutes. Interestingly enough though, as the game evened out a great individual effort by on of Colorado's better players while one of our captains, senior centerback Katie Clarkin was off the field after rolling her ankle pretty severely, put CU ahead 0-1.
I can't speak enough about the heart and resiliency of these girls. I mentioned jr. centerback Taylor Pyden earlier who played sparingly in this game as we are trying to protect her as much as possible. Sr. Kelsey Hopper was back on the field with six staples in her head and a nice green turban. Katie Clarkin has possibly been playing with broken ribs for a couple of games, goalkeeper Courtney Levy is playing with a sprained thumb, two sore knees and has been kicked or run over about six times so far this week. Many of the girls are banged up, but they continue to play hard and they don't complain. If you haven't ever been to a collegiate club sporting event, you really should go. These kids are not playing for scholarships, they are paying to play. They don't get tutors or other academic support, they tutor each other and form their own study groups. They organize trips for 30 to Arizona and Memphis. And they do it because they truly love the game and their teammates. It is really quite amazing to be a part of and to be able to sit back and watch from the front row.
Anyways, showing their heart, the girls got the ball out of the back of the net and prepared for the kick off. With the whistle, they were off! Attacking with tremendous speed and aggression we got the ball into the final third where I believe sr. Tracy Rymph ripped a shot that the CU goalkeeper could not handle and she spilled it in front of her net. There was a scramble in front of the net, but sr. Keely Chandler was able to poke the ball into the net. (In all honesty, I think this is how it happened but its been a long day.) About 20 seconds after CU had gone up 0-1, the game was now tied 1-1. The score would remain the same into the half and late into the second.
With about 15 minutes to go we could tell CU was exhausted. We were pushing the girls to dig deep and take advantage of their tired legs. We won a corner and there was another collision. Unfortunately this one was bad. A CU defender was down and had to be taken away in an ambulance. The stoppage came with 14 minutes to go and forced our game to a new field. After about 30 minutes of stoppage time we were playing again but we had lost all of our momentum. When play restarted, we looked to be the tired team and CU looked to be the fresher group. CU really took it to us for most of the final minutes but our defense and our goalkeeper were up to the challenge. Regulation ended with a 1-1 tie.
Next up was 15 minutes of sudden death overtime! Just what we wanted after 4 grueling games in two days...extra soccer! The girls responded to the challenge and really tipped the game in our favor again right from the start. About 6 minutes in, we were awarded another corner. With the success we have been having on our corners you could feel the girls perk up a little...Keely drove the ball ino the near post again, Tracy Rymph made her run from the keeper, beat her to the ball and flicked it towards goal.
The girls erupted as the players on the bench rushed the field to celebrate only our second Elite 8 victory in the past 8 years! What a scene! After having been on the other end of this game many times, it was great to see our girls be the ones celebrating, but I could still feel the pain of CU as their season came to an end.
Tomorrow morning we will face Virginia in the National Semi Finals at 10am. Looking forward to having one of our alumn's, Laura Woldyk at the game!
Sweet 16 Game v Cal Poly
Cal Poly came into the tournament not only as one of the three favorites to win (Texas and 8 time running national champion UCSB) but also as thee team that ended our season last year in the quarter finals. Scouting reports had them as being just as fast and aggressive as Texas with a better back line and goalkeeping. They also cruised through their first two games so they were probably a little better rested then us.
The early stages of the game saw both teams paying very high quality soccer and you could feel the importance of this one right from the start. Neither team really gained an advantage through the first 10 minutes or so but I think it helped us mentally in that we saw we could play with them. We also saw that our experience against Texas was well worth it as Cal Poly attacked much in the same manner.
At about the 15 minute mark Cal was awarded a corner and we were slow to react to their play. They played a ball back about 25 yards and the girl just ripped one under the cross bar...0-1 Cal Poly.
The girls kept their heads up as they knew they had just gifted them a goal. We both created a few half chances during the final 20 minutes but really nothing of note came from any of it.
At the half I asked the girls what they thought and the first comments were "They're beatable!" and"We're just as good!". Exactly how I hoped it would go. The girls were confident and knew what needed to be done in the second half.
We came out flying and really started to take the game to Cal Poly. Details get sketchy here for me as Smurf and I were really working the sideline but...We won a corner somewhere in the 5-10 minute range. Our corners have been very dangerous this week since the girls have bought into Smurf's new plan. We are creating a great scoring chance on just bout 1 out of every 2 corners. Keely got us started and the girls were into their runs. Keeley drove the ball into and Katie Clarkin just ATTACKS this thing and smashes it into the back of the net...1-1!
We grabbed the momentum and really put Cal Poly on their heels. Unfortunately though there was a big collision as Senior Kelsey Hopper challenged for a ball in the air. Both players went head to head and the game was stopped for 5 minutes as we attended to two players with gashes in their heads. Luckily, both girls walked off but both went for treatment. Although Kelsey stayed at the field and wanted to be stitched up on the sideline so she could get back in! She received 6 staples and is good to go for the quarter finals.
I gathered the girls and made sure they understood the importance of grabbing the momentum as we re-started the game since we had them on their heels. The girls pounced right from the kick and got the momentum back that we had gained from the last goal. With about 7 minutes to go a ball through found Freshman Maddie Lucci pressuring their center back as she tried to shield the ball back for their keeper. Maddies pressure kept their goalie on her line for a bit too long and then they made a mess of things. Senior Forward Sam Pace came flying in to clean up the mess and poked the ball towards goal and some how almost stopped time. This thing took so long to near the goal as one of the Cal Poly girls raced to clear it off the line...but she couldn't get there...2-1 MSU!
The final 12 minutes were brutal. Our girls were defending as if their actual lives depended on it, not just their tournament lives. Goalkeeper Courtney Levy came up with a couple of huge saves to preserve the win. Our defense played outstanding today after giving up three goals to a very similar attacking team in Texas yesterday.
A quick spotlight on Junior Centerback Taylor Pyden who is playing despite a very bad back/hip problem. This girl is sucking it up and playing a very high level of soccer in pretty intense pain. She played all but 10 minutes today and was very strong alongside her partner Katie Clarkin.
Our reserve players continue to impress me with their positive attitudes and support of their teammates. They may not be getting the time the want but their heart and support as been tremendous.
Up next is long time national power Colorado who beat Texas A&M in a shootout this morning. We play in the "Elite 8" at 4pm cst. This is our second straight trip to this round of the tournament and we will be looking for our second ever trip to the National Semi Finals.
Thank you for all of the support!
Thursday, November 15th, 2012
Game #2 - Texas "A"
After a quick rest, the girls turned around to play Texas tonight at 8:15pm. By the way, we are on central time, an hour behind Michigan...stop texting me at half time looking for results...I'm workin' here!
Anyways, it should be noted that Texas beat SDSU 7-1 this morning, the most lopsided result I have seen at Nationals in my 8 years. So, we knew we were in for a fight this evening. The girls came out strong though and immediately took the game to Texas. Some good, complimentary runs from two of our forwards found Tracy Rymph running into the corner after a ball played in deep from super senior (5th year grad student) outside back Meghan Gorsuch. Tracy won us a corner and it was time for our new corner kick play designed by Asst. Coach Smurf (Lauren Sinacola). Senior midfielder Keely Chandler stepped up to take the kick, the girls got into their runs, Keely drove the ball into the near post, Tracy comes from her spot in the keepers shorts and flicks a header towards goal...1-0 MSU! At which point Smurf needed a hug as her play worked to perfection so I obliged (rare moment folks).
BUT, Texas answered about 20 seconds later...seriously...1-1.
Texas was absolutely outstanding and is probably favored to win the whole thing from what I saw today. Fast, aggressive, skillful and very hardworking. Everything we heard about them was accurate and they are a scary team to play...fun to watch, but scary to coach against. However, while we had quite a few scares and Texas dominated much of the half, we entered the break tied 1-1.
We made some much needed adjustments, and got everyone on the same page and started the second half very well. We carried the run of play for the first 10-15 minutes and were really starting to gain some momentum. Unfortunately, Texas created a good counter attacking opportunity off our our attacking pressure and a perfectly placed ball into a perfectly timed run put Texas ahead 2-1.
The game remained tied for another 10 minutes or so but as we began to take some chances going forward Texas was awarded a corner and after a brief scramble they were able to poke the ball in for a 3-1 advantage. The girls battled and created a few chances but could not break through. The game ended 3-1. Texas wins the group and will play Georgia in the round of 16 while we will face Cal Poly at 10am. Cal Poly knocked us out last year in the quarter finals. We hear they are much improved over last year and they play just like Texas...today could have been a good "practice" for us...we'll see.
Finally, since I don't get the chance to talk about our defender or our goalkeepers much, two plays...well, three really stand out from this game. First, a great through ball put their speediest forward in on a break-a-way about 3-4 minutes before half. Goalkeeper Courtney Levy came out well, stood her ground and when the forward placed a perfect ball towards the back post, Courtney sprawled and got a hand to push it wide and slow it down. She then scrambled to her feet and beat their forward to the loose ball where she could secure it.
Late in the second half after we pushed a player forward and went to three in the back, another ball played behind our backs created another great chance for their speedy forward. This time she was able to get the ball by our goalkeeper on the dribble. As she gathers the ball and pushes it towards a wide open net, OUT OF NOWHERE comes senior centerback Katie Clarkin who slides and clears the ball off of the goal line and slams into the post. Unfortunately, she clears it right back to the forward who shoots again. BUT Katie, still on her butt and still in the goal makes ANOTHER save with the tip of her toe! Absolutely unbelievable! Showed the true "Heart of Spartan" (shameless plug for the new book by Jack Ebling and published by all around great guy and former Holt Ram standout Cam Gnass...pick it up at your local Meijer...makes a great gift for the Spartan fan on your list.)
After a long bus ride to Memphis we were fortunate to have the later games today. The girls got some much needed rest before getting up for a team run and a late breakfast.
Our first game of the day kicked off at 3pm against San Diego State University under beautiful, sunny skies. Unfortunately our play wasn't quite as bright. We looked very tense and nervous. SDSU had played this morning so they had a chance to get the nerves out and relax a bit. They possessed on us very well while we struggled to connect passes. Fortunately they could not get behind our very stout defense and they were unable to get an early goal on us.
As we began to find our legs and relax a bit, we started stringing together some passes. We were able to combine a couple of passes and find freshman (and regional tournament MVP) Maddie Lucci running behind the defense. The SDSU goalie came charging out of her box only to be beaten to the ball by Maddie who poked it through her legs....1-0 MSU!
The girls really settled in and take the game over during the next 0 minutes and limit SDSU's possession and chances. They created a few half chances but senior goalkeeper Courtney Levy was up to the challenge and we went into the half up 1-0 with several near misses that could have, and really should have opened up the game.
At the half we talked about committing to defending more as a team, adjusting to their use of the flanks and becoming more dynamic in our attack. The girls made the proper adjustments and came out strong and took the game over. Once again we created several strong chances but just could not find the back of the net. With about 15 minutes to go however a great ball in to senior forward Tracy Rymph found her making a diagonal run out wide dragging one SDSU defender with her. Tracy, a great 1v1 dribbler took on their defender and easily beat her near the goal line and dribbled straight in at the near post and goalkeeper. This was her second such attack in this position with the first effort ending in a pass just wide of the far post that we couldn't connect on. This time, Tracy hammered the ball at the far post and left no doubt about her intentions...2-0 MSU!
Our commitment to better team defending, lead by a strong group of backs made all the difference, and the result was never in doubt. Next up, Texas at 8:15pm. Texas beat SDSU earlier in the day so we are playing for the top spot in our group as both teams will make it into the knock out stage of the championship bracket. SDSU falls into the consolation bracket at 0-2. Texas looks to have a pretty dominate attacking group so our stingy defense will lead the way for us tonight in what should be a pretty interesting game to see.
Saturday, November 19, 2011
A Little Perspective
Thanks to some great status updates on Facebook I think we can put this season into perspective and while the finish was certainly disappointing, the run was something pretty special.
15-1-1 final record
W-MASC North Division Champions
W-MASC Regional Tournament Champions
NIRSA Region III Power Ranking Champions
NIRSA National Soccer Championships Elite 8
56 Goals For and only 10 Goals Against
We only trailed once in a game all season (the final game)
3 Players named to the All Regional Team
All Regional Team MVP
All of this on the heals of a disappointing season last year in which we did not reach any of our goals.
It has been difficult in the game recaps to mention everyone so I limited much of it to the goal scorers and assists. However, you don’t make it this far with out a great team and a lot of depth. As you can see from our .59 goals against average we must also have a very solid defense and strong goalkeeping. Anchored by junior center back Katie Clarkin who rarely came off of the field all season, this unit kept us in a lot of games until we could find our rhythm and score some goals. Along side Clarkin was junior center back Katie Saxe who provided us with great ball winning and a physical presence that let the other team know they were in for a long day. We moved Katie Barry around between outside back and center back several times and she was strong in both capacities for us. Her flexibility provided us a lot of options tactically. Other than senior Hallie Fournier, our outsides backs are very young, freshman Kristi Myers, Sara DeJonge and sophomores Celine Stallmer and Morgan Mayer provided us with strong defensive options and attacking threats out of the back. Take away this tournament that brought together the nations best and we came in giving up .38 goals per game!
Clearly we also had strong goalkeepers backing up our defense. Junior Molly DeMarr and mid season addition junior Katherine Jansen (KJ) were not called on often with such a strong defense in front of them but to their credit they stayed focused and sharp and when called on, came up with a lot of big saves! Defenses cannot play well if they are worried about making a mistake or letting someone get a shot off and with our goalkeepers often only having to make 2-3 saves in a game that says a lot about how our backs felt about our goalkeepers.
As I said, you don’t create the list of accomplishments above with out a roster filled with special, selfless individuals from top to bottom. This was a special year this year, created by a special group. While everyone desperately wanted to be on the field competing along side their teammates I heard no complaints about playing time. Reserve players supported their teammates, were ready on a moments notice and provided us with a lot of great minutes that helped get us as far as we did just as much as the minutes played by the starters.
This will be a group I talk about for many, many years!
Friday, November 18th 2011
Elite 8 Game v Cal Poly
We lost a tough one tonight and our season comes to an end. Caly Poly was very fast with a high speed of play and I did not put the girls in a good position to compete by starting in a 3-5-2. We went down 1-0 and were clearly flustered by our first deficit of the season. Cal Poly smelled blood and applied pressure which earned them a second goal. We switched to a 4-4-2 and competed well for the last 60 minutes but were unable to overcome my blunder. The girls fought hard through all of it and I couldn’t be more proud of their resiliency, heart and character which were all on display tonight.
We say good bye to an amazing group of seniors who have done so much more this program. Meghan Gorsuch, Hallie Fournier, Rachel Stevens, Mae LaFave, Katelin Hillier Kelley Karl and Lauren Sinacola have taught me a lot about myself as a person and a coach. They have provided excellent leadership and set great examples with their commitment, passion and desire. Thank youto all of them for what they have done for me and this program whether it was for one year or four. You leave this program having helped to raise an already high standard, thank you.
A quick hello to Katie Clear Sacasa who I saw was following our facebook page today. I have never met Katie unfortunately but she is one of the co-founders of the MSU Women’s Club team…thank you for getting all of this started!
Sweet 16 Match v Marquette
Not much of a recap here folks. It was clear from the beginning that we were the stronger team as we jumped out to a 1-0 lead in the first minute. Smurf took on a player at the top of the box, did what Smurf does and drove a shot back across the grain to the far post to open the scoring. I don’t think Marquette crossed half in the first 20minutes with possession of the ball as we finally started a game like we have been starting second halves. At about the 20 minute mark a great ball into the corner found Hallie Fournier running onto it. She drove a great ball into Smurf who put a glancing header off of the far post and in for the 2-0 lead!
We coasted through the rest of the half with out much danger and took a 2-0 lead into half time. As all soccer coaches do, we talked about 2-0 being the most dangerous lead in soccer. The other team would be talking about how one goal would get them back in it and change the momentum of the game. We also talked about two comebacks we had watched in 2-0 games this week already when we saw Washington St. Louis come back to beat Arizona yesterday after being down 2-0 at the half and UCLA took Penn State into a shoot out right before our game today after being down 2-0 at the half.
The girls came out the same way they started the game though and we were in full control. About 16 minutes in a great ball from freshman forward Mackenzie Fleischer again put Hallie Fournier in behind the defense but this time she wasn’t looking for any help as she drove to the goal and calmly slotted the ball to the far post side netting for the 3-0 lead! Hallie does a lot of thankless work as an outside mid so it was great to see her get this one after making another 60 yard run.
To Marquette’s credit, they never quit. We were faster, more physical, much deeper and more tactically astute but they battled and made us work. Our strong depth paid off again though as we were able to give everyone good minutes but also keep everyone as fresh as possible. In a tournament like this with the potential for six games in three days if we reach the final our depth will be a huge asset to us. One player of note from this game is junior Kelsey Hopper who has been a great utility player for us during her career. An extremely intelligent player that has played as a forward, center mid and outside mid at different times has been asked to play in different places in he last three games. She has stepped up and provided some very strong play throughout the past three games. First year sophomore Katie Barry has also been asked to play in a couple of different positions and gave us a lot of great minutes as a center back in a 3-5-2 this afternoon, one of the most crucial positions on the field.
We are set to face Cal Poly at 6pm tonight in the round of 8. They one their group yesterday by defeating North Carolina and earning a draw against Ohio State. They then beat TCU this afternoon 2-1.
The men’s team lost 2-1 this morning in a tough one in their Sweet 16 match. The ref was over is head and completely lost control of the match. I know the boys won’t use that as an excuse but it was tough to watch a game they had full control of in the first half get out of hand like that. Congratulations on a strong season guys and thanks for all of the support for the girls!
And to my girls…Quit critiquing my typos and grammatical issues, I type with two or three fingers pay me more than my volunteer wage of $0 and I will proof read them! Plus, I’m just a dumb soccer coach, what do you want from me!
Thursday, November 17th 2011
Group Play - Game #2 MSU v Washington St. Louis
Vern and I went up at 3pm and scouted Washington as they played Arizona. We got there and WSL was down 1-0. They looked slow and sluggish and UA carried most of play. UA was up 2-0 at half and then we got scared! WSL came out and scored very early to make it 2-1 and followed up with another within minutes to make it 2-2. They looked much more energetic and dynamic and had some fearless shooters up top who unleashed some very accurate shots with very little space. They got the clincher about 20 minutes in and were able to shut down UA the rest of the way. This meant that our game tonight would decide the group. The winner moves to the bottom half of the bracket and has an easier route simply based on the fact that we will not have to see four time defending champion UCSB until the final. We also get to sleep in as our first game would not be until noon.
As is our habit, we were off to slow start and we were seeing the WSL team that we saw in the second half against UA. We were on our heels and struggling to mount much of an attack or maintain consistent possession. Fortunately, neither were they and they game was a tug of war in the midfield. After about 15 minutes though we settled in and began to find our stride. Part of this may have been due to changing the starting line up a bit as well. Freshman defender Sarah DeJonge was inserted into the back line as Hallie Fournier was moved into Meghan Gorsuch’s role at outside mid. We also changed our forward pairing by starting Keely Chandler at forward as she and Tracy Rymph proved to work very well together in our first match. We also saw much improved play off of our bench which was a crucial part of this game. WSL only carries 16 healthy players and we have 20 here with us so we figured that if we threw our numbers at them, we would have a good chance of wearing them out.
By the end of the first half we were seeing this plan come to fruition. They were exhausted at the end of the half and I even remarked that the half time whistle came at a bad time for us! Not only because the clueless man in yellow (more on him later) shorted us a minute but because we were on the verge…the verge of what, I don’t really now but it was something good!
We spoke at the half about continuing to make them work by being patient in our attack but keeping the ball moving and switching play through the back, making the other team chase. We also decided that since they had not mounted much of an attack that we would switch from our 4-4-2 formation to a much more attack minded 3-5-2 that would allow us to dominate their best player in the central midfield but also free up Smurf to be able to roam and cause problems. At one point one of the girls asked if I moved Smurf to forward and my response was “No, I let Smurf do what Smurf does.” I have learned my lesson and just try to manage the amazing talent that we have and stay out of their way as much as possible!
Our changes worked and we quickly had them tired out again. They were defending with all 11 players deep in their half much of the time but did put together some very strong counter attacks. We were creating some near chances but struggled to find the final movement that would create a strong opportunity. We were really playing well though until…the man in yellow! He made some pretty suspect non calls in their penalty box in the first half but Vern and I kept our mouths shut. However he called Keely Chandler for a foul after she made a very strong tackle, one that could have provided the spark we were looking for.
We have talked a lot this season about seizing the opportunity to raise the team’s standard of play by doing something extraordinary when the moment presents its self. It might be a tackle, or a run, it might be a word to a teammate from the bench and Keely recognized her moment and took it. She made a strong slide tackle from the front and got nothing but ball as their defender attempted to clear it. They hit the ball at the same time and their back went flying. It looked bad but was clean and the man in yellow blew is whistle. I, playing the part of Curious George (one of my favorites growing up…always wanted a monkey…thanks Tom and Chris!) decided to voice my displeasure with his decision and ask what he may be calling since clearly their was no foul. My inquiry was not met with the answer I was hoping for so I again asked, loudly as I was clear on the other side of the field, how he could think it was a foul and in a helping manner told him that maybe he was over his head in this match. This lead to a meeting on our side of the field and I was put in a time out as he told me that I could not move from the area between my chair and the end of the bench. He continued to be awful, I continued to be inquisitive…from my chair, and we went on with our game.
We hit a little lull after this rules committee meeting (the ref actually said to me “I clearly need a lot of help, but you are not giving it to me.”…I said “I’m trying but your not accepting my help!” we are to be married in the spring) and for that I apologized to the girls. Clearly my actions affected our momentum and it caused us a few minutes of poor play which allowed WSL to spend some time in our half. Fortunately we did not concede a goal during this time and were able to regain some control with some very strong play from our second half substitutions (sr. Mae LaFave, frosh. forward Lauren Lokey, jr. mid Kelsey Hopper and frosh. forward Piper Mlsna who has been pressed into outside mid duty all had wonderful games) BUT, we entered the final 10 minutes in a scoreless draw! If we tie, we have to go to penalties to see who wins the group and who takes second and gets the more difficult route. The penalties are to be taken Friday morning so neither of us wants that!
Now, we have had a knack for scoring some late goals recently…or I should say that Tracy Rymph has a knack for scoring late goals so I sub her back in with about 7 minutes remaining. In our regional semi final against Ohio State, Tracy scored with literally one second on the clock in over time to win the game. This morning, she scored with two minutes remaining to clinch that win. So, we continue to create some strong chances, one of which puts Tracy in! She pushes the ball by her defender…winds up…shoots…and pushes it just wide. 0-0
But wait, there’s more time. Frosh forward Mackenzie Fleischer draws a foul out side of their penalty box between the touchline and the box…Smurf steps up…drives a ball to the back post…there’s Tracy…she dives…she heads it…SHE SCORES! 1-0 MSU!
We kill the game and win the group! We face Marquette tomorrow afternoon in the Sweet 16!
As a side note, we had a pretty cool guest speaker during pre-game…the USWNT is in town for their game against Sweden, but we couldn’t get one of them so instead we had former MSUWCS captain Chelsey Golightly address the girls before kick off. Over the past several years one of our themes has always been remembering what you are playing for. We stress that the players who get the minutes need to be able to walk off of the field and look a player who does not see as many minutes or who may be injured in the eye and say, win or lose, “I gave you every thing I had.” When you are given the opportunity to play, you need to take advantage of it not just for yourself, but for those that do not have that opportunity. This year we took it a step further and talked about the girls that helped build this program. Those girls that started the team with Jim Flore and those that helped get us to our current standard of play, one in which it is expected to compete for a National Championship every year. To be able to have one of these players who played such an important role come back and address the girls was pretty special for me, and I hope for the girls as well. Chelsey sat on our bench with us and I could not have been more proud to have such an amazing person as our third assistant tonight. Thanks Chels!
Group Play - Game #1 v University of Arizona
Hello from beautiful Phoenix, AZ! As many of you know the team is here competing in the NIRSA National Championships. We kicked off this morning at 9:45am in absolutely beautiful conditions. By kick off Vern and I were in t-shirts (and Vern was complaining that it felt like it was 80!)
We were matched up with the University of Arizona in our first match of group play. A couple of things had me worried heading into the match…they slept in their own beds last night, didn’t just fly across the country yesterday, would be used to the conditions, have been a quality program for many years and we have never played all that well in our first game of this tournament (which of curse has nothing to do with the coaching staff even though we are the only common denominator…) But, we had a good practice last night and the girls seemed loose yet focused. They worked hard but were still joking around with each other and having fun. Earlier in the year our confidence was a problem in that it caused us not to work as hard as we could at times which in turn made many games closer than they should have been. Over the last month though our confidence has become a real asset as we don’t seem to be fazed when met with adversity; there is a very calm confidence that as long as we play to our potential we will succeed.
The first several minutes of the game showed that we were probably the better side as we controlled play, had the strong majority of the possession and created a few half chances on goal with limited forays into the attacking third of the field by Arizona. With the sustained pressure from us we were able to win a corner kick about 15 minutes in. Former varsity star at MSU (and in my mind one of the best to ever play at MSU) super senior Lauren “Smurf” Sinacola bent an out swinging ball into the box about six yards from goal that found one of our best headers of the ball, sophomore midfielder Taylor Parker who drove a header to the back post that skipped off a defender and found the back of the net. 1-0 MSU!
I think we took our foot off the gas a bit at this point but also credit to UA as they stepped up their game as well. They created a few more chances and forced us into some fouls in our defensive third. One foul created a chance about 30 yards from goal and we found out just how dangerous their free kicks were as a lefty, deftly floated the ball to the far post and between the out stretched finger tips of our goalkeeper and the bottom of the cross bar. 1-1
The scored remained tied at the half and while we were the better team, it was a fair score. We talked about adjusting to their 4-3-3 formation and about not giving up any more free kicks. We talked about how the game would be decided by us, either we would assert ourselves and win, or allow them to stay with us, but either way it was our game to decide.
The second half saw us assert ourselves again and carry the run of play. Abut 10 minutes in Coach Vernon Myers showed demonstrated why I keep him around (other than that everyone likes him and he looks like Darius Rucker which is always good for a laugh) came to me and said that we should put in Keely (Jr. transfer from BGSU varsity, forwad Keely Chandler) and see if partnering her with Tracy Rymph could give us a spark…so we gave it a shot. About three minutes later, Tracey receives a ball in the center circle and turns, meanwhile, Keely makes a wide run to the touchline pulling their defense apart. Tracey slots a ball in behind Keely’s defender Keely runs on to it, beats the recovering defender to the end line and plays a perfect cross into the box. Now, we have had some serious problems finishing crosses this year. Be it poor technique or not enough players in the box, we have found a way to put great crosses out of play for goal kicks, time after time. Not this time though as senior mid fielder Katelin Hillier calmly touched the ball into the back of the net! 2-1 MSU!
Within five minutes we concede another free kick just outside the corner of our penalty box and my stomach flipped…bad feeling. Their “David Becham of Free Kicks” steps up and floats a perfect ball, far post, upper 90 that Hope Solo (who is in town with the rest of the USWNT…no, not because I’m here but for their game against Sweden on Saturday) couldn’t have saved. 2-2 with about 20 minutes to play.
Most of the rest of the game was played in the midfield and I talked myself into accepting the tie and moving on in group play. At this stage, a tie is okay as long as we win the second game of the day. Like I said, we don’t typically start well and we have plenty of excuses.
But…good thing I am on the side line! With about 4 minutes to play, senior midfielder/defender Hallie Fournier plays a ball down the touchline to junior forward Tracy Rymph who blows by her defender and into the penalty box, turns and dribbles towards the penalty spot and then calmly passes the ball past the sprawling keeper and…..3-2 MSU! Some defensive subs and adjustments, some smart long balls out of play and we move on to game #2 with a win in hand and full control of the group.
Unfortunately however we had some bad luck in the second half as we lost Meghan Gorsuch for the tournament. Meghan has been an integral part of our success for the last four years, both on and off of the field. To understand Meghan all you need to know is that she tore her ACL in our regional tournament three weeks ago. She was bound and determined to play here this week after her doctor told her it was up to her and the risks were explained. With important as Meghan has been to this team we decided to start her today and see how it went. If anyone has earned the right to go out on her terms, it is Meg. I also feared for my safety if I did not let her decided her own fate! We gave her about 10 minutes in the first half and things went well. Unfortunately, one false step in the second half after winning a ball and laying it off to a teammate and she was through. Words can’t express how difficult it is to see someone with the heart, passion, desire and guts of someone like Meghan have to end her career with MSUWCS in this manner. If we retired jersey numbers the #12 of Meghan Gorsuch would be headed to the rafters.
Thursday, September 22nd, 2011
It has been over two years since I shared anything here and I apologize for that. Last year was a difficult one as we struggled to play to our potential for several reasons. We missed out on Nationals for the first time in several years after a strong late season run that saw us lose in penalty kicks at the regional semi finals.
I anticipate a return to the top of the region this year afetr a very strong group showed up at try outs in hopes of joing a very strong group of returning players. The team we ended up choosing will be very talented as well as very deep. Position battles at almost every spot on the field should provide for a very competitive and intense practice environment all year.
The practice environment has been great so far with each of the girls pushing her teammates to play faster, more physically and more intelligently than the day before. It is shaping up to be a great season and I am very excited about our potential. We have already won two friendlies and a league macth out scoring our opponents 21-0. We have another friendly tomorrow (Friday, 9/23) at Central and then a return to league play on Sunday at the East Lansing Soccer Complex at 3pm against DePaul.
Friday, November 20, Nationals Quarter Final Game
Sorry, just don't have the heart for a long story about the game. We lost 2-1 to an inferior Texas State team. We took the lead about 20 minutes into the first half on a great switch of play that put outside mid, Megan Gorsuch in alone with their keeper, she calmly slotted the ball past the keeper for a 1-0 lead. We took the lead into the half, but TSU came out flying with their best player trying to take control. She was able to get in on a counter attack before we could get organized and ripped a shot from close range that our keeper could not get enough on to push wide. From that close in, it would have been an amazing save. I should have made a change at the back before this happened as I could sense an issue and we just needed to make a change to settle things down. I decided against it not wanting to hurt the confidence of any player that would be pulled off that early. The goal should have forced my hand, but I still didn't make the change. In the end, my poor game management cost us the game as their forward combined with her partner up top on a great take over that resulted in another goal from in close. We came within inches of tying the score on two separate occasions in the last few minutes, but just missed wide on one, and hit the keeper (the only chance she had) from a few yards out off a corner.
The girls finish the season 12-2 only allowing 5 goals all year. Unfortunately, the only team to score twice on us was Texas State tonight.
Friday, November 20, Nationals Game 3
Well, as I said last night, be careful what you wish for! Colorado was a very impressive team. They came out in a 4-3-3 formation just like Florida had, but instead of one work horse up top, they had three strong, physical forwards that pressured our backs all game long, and didn't mind running you over to get the ball. In fact, their entire team was very physical, not dirty at all, but very physical. Each game has brought a different issue for the girls to deal with. Issues that we did not see from our weaker league competition.The physical play from CU was new for us, but a much needed lesson for us to learn.
Working against both teams was one of the most incompetent center referee's that I have ever seen at this tournament. After having one of the best I have seen yesterday afternoon, I guess I should have expected this! There were many calls for and against each team that had both coaching staffs looking at each other and scratching our heads. If consistently inconsistent can be a could thing, this guy nailed it! Two yellow cards to us and three to them, one of which should have been a red card as their last defender took down our forward instead of allowing a break away chance. Most of the cards were undeserved while several other fouls that probably should have received a card went unpunished completely.
Our girls came out flying today and immediately stepped up to the physical challenge presented by CU. As I said last night, several changes to the starting line up were in order, simply to get our "edge" back. Freshman Kelsey Hopper from Macomb and Junior Kelly Adsit of Plymouth were both inserted into the midfield, along with junior forward Chelsea Prentice of Gaithersburg, Maryland. The changes seemed to spark a higher level of play as the other starters realized that they could lose their spots as well. I think its important to note that it wasn't individual poor play that lead to the changes, but rather, a sense of overall team complacency. We also had a pre-game talk about what we are playing for at this point, and that each of the girls, whether they are starting or not, or not getting the playing time that they want are all playing for something bigger than themselves. We talked about the beginning of the MSU Women's club team that was started by Jim Flore (Williamston High School) and how we were playing for those girls that didn't have a field to play on. We talked about the seniors that have graduated and didn't get a chance to go to nationals their senior year, and we talked about many of the recent players that have helped build a tradition of making it to the national tournament and with out whom we would not have the success we have today. We talked about how any game from here on out could be the last one for our seniors and that we had to work to help them achieve their goals. We also talked about three girls that are a huge part of our team that have impressed me more than my limited vocabulary will allow me to express. Freshman Katie Saxe of Grand Rapids, Freshman Erica Stein of Webster, New York and Sophmore Hallie Fournier of Ann Arbor (who played for Indiana's Club team last year), were all offered spots as practice players at the beginning of the year, and all three accepted. These three girls were asked to do everything that the rostered players had to do, attend every practice, including fitness, work their butts off and then, come game day, sit and watch with no chance of playing. These three impressive young women have the best attendance record on the team, and like all of the girls that are seeing time on the field, are here in AZ with us cheering on the rest of the team. Each girl has played a big part of our success as a team this year, and having players with this level of character on our team with this level of commitment has made every other girl have to evaluate her commitment to the team. I don't think I could do what these three have done! The girls in the playing group needed to realize that they are playing for those girls as well. The girls that showed up at every cold, rainy practice and pushed them to play at the level they are this week.
Every thing seemed to work as we started and saw a higher level of intensity than we did last night against Cal Poly (who lost this morning to defending champ UCSB). The game was played mainly in the middle third of the field, with each team making a few harmless forays into the attacking third until, a long, early cross was played in the saw newly inserted Chelsea Prentice race into the box, go up with the CU keeper, beat her to the ball and drive a header off of the bottom corner off the cross bar, down to the goal line and........out for a defender to clear. With the weather getting into the high 70's, I decided to rotate our girls a little faster than normal, so I brought in two fresh forwards, including Freshman Tracy Rymph from Canton who has started every game until today. Tracey understood why the change was made, and it seemed to spark a higher level of play and more intensity from her. She came out paired with one of our most physical players, and also our smallest, senior Caiti Norton of Rochester (former varsity player at Troy State). These two set a tone that forced the CU defense to really start fouling just to keep us in front of them, and it took them a little out of their game. A ball over the top found Tracey running on to it about 35 yards from goal towards the corner flag. Now, I knew Tracey could hit a ball, but when she took a touch and wound up, I said "no way"....Tracey proceeds to crush a half volley from the side that screamed right at the cross bar and then dipped! Right over the outstretched arm of the stunned CU keeper! GOAL! MSU 1-0.
The rest of the game was an absolute physical battle. Several girls from each team sacrificed their bodies and came away with some reminders of the the price they were paying. CU responded to our goal by stepping up their intensity and pressuring us for the remainder of the half. Freshman goalkeeper Molly DeMarr of Flint was great in goal, twice getting run over (both should have been cards, but the stooge in the middle thought otherwise) and made some very strong saves from in closer to give us the 1-0 win.
I think I aged about 10 years in the last 5 minutes....good thing I started with out any hair (I know you smarta**es would have said it first!)
We face Texas State at 6:00 pm. The winner is on to the semi-finals tomorrow morning at 10am.
If you would like quicker updates, you can follow the action at http://www.nirsa.org/Content/NavigationMenu/Sports/Soccer/NIRSA_Soccer_Sport_.htm
Lastly, a big thank you needs to go out to Emily White of Okemos. Emily has been with the team for three years now, but off season surgery has kept her out all year. Emily continued as our team president this season even though she could not play, and was integral in keeping the team organized, and supporting us in many, many ways behind the scenes. She could not be with us in AZ this week, and she is missed! Thanks Em!
Thursday, November 19, Nationals Game 2
The Cal Poly game kicked off at 6:30 in very cool 51 degree weather, so we felt right at home! CP had beaten Florida 1-0 earlier in the day so the winner of our game would win the group while the other team would finish second. Both teams however would still make it into the round of 16 where the winner goes on and the loser goes home (well, not really...we won't fly out until Sunday no matter what!) Cal Poly came out right from the start with a very aggressive game plan and had us on our heels! CP had a much shorter break between games than we did, and I think it worked in their favor. We looked like we had a little rust to knock off while they looked very sharp and focused... much better than they looked in their first game as we scouted them. They came out in the same 3-5-2 formation that we play so it was going to come down to the individual battles at each position to determine the winner of this one. The most intriguing battle turned out to be their three center mids against ours, and unfortunately, they had the upper hand. These three girls were individually faster physically, technically and tactically than anyone we have played to this point! Every one of them was very impressive on her own, but the three of them together was quite a thing to watch! Had I not been the opposing coach, it would have been very enjoyable. As they game moved into the 15th minute and we struggled to get out of our own half, I decided that we needed to make some changes, and began pulling off most of our starters who were starting to look rather shell shocked due to the speed of the game. As the starters came off, many looked frustrated but also pretty upset that I had pulled them off so early in a tight match. The score was still 0-0 and there had not been any real threats on our goal so they were a little unhappy with me. (**I love this about our girls, they get upset with me if I don't allow them to compete and fix the problems they are faced with....they don't want the easy way out**) As they sat there though, something very interesting happened, the flow of the game started to change. As more and more non-starters came onto the field, the game moved from our defensive third to the midfield third, and we began to put a little pressure on their goal. As my last starter came off, I pulled them all down to the end of the field and had them see the change for themselves. As they were standing there with me, listening to me explain that the players that were fighting to take their starting positions were changing the complexion of the game, we were able to get our first shot on goal. To my surprise, the girls I had just pulled from the game were shaking their heads in agreement with my assessment, and as they walked away, they began to cheer for the girls on the field and encourage them in a way they never have before. They always support each other, but this was different. It was one of those rare moments as a coach where you instantly saw your team improve. It may not pay off right away, but you know they are a better team for it. The substitutes...many of whom will find themselves starting in tomorrows game, continued to play very well and keep the game in the middle of the field. Unfortunately, a series of bad breaks...an odd bounce over a foot, a great tackle that caromed off of the other team and got behind us, and a blocked shot that fell perfectly to a Cal Poly attacker lead to a goal that put us down 0-1 at the half.
The second half started with a quick scoring opportunity for us that fizzled just as quickly as the final pass was just out of the reach of our streaking forward. The game evened out in the second half, and we adjusted to their speed of play and looked much improved. The starters were back in and they seemed to have learned their lesson. The reserves were rewarded for their strong play in the first half with some very important minutes as well. In the end however, we could not come back from such a slow start, and while we created two more great chances, we just could not equalize, and fell 0-1 to Cal Poly.
As I said, we went into the game knowing that we were through to the knock out phase of the tournament regardless of the outcome. Before the tournament started, as I looked at the brackets and draws and match ups for the second round, I said I would actually love to see us place second in our group so that we could drop to the bottom half of the bracket. In talking to several of the other coaches here, we are all in agreement that the top half is much more difficult than the bottom and there was some argument as to which group was the group of death, ours or the one that contained two time defending champion UCSB (Cal. Santa Barbara). The debate doesn't have a great answer but the solution is quickly found since those two groups are matched up in the second round. In looking at this I figured that if we finished second, and were able to get into the bottom half of the bracket we would end up playing UCSB since I figured they would finish first. Therefore I decided it was better to win our group and most likely face Colorado as the second place team out of their group. Well, we got what I am hoping is the best of both worlds! Colorado knocked off UCSB in a very tight match, 1-0 and finished first. So, since we finished second in our group, we drop down to the bottom half of the bracket and square off with Colorado tomorrow at noon. I know, I know...be careful of what you wish for and all, but I am trying to put a positive spin on this! I am also fully aware that if we fall to Colorado tomorrow, I will be out of excuses! Buenz...I have been your friend longer than you have been a CU alum so I know you are pulling for us to knock of the school that somehow decided you were qualified to receive a diploma!
Once again, thank you for all of the support that you sent our way, it means a lot!
Thursday, November 19, Nationals Game 1
As many of you know the team is in Phoenix this week for our National Championship tournament. Everyone arrived safely yesterday afternoon, and after a little relaxing by the pool, we got in a light practice where the only problem was having to watch for snakes, scorpions and coyotes when shagging balls! A team dinner at Buca Di Beppo in Scottsdale and then off to bed so that we cold get up for a light run at 5:30am.
Our 8am match was against the University of Florida. With the way intercollegiate club soccer is organized, there is really no way for us to know anything about our first opponent, but as they came across the field, the first impression was that "they are huge!" Their goalkeeper was probably 6'-2" and very quick! They came out in a 4-3-3 which meant that our 3-5-2 system would be under a lot of pressure in back, and would have to be very organized in order to account for their 3 forwards, and to make sure that we didn't get too stretched across the back, or left in too many 1v1 situations close to our own goal. We also found out right away that their best player was a wing forward...she had good pace and was very creative with the ball. As luck would have it though, our fastest defender, who is always the fastest player on the field, Katie Rohn from Palatine, IL. was marking her, and took her out of the game with constant pressure. We looked pretty ragged for the first few minutes and I was hoping that we would settle down by the 10 minute mark after working out the nervousness of playing at the National Championships. It took a little longer...well, a lot longer, but around the 20 minute mark we settled down and began to use their system against them by constantly finding two of our biggest weapons in our outside mids, Megan Gorsuch from Grand Rapids and Emily Marx from Bloomfield Hills. Since they were playing with out any outside mids, we talked to the girls about how our ability to use that space would ultimately determine the outcome of the game. As we began to use that space and find those players, our attack really opened up, we began to dominate possession and create some good chances. A ball from Megan Gorsuch to freshman forward Tracey Rymph allowed Tracey to get behind the defense were Tracey just pushed the ball wide of the far post. With the girls being rewarded for working our game plan, they gained more confidence and really started to hit our stride. A few moments later, Tracey received another ball from out wide, she took a couple of touches, holding possession as a defender chopped at her ankles. As she drew the defense one way, she cut a pass back to her forward partner Paige Burke who took one touch and then buried a right footed strike into the side netting at the far post! 1-0 MSU! We continued to pressure their goal through the rest of the half generating 5 corners and several other chances. It was almost too bad that we had to end the half when we did since we had them on the ropes.
The second half started with a much energized Florida team looking for the equalizer. After several minutes of play, a missed header at midfield allowed Florida to counter attack and find a half chance and a great half volley by their forward tied the score at 1's. The girls responded well though, and there were no heads down as we restarted play and began to reassert our dominance out wide. After several more chances, two of which both had their keeper beat, but rang off the cross bar instead, and several corner kicks, we were back in control. Now, with all of the corner kicks we were getting, we decided to play with their keeper a bit, and keep her guessing. We went away from our typical corner kick play that had drawn their keeper to with in a yard of the near post. As their keeper set up at the near post again, Kelly Adsit from Plymouth, played a deep ball into the back post where freshman center mid Kelsey Hopper from Macomb stretched to keep the ball from going out of bounds and played the ball back across the goal. Their goalkeeper scrambled back into position, only to get there as we won a header to send the ball back to the opposite post again, where it fell to Hopper who deftly placed the ball past the diving keeper with the outside of her right foot. It was an amazing job of keeping our shape and framing the goal like we have worked on in practice and the girls were once again rewarded with the lead. Florida began to commit more players to their attack but, thankfully they were not very smart about how they played the ball forward! We picked off one of their errant passes and quickly found Megan Gorsuch who had recognized the opportunity and pushed forward as quickly as possible. Megan was able to get behind the defense with her first touch and calmly slot the ball past the keeper for a 3-1 lead. The goal came with about 7 minutes to go, and Florida all but conceded the game at that point. The game ended with us winning 3-1.
Looking back at the game, we played pretty well for the most part, and learned some good lessons through positive feedback. We have said all season that no one will be able to match our talent, athleticism and speed out wide, and that was very evident today. As the game wore on and we continued to feed our outside mids, the more our advantage was apparent. I would say that about 85% of our second half chances started by finding our outside mids in the attack, and Florida could not adjust to compensate. We saw that we can match up with a three forward front with our three backs and help from the center mids. Our backs all played very well all game and limited Florida's chances to 30 yard shots under pressure and only three of those found the frame of the goal. Our center mids held their shape very well, and our forwards adjusted after some early struggles to help us keep possession going forward. I couldn't ask for a better start to the tournament!
Up next is Cal Poly at 6:30pm. Vern and I are headed up to scout them and our potential second round opponents this afternoon as the girls relax by the pool for a bit...thats right, it about 78 and sunny!