Bellevue 3-0 Interlake
As I told the team before kick-off, a year ago almost to the day, we hosted a winless Interlake Saints team and turned in one of our most tepid performances of the year. We were fortunate to escape with a narrow 1-0 win on a goal in the last few minutes of the game. And this year's Saints team, despite their similar place in the current Kingco standings, had already posted some very competitive results including a tight 0-1 game versus league leaders Mercer Island. The lesson is obvious: we must respect every opponent, regardless of record or roster, and have the discipline and mental toughness to always play to our potential. Every time. So I was very satisfied that our team did exactly that against a spirited, but overmatched, Saints team in what was a comfortable 3-0 victory.
I had challenged the girls with some very specific statistical milestones against Interlake: 20 attempts at goal and less than 5 allowed by Interlake. The final tally: 20 shot attempts and 2 against. Now we need to work on getting more of those attempts on goal; however, I have confidence in statistical superiority. Over a season, if we continue to dominate possession and chances created, we will be successful.
Interlake began the game looking to "park the bus" and catch us on the counter-attack by packing 10 players deep in their own territory, leaving a lone speedy forward up top. "Parking the bus" is a strategy in which an overmatched team plays very very deep in their own end, frustrating the attacking team by restricting space, and patiently waiting for silly mistakes and turn-overs to launch counter-attacks. It can be very effective, and was a smart move by the Interlake coaches. But we were patient and worked the ball around the entire field looking for openings in a very congested third of the field. At times, there were 18 girls within a narrow 20yard band stretching across the field, with only their lone forward, two Bellevue defenders, and Annika not deep in Interlake territory (and this is why we often work on possession in tight areas during practice). Of course, the way to neutralize the "park the bus" strategy is to get an early goal, and in the 4th minute Joelle picked up a simple ball from Court on the left wing, beat her defender, twice, including a full 360 circle around her Saints opponent, before curling a low shot into the far corner of the goal. And from that moment, the Saints bus had to leave the station in search of an equalizer. And the game opened up.
We maintained our possession advantage for the rest of the half, and launched 12 attempts at the Interlake goal. We didn't score, but were very comfortable and did a good job of moving the ball quickly and efficiently into attacking areas. But a one-goal lead isn't safe, so it there was a bit of relief in the 44th minute when CarlieG hit a perfect corner at the near post and Joelle smashed a header into the open goal to give us a well-deserved 2-0 cushion. A great example of how our Ms. A role in corners can cause problems for goalkeepers. Our third arrived in the 64th minute, as Joelle re-created her opening goal, taking a simple upfield pass from Courtney (two of the easiest assists of her career), lowering her shoulder for a cut back dribble towards the goal before depositing another curling shot into the far corner to earn her hat-trick. A super goal of individual quality. And apparently passing simple balls to the feet of our attacking players is a good idea. Well done Jo in what I believe is her first (hopefully not last) hat-trick for Bellevue.
And now we move on to a more serious test versus Liberty on Friday night, who have a roster full of talent and are very well coached. It is our only Friday night game of the season, so I'm hopeful we get a noisy and supportive crowd.
Annika earned her second consecutive shutout as she was confident and commanding in goal during the few times she was called upon; Court was excellent in her debut role at left back, demanding the ball as she linked up and joined the offense in her wide channel; Isabelle, Caylee, Sky and Mia were strong in the tackle, and did a much better job of anticipating entry passes and not letting Interlake players pick up any loose balls in the seams between our back line and midfield; CarlieG, Jo, Kiley, Izzy, AnnaB, Ellie & Britt all put in good shifts up front, taking defenders on and combining well to create chances while AnaJ & Delaney completely bossed the central midfield, providing simple outlet options to our defenders and going strong into every tackle. But the engine that made us run versus Interlake was Carly T. She was seemingly everywhere, keeping possession for our team and supporting our forward line with clever runs.