Bellevue 1-0 Lake Washington
Bouncing back after a tough result isn't easy. Winning can become a habit, and so can not winning. So I was interested how our team would respond to our setback on Tuesday. Would we come out tight and nervous after our first lost in almost 2 years, or rise to the challenge and earn a positive result?
We announced our attacking intentions from the kick-off, pressing hard and forcing LW into wayward passes deep in their territory. And for the rest of the first period, we were the aggressors keeping LW pinned in their half. The volume of chances we created wasn't overwhelming but included some good quality: Kiley rounding her defender and pinging one off the near post was only off by an inch. The early momentum was ours and our defensive shape and poise on the ball in possession was a marked improvement from Tuesday. Carly, AnaJ, Court and Delaney were controlling the midfield and moving the ball laterally and into our wingers feet showing the patience in attack that we've been discussing as a team. Our backline was stout and good at anticipating entry passes and stepping into challenges rather than reacting. Good defenders are psychics, they need to predict where the ball will be in the future, and be there ahead of their opponent. That's why at the top-levels you often see world-class defenders begin their careers as forwards, they understand the rhythm of an opposition offense and therefore can disrupt the flow by stepping into obvious passing lanes at the right time.
At halftime, we discussed the usual tactical adjustments, but mostly we spoke about making our territorial superiority count where it mattered: on the scoreboard. We needed to create more chances and eventually finish off a determined opponent. Finish. The. Job.
And it took until the 71st minute, but we finally got the winning goal we deserved. And it started from pure desire and determination. From her position on the right wing, Joelle sprinted all the way across the field to the left sideline to chase down a clearance that had got behind the LW defense. Against the odds, she won the ball, maintained possession, and earned a corner kick. Magnificent effort. And from that corner, Courtney crossed a perfect ball for Kiley to tuck confidently into the lower right side of the goal. I'm sure that LW has seen enough of our no23 as she has now scored in her last three games versus LW, all narrow one-goal victories. I'm just happy she's on our side.
Scoring goals are dramatic, energizing and joyful, but if we are going to achieve our team goals this year, playing solid defense is mandatory. So I couldn't have been happier to record our first shutout of the season. Claire, Caylee, Sky, Mia, Del and Isabelle were excellent, as were AnaJ, Delaney, CarlyT and Court in front of them in midfield; In attack we were more fluid, with CarlyT pulling the strings at the center and CarlieG, Jo, AnnaB, Izzy and Kiley continuing to attack and pressure the LW defense all night; and special recognition to Ellie W, who put in a brief, but effective, stint at forward as we were trying to make a tactical adjustment. As you all know, playing time at varsity isn't a socialist collective, it's not divided into equal shares; so for a team to be successful it takes an entire roster of players with the right mentality and willingness to contribute, in big ways and small. I know that Ellie's minutes (and others) haven't been what she would prefer, but I have been proud of our players who have come off the bench and given this team a lift when called upon. As I've written many times before, the role of a substitute can be frustrating, I don't expect contentment on the bench, but I do ask for readiness and a positive attitude. You never know when it will be your time, so be ready. And Ellie put in a very positive shift upfront; And finally Annika, congratulations on your first shutout as BHS varsity goalie. Every successive game you've looked more and more comfortable in your new role, and I'm thankful that you're our last line of defense.