Bellevue 0-1 Liberty
I'm going to try to keep this recap short (not likely, you know me too well by this point in the season) because there aren't many more ways that I can write about moral victories. We played well. Good enough to win. Outshot the first-place patriots by a reasonable margin (14/8 shots, 5/4 corners), and dominated large stretches of the game. And lost. Our safety net for the playoffs has been removed. Beginning next week every game is must-win. Our post-season is upon us.
The game hinged on a moment of pure class from the senior midfielder from Liberty. McKenna Carr is a good soccer player. She has 20 goals and 10 assists this season (so far) and has been committed to UW to play since her sophomore year. We knew all about her and kept her contained for most of the game, but 8 minutes before the end she picked up an innocent looking ball deep in our box with her back to goal and somehow found enough space to hammer the ball home from close range. And that was it. We had a few chances to equalize before the final whistle but the tag-team combination of Liberty goalkeepers did their jobs well in both halves and we were denied.
Despite the bitter ending, there is so much to be proud of: we took the game to Liberty from the opening kick. We pressed high and forced Liberty into mistakes all over the pitch. Our passing was as crisp and accurate as it's been all season from defense and through our midfield. But it just didn't happen. And it's frustrating.
What this means for our team is that we are likely going to be the 3rd or 4th seeded team for the Kingco tournament that begins next week. Yes there are scenarios in which we still get the no2 seed vs MI in the championship game, but it isn't likely.
So we need to focus on what we can control, and prepare as if we might have to play 4 games next week in quick succession to qualify for the state tournament. Monday, then Tuesday. Then Thursday. Then Saturday. All must-win games. It's a difficult path, but I have faith that we can do it. Character is tested in challenging situations. And from this point forward, we cannot afford any more moral victories.
But before we run the playoff gauntlet next week, we have our final regular season home game vs Juanita on Thursday. It's senior night and I know our team will want to make the evening special for the families, fans and especially their teammates who are playing for the last time on home turf.
As coach Kay said to me during our solid performance in the first half, "Claire is our golden boots winner tonight..." which is soccer-talk for "Claire is playing awesomely well." Indeed. Claire tackled hard all night, passed efficiently, and kept possession in tight spaces when we needed it. Golden-boots to Claire; when we played Liberty the first time, Mia came off the bench and shifted the momentum in our favor by anticipating entry passes and making strong challenges...she continued the trend on Tuesday and was great all night, not giving their dangerous no8 any room to turn or barely any possession at all; in fact, our entire back-line of Sky, Mia, Caylee and Court were tough and poised, and AnaJ, Claire, Del and Carly provided good cover in front of our backline, tracking runners and filling passing lanes. Our attack created enough good chances to win, Kiley, Jo, Carlie, Izzy, AnnaB and Carly all contributed willing running and full-effort but we just couldn't convert. Some of this is due to a subtle tactical change that Liberty made at half-time, switching their All-Kingco right back (and Kingco defensive MVP candidate) into the middle to mark Kiley. To Kiley's credit, she still continued to create, but it was a more difficult task in the 2nd half.