MI 1-0 Bellevue
Rivalry games are special evenings. Previous records can be forgotten. The intensity is palpable during pre-game, and both teams take the field ready for a battle. Tuesday was no different. The defending state champion from MI features 15 seniors, returning virtually their entire roster from the team that lifted the trophy last season. They are seasoned and currently undefeated this season. Unfortunately, we are not. However, after the final whistle on Tuesday evening, the MI girls knew they had been in a tight, ferociously competitive game. If we play the remainder of our season with the same intensity and focus, I'm confident that positive results will follow.
For the entire 80 minutes, our team kept a very balanced and organized shape that left little room for the speedy Islander wingers to operate effectively. And when one of their wingers, or overlapping fullbacks, got around our flanks, our cover defense was excellent with Zoe and Julia sliding over from their central positions to eliminate the danger. MI plays the same formation as we do which is both positive and challenging. Challenging in that we don't have our normal numerical advantage in the middle, but positive in that our defensive assignments are very clear because marking your opposite midfielder is more straightforward. And we did well, disrupting entry passes and filling in passing lanes in a game that was contested mostly in midfield areas.
The opening goal was unfortunate. The last three away games at MI have been similar for two reasons: all have been played in monsoon-like rain....and balaclava-wearing MI boys seem to find monsoon-weather the perfect time to disrobe and go for a jog. So the weather and the streakers weren't ideal (but certainly predictable), but they were known issues for both teams. The ball was wet, the turf was wet, and the players were soaked. Of course, soccer players who grow up in the NW are used to playing in the rain. But it does impact the overall quality of play, and on a defensive corner we failed to clear a dangerous cross, and the MI striker was in the right place at the right time and poked the ball in for a 1-0 lead.
At halftime, our girls were determined to get something out of the game. We were playing too well not to get some tangible reward from our efforts. The second half resembled the first: hotly contested, mostly at midfield, with clear goal-scoring chances rare and most attempts taken from long-range. The only exceptions were two PKs, one for each team. Of course I'm biased, but I believe that our awarded foul was obvious, while the MI PK was extraordinarily soft. Regardless, neither attempt changed the scoreline and we continued to search for an equalizer. When the final whistle sounded, I was reminded of the quote from Vince Lombardi, "we didn't lose the game, we just ran out of time."
I'm proud of our team. Our girls played tough soccer on Tuesday. And from my perspective, we didn't lose the game, we simply ran out of time.
Our team D was excellent: Kaatje, Imme, Zoe & Julia were strong, aggressive and on the "front foot" all night (moving forward to tackle, not backpedaling in retreat); Court, Kendall, Audrey and IzzyB worked hard and neutralized the midfield, while Grace, Taylor, Claire, AnnaB, IzzyB and Malena put in good shifts up front, which is an exhausting job given how often the MI fullbacks like to overlap (wingers absolutely must chase in those circumstances, and they did); Isabelle had a great save when she pushed a powerful shot over the bar, and IssyS was confident and composed while completing a shutout in the 2nd half. All of our girls were tough on Tuesday, but special recognition for Zoe who kept flying into tackles, picked herself off of the turf from jarring collisions, and then did it again for the good of the team.
Next up we have a very important game against Interlake. We have reached the half-way point in our league season, and if we are going to achieve the ambitions we have for ourselves (qualify for the state tournament), then we'll need to significantly improve the results we got in the first half. And that begins on Thursday when we welcome the Saints to our home turf.