Bellevue 2-1 (2OT) Redmond
FTJ. "Finish the Job." It's a phrase that we repeated a lot last year in our state title run. Quite frankly I stole it from my wife, who borrowed it from her influential YoungLife work-crew leader when she was a teenager...it's meaning is self-explanatory: oftentimes in life we are assigned tasks that we eagerly begin and easily get to 90% completion. But 90% completion isn't complete. In fact, all of the good work done in the first 90% of a task can quickly be rendered meaningless if the last 10% isn't completed with the same quality and energy. The job isn't done until the job is done. And the last 10% is hard. It requires mental toughness. Grit. Perseverance. Lots of people in life are good at 90% of a task. Very few finish meaningful work 100% to completion. But we aspire to be that kind of team, that kind of program. Finish. The. Job.
And tonight we did.
But it wasn't pretty.
Last week we had our Kingco end-of-season coaches meeting. When my fellow coaches learned that BHS had homecoming over the upcoming weekend they all gave me pitying looks and then explained that in their experience, their respective teams weren't quite right for at least a week after homecoming: players were tired, got sick, had blisters from party shoes, and were distracted by post-dance social drama, etc. etc. They told me how unfortunate I was to have such a late-homecoming date. I laughed nervously and insisted that our team was different. We would be fine. Plus we couldn't afford a post-homecoming hangover since the Kingco playoffs began just 72 hours afterwards. Our entire season depended on us NOT having a silly post-dance run of poor form. Sigh. So naive of me.
72 hours after homecoming, against LW, we weren't great. But won. Barely. Against Redmond tonight, 48 hours after LW, we again labored mightily. We mis-cleared too many balls to count. At times it seemed like we simply forgot how to pass. Trap. Or shoot. Or tackle. Or head the ball. And that's generous. As I told the team at half-time, our first 10 minutes was the worst we have played all season. The coaching staff was perplexed on the sideline. What had happened to our unflappable players? Where was our confidence? Our swagger?
I freely admit that it could be a coaching issue. Perhaps I'm not finding the right words or instructions for this team in pre-game. Or our preparation isn't quite right. It certainly isn't for a lack of thoughtful planning or careful consideration from our staff. We invest the time. We contingency plan. Our contingency plans have contingency plans. But perhaps we're missing something. However, I suspect that my fellow Kingco coaches are on to something. It's the post-homecoming theory. And after this week, I'm a believer. We just played two very very mediocre games in the week after homecoming. And I don't have a better explanation why. Yes, we continue to generate more shots & corners than our opponents, but we aren't playing to our potential either. We just weren't quite ourselves. And I'm hopeful that by this Saturday, we will be a week removed from our homecoming and the weird post-dance voodoo will be over. Because we need to begin playing to our potential. Soon. Like Saturday.
All this being said, in the end, all that matters is that the job gets done. Golfers often say that there are no photos on the scorecard: all that matters is the score, not how it was achieved. So we survived. We finished the job. We left cold and rainy Redmond stadium as 2-1 golden-goal overtime victors and are moving on to the Kingco-Metro pig-tail game for the last state tournament birth. As I write this recap, we still don't know if we will play Ingraham or Holy Names, but we'll know by training tomorrow. either way, we play at 2pm on Saturday at the Southwest Athletic Complex at Chief Stealth in Seattle. More details forthcoming on travel logistics (we'll likely take a bus to and from Seattle).
Regarding the actual recap...I couldn't be happier for Schuyler for scoring her first varsity goal. In the playoffs no less. Of course, I was talking to Courtney on the sideline just before her substitution back into the game and missed the entire thing...but coach Kay told me it was pile-driver volley in the upper upper corner of the goal so that's what I'm going with. Well done Sky (and kudos to CarlieG for yet another dangerous David Beckham-like service on a corner). So we had a lead at half-time, and although we weren't playing well, we still were controlling the game and Redmond didn't look particularly dangerous (other than from our self-inflicted gifts). However, not long into the 2nd half, Redmond earned their one and only corner kick all night. And like the first time we played them at BHS, they scored on it. Not great by us. Fool me once, shame on you, fool me twice, shame on me. And so it ended 1-1 in regulation. And for the 2nd straight game, we went into overtime, and were within a minute of repeating our shootout experience from Tuesday when we earned a late corner of our own. CarlieG again crossed a dangerous ball in the middle and CarlyT was there to hammer it home. Golden goal. Game over. Another jubilant teenager pile-up in the middle of the field.
Relief. Blessed relief.
Regardless of the stylishness of our soccer, our team certainly has a flair for the dramatic. We live to fight another day. We move on. We labored mightily just getting 90% of the job done tonight, so I'm especially proud that we had the fortitude to finish the last 10% in the most dramatic and stylish way possible and got the job done. FTJ.
Quite frankly, there weren't many. The full moon was pretty. Sky's goal was beautiful. Carly's goal was clutch in the best possible way. We outshot Redmond 15-6. We had 6 corners, they had 1; Annika made a few key saves in the 2nd half when we were at our most jittery and mistake-prone in the back; freshman Audrey Miller was scheduled to have a 10 minute cameo to give some rest to our midfield but played so well that she earned significantly more time tonight than what we had planned. Opportunities get slimmer in the playoffs, but when you do get an opportunity from the bench, you need to do your best to take the opportunity and lift the team. Audrey lifted the team and was very unlucky not to have the winning goal or assist from her solid play. She earned her time tonight; But our biggest highlight is that we won. Full stop. No photos on the scorecard.
Lastly, a few words about managing referees. As I've told our team several times, we can't expect to ever have a perfectly refereed game. It doesn't exist. Referees are human. They will make mistakes. It's a difficult job. And it is a coach's job to manage the referee the best he or she can. Sometimes that is by good-natured banter, sometimes by well-timed compliments, sometimes from shouted dis-agreement, sometimes from quiet stares. There are lots of tools in the coach's toolbox for managing referees. But what doesn't help is for our bench, or supporters in the stands, to aggressively shout at the AR or center referee (even if they deserve it). It doesn't help. Bellevue will likely have a natural negative bias going into every game. We are the town, and school, the rest of the state loves to beat (and often dislike). Yes, we are paying for the sins of others, or enduring geographical prejudices that aren't fair to our girls, but that's reality and we need to manage it. And so we don't need to give referees any additional reasons, consciously or sub-consciously, to embrace that bias. So players and supporters, please leave the refs alone. We want full throated-support of our girls, but let's keep it positive and encouraging. Constructive criticism directed towards the referees (occasionally by shouting & yelling) is the job of the coaching staff. We try to do it with a purpose (most of the time anyway). And that's the end of my PSA.
Well done Bellevue girls. 2 must-win games out of the 7 required to win the state title are complete. Five is our magic number. Next up Ingraham/Holy Names at 2pm on Saturday. The march continues.