Bellevue 3-0 Hazen
15th min Nora (Raina)
29th min Alex (unassisted)
79th min Lily (Maddy) corner
Three points. Our hard-fought win against #3 Shorewood in our 2nd game of the season: three points. Our ferociously contested battle at LW a few weeks ago: three points. Our 9-0 finishing exhibition against both Mt. View and Interlake: both only three points. Our 3-0 win against Hazen at Renton Memorial Stadium on a rain-soaked October night: three points. It wasn't pretty. It was often frustrating. It was very physical. But the points count the same. Teams with championship ambitions are rarely able to maintain flowing beautiful soccer throughout an entire season. Some games are going to be a struggle. A bit rough around the edges. But most importantly, we got. the job. done. So we take the result humbly, knowing that we had to grind it out for long stretches, and to our girls' credit, they left Renton with what we came there to get: three points.
The game might have been choppy, but the goals were quality. In the 15th minute, Raina received a switch pass from left to right, controlled the pass and squared to Nora from the wing, and Nora didn't hesitate, striking the ball first-time with a delicious curling shot that found the net from 18yards. 1-0 Bellevue (on our first shot on goal). Then in the 29th minute, Alex pressed high up the field, won the ball from an errant backpass, and raced to goal unopposed before firing a shot low and hard at goal...that missed? The ball traveled well beyond the goal to the fence behind, seemingly shot wide from our sideline viewpoint. The coaching staff looked at each other in disbelief wondering if Alex had missed her chance...and it took a meeting of the referees to confirm that Alex's shot had been so powerful it had broken the net...Of course, she scored. The net failed to stop her powerful finish. 2-0 Bellevue. Our final goal came in the last minute of the game, as Maddy crossed from a corner for Lily to volley home from close range. 3-0 final score. The stat line reveals a choppy midfield battle: 12/3 shots corners versus 4/0 for Hazen. It was our lowest shot production of the season, but well-done team defense, again, if we don't allow many shots, and secure a shutout, it's difficult to lose games.
But the recap hardly captures the tense, physical, gritty, sloppy barroom-brawl of a game that our girls had to figure out. Late tackles, body-checks, high elbows, contested aerial duels, ankle-love-taps...it was a lot. But here's the twist: well done Hazen. I give full credit and respect to the players and coaching staff of Hazen for taking it to the #1 ranked team in the state in the most effective way they could: gritty determined competition. Hazen is now 0-8 in the Kingco standings. They could've simply gone through the motions in a game in which we were overwhelming favorites. But you never would've known it from the amount of fight in their team tonight. They competed from the opening whistle to the last. And yes, some tackles and off-the-ball antics were very frustrating, and in the grey-area of the rules ("how grey? charcoal"), but so what? That's the game, and we are likely to face other teams that will employ similar tactics. From Hazen's perspective, how do you slow down a team with a skill and pace superiority? You make the game a choppy physical slog. If the referee is going to allow it, then we have to figure it out and carry on. Complaining won't earn us anything. So full credit to Hazen players and coaching staff. They made a tactical choice, it worked, and they had us on the ropes all night and we didn't handle it well. They played the game by their rules, with their tempo, and we never really adjusted. In the end, the scoreline looks lopsided, but we all know that the game was anything but. If we want to achieve great things this season, we will be in more games that are played in the proverbial mud. It's a tactic. Lots of teams use it. And we need to know how to overcome it.
Three points is how you handle it. Good teams find a way to get the result and then simply move on. No hard feelings. Break the bottom of the net. Shake hands after the game. Three points.
And now we enter the final phase of our regular season. We have 3 games left against the top teams in our league. First and foremost, we play Kingco 2nd place and #6 ranked LW on Saturday at Bellevue Stadium at 7:30. If we win, we will have pole position to earn the right to host the Kingco League Championship game on October 30th. The winner of that game will go directly to state. We not only want to qualify for that game (#1 & #2 seeds in Kingco), but we want to host it. But the Kangs are equally eager, and will control their destiny in the race for the league title if they prevail. Let's not let that happen.
So there's still lots to play for. Despite our excellent record so far and top ranking, the job is far from done. It will require a composed and determined performance on Saturday.
Bring on the Kangs. Release the Wolverines.