A view from my side.
Soccer. It’s that season again. We are sooooooooooooooo young this year. Normally, a varsity side can drive itself to an away match. This year, we have 3 boys with a driver’s license. That should tell you all you need to know about how young we are. But we train the same way and we have the same expectations. We train, and play, to win matches. And winning is what we do.
Our opening match was postponed due to rain. It has been raining a lot here lately. More so than usual for February, but the temps have also been unusually high as well. So while we’ve been able to train in warmer weather, it’s been much wetter. We always open on a Tuesday night. Sunday, Monday and most of Tuesday it rained. So much so that our field had standing water in several places. It was unplayable. Game postponed.
Things cleared and started drying up and that weekend we were able to play in the early season local tournament. This year’s format was a Round Robin for our group, 4 matches in two days, Championship awarded based on total points. We finished 2-1-1. Both the loss and the tie “could” easily have been wins if not for a few simple mistakes, so we left the tournament feeling good about things. The mistakes were attributable to both the inexperience of youth and the early season nature of the tournament.
While many of our players have played club soccer for years, they are used to playing against teams their own age. Now, we have 15 year old boys defending against 18 year old young men. The look in their eyes is almost comical. Add to that we are a 3A school, but our record and reputation often pits us up against bigger, stronger, faster 5A and 6A programs. We play in this tournament mainly because it is so early in the season and it allows us to clear all the doubts and all the fears and all the uneasiness from the minds of the players. We have won it 5 of the last 7 years. And despite not winning this year, we began and ended with victories. We also outscored our opponents 10-3 in the four matches. When that tournament ends, the boys have no doubt they are ready to play, compete and win as we move into regular season play.
The tournament over, we moved into the next week confident. Our next match, also at home, was threatened by weather. The field was playable, but thunderstorms were imminent. The whistle blew and we took the kickoff up field, scoring in the first 28 seconds. In the next 2 minutes, we had 4 more solid opportunities to score. We hit the cross bar, we hit the keeper’s hands, we hit one high and we failed to make a far post run. Then, the lightning began and the officials delayed the match. Checking the weather it was decided to postpone and we sent everyone home. The confidence grew and took hold.
Two days later we play again, an Area match. This one matters. We have to come in 1st or 2nd in our Area to be eligible for the Post Season. Despite the rain, there was threat of lightning. We do well in the first half, scoring 4 goals and let the reserves finish the last 12 minutes. In the second half we add 2 more and pull the starters after 20 minutes, giving the reserves the rest of the match. We walk off the pitch with a 6-0 victory.
We design our schedule to build the level of our competition over time. We can’t control who we play in the opening tournament, but other than that, we schedule teams early that will be competitive, but we feel we can and should beat. By the end of the season in late April, we will be playing the larger 6A schools. On our schedule this year are schools that played in Final Four matches in both 5A and 6A classifications. We will play last year’s 1A-4A Champion 3 times. We will travel south to play the regional powerhouse teams in our 1A-4A classification and we will host the northern powerhouse. The State Association has shortened our season by 2 matches this year to add a 3rd “local” round in the Post Season but we still kept the more challenging teams on the schedule.
We don’t shy away from the challenging matches, regardless of our size or age. We will train and build our team to challenge anyone that cares to step on the pitch with us. Sure, we will lose some matches, but ours is a program of tradition and our tradition is one of excellence. Eight Final Four appearances in the last 11 years. Three Championship matches in the last 5 years. Unfortunately only 1 Championship in that time, but no one in our classification in our state can match us for Post Season appearances during this time.
So,while I may be posting about my personal training for my half marathon next month, let’s not forget the team.