It was another pretty day in Atlanta on Thursday, Nov. 6, 2008. What do you do when you don't want to be on your feet? You go to a movie. We split up into 3 movies. The majority of the team, including me, went to see The Express. A few went to The Secret Life of Bees. A few others went to Nick & Nora's Infinite Playlist. I liked The Express. It was a good motivational sports movie. I didn't cry through the entire movie, but I did through most of it.
When we got back to the hotel, Alex Morgado's parents were there preparing our pre-game meal. We had amazing food - lasagna, rice & beans, pasta & sauce, salad, bread, and dessert. After we ate, it was time for a few more meetings and chalk talks. Before we left for the field, we had to watch the video again. We had a fun bus driver. He would turn up the music as loud as we wanted and even danced along to
Another thing I remember about the interview after the Stetson game is the announcer said, "Maybe we will see you back here tomorrow." They only interview the winning coach, so I immediately responded, "I would love to be back." I know that our team is competitive and capable, but I wasn't sure I would be back for a 2nd interview.
Kennesaw State has only lost 3 home games in 3 years. Their last loss at home was Nov. 3, 2006. We are one of the few teams to defeat them at home, so that was not quite as big of a psychological disadvantage for us as it might have been for other teams. The biggest motivational factor for us, besides the high definition televisions, was our tie with them during the regular season with only 10 players. We felt like we played them fairly even with 10, and we could outplay them with 11.
Since I was so out-coached in the quarter final game, I was determined to not let that happen again, so I sent our team on the field to play a 3-6-1 against KSU's 4-4-2. I will not bore you with all the details of why I thought this would be effective, but I did think having 4 in the midfield would help us defend Beth Meadors, who I thought was truly the best all around player in our conference. And I thought having wide players in the midfield would be helpful both offensively and defensively. We played the 3-6-1 correctly for about 5 minutes in the first half, between the 20th and 25th minutes. Other than that, it was terrible.
We were down 1-0 when Anna Walsh got forward on the left side. She got the ball half way across to Alex Mindel who got it the rest of the way across to Maddie who hit the post with her first touch but finished her own rebound. It must have been great for Alex and Maddie to hook up for that important goal in front of family and friends in their hometown. Unfortunately, we gave up another goal in the next minute, and we were lucky to get to halftime down 2-1. I had already blamed myself for our poor first half performance against Stetson, and I just wasn't going to blame myself again during this halftime speech. I didn't want our team feeling sorry for themselves and having excuses during the 2nd half. I wanted them to be mad and emotional, so I just yelled at them about their lack of effort at halftime. I don't think anyone was too thrilled with that halftime speech, but I wasn't going for style points at that point in time. Oh yeah, and we went back to our 4-3-3.
Erica was able to get her 2nd goal of the tournament in the first five minutes of the second half, and that really set the tone for us to be able to change the momentum for the rest of the game. We got 4 corner kicks in the 2nd half. I don't remember Walsh taking a corner kick all year, but she served it to the near post, and Marcela finished it in her first touch. Marcela's first goal of the season! Like a great team playing at home, Kennesaw tied the game in the 89th minute. Other than giving up the goal, I was pleased with how our team was playing. I did not want to discredit my own team, but when you considered all the factors going against us, we had a better chance to win that game in penalty kicks against KSU's back up keeper than we did in overtime.
Kennesaw State had the momentum. They were playing at home in front of a loud crowd. The official was terrible. We were playing our 2nd game in 2 days. KSU was playing their first game. We were not going to change our formation from the 4-3-3, but we were going to take our time and play safe and make conservative decisions when it came to possessing the ball and sending numbers forward.
At the end of overtime, when we were going into penalty kicks, I thought it had been one of the most exciting college soccer games I have been a part of, no matter what the result of the PK's would be.
Annie, Jayme Trocino, and Bublis made the first 3 penalty kicks. Sari saved KSU's 2nd and 3rd kicks. The Kennesaw State goalkeeper saved our 4th kick, so KSU got to shoot again. Their leading scorer made her shot, but when Jessica Rix made her kick, we won 4-2. It was incredible! I don't remember much about running out on the field. I hugged Kyle about half way out there. By the time I got to the pile, it looked like the people at the bottom of the pile were in pain. There were bodies and elbows and knees and noses. Someone could have lost an eye. I attempted to congratulate Sari or Jess or anyone whose identity I could distinguish. Then, of course, I was swept away to this interview.
At this point, it is so difficult to put my emotions into words, and it is even harder for me to give a game summary or talk about specific details of the game. I was walking to the table with Marcela. I hugged her, and I was trying to figure out why they were interviewing her. I said, "Did you score a goal?" Of course, I remembered mid-sentence that she scored the corner kick, but a lot had happened since then. I tried to gather my thoughts about the game and different turning points and individual performances, but I don't think it mattered.
Back to the hotel to eat, celebrate, figure out what we would do on our day off, and watch high definition TV.