Sunday, April 4, 2010
First, I want to apologize for not blogging during the World Cup Qualifying tournament. It was a hectic week in which our team went through a lot. I'll try to give you a little re-cap here.
For those of you that follow us, you know we started our tournament off with a bang and a 7-0 win against Mexico, including 7 different scorers. It was a strong performance all around, and we were all happy to get our first win under our belts. In our second game, we met France, who proved to be more of a test for us. Although not our strongest showing, we came out with a solid 4-0 win. At this point, our team was ready for our first rest day. Our bodies were beginning to feel the build-up which comes along with any major tournament.
After a nice pool workout and a relaxing morning, we had the afternoon to spend with our family and friends. Seeing as we hosted the tournament, most of our families were able to make the shorter, in-country trip to see us play. This was a major plus for us to have the support of loved ones behind us the whole tournament. These are the people who are there for us no matter what, and have got us to where we are today. Being able to have these people here with us was priceless. During this down time, a few of us attended the US Women's Soccer game against Mexico which took place at San Diego University. Personally, I know a few of the players and it's great to see your fellow national team athletes compete! And of course they won 3-0! After the game I got to see my parents, my brother Matt, and his girlfriend Holly. It was a really nice break from the hectic routine which is a major qualifying tournament.
We had to quickly refocus as a team though because we had a really important game against Belgium. We played Belgium earlier this year in Argentina and came out on top 4-0, but we all knew they were more prepared and ready to challenge us in this qualifier. Our team came out strong though. We absorbed the many different attacks the Belgians threw at us, but we were ready, and we not only found the back of the goal 3 times, we kept the ball out of our net.
Our bodies were definitely beat up after this game and another much needed rest day proceeded our biggest match against Korea on Wednesday. In the morning we had a short practice to get a couple things worked out for our final couple matches against Korea and Canada, and practiced a few corners just to sharpen up. The afternoon allowed us for a little more family time, in which my parents, my brother, my aunt, my cousin's wife, and her daughter all met me at Mission Beach for a little change of pace. To me, the beach is so relaxing and calming. It is gorgeous. Everyone seems so free to run and play, whether volleyball, surfing, basketball, or just relaxing in the sand. It definitely brought me away from hockey for a few hours. The coaches had a surprise waiting for us back at the hotel when we got back though. We were told to bring a jacket and a camera, but thats all we knew. Leaving the hotel, we all had our guesses on where we would end up, but the vans finally arrived in Point Loma as the sun was beginning to set. The view was absolutely breathtaking, and to spend it with my teammates and coaches was to spend it with some of the most important people to me. To see nature at it's finest allowed us to take a step back and see the bigger picture on what we were doing as a hockey team. As Katie O'Donnell so nicely put it, our journey as a team can be compared to the sunset. As she saw it, the sun slowly sets until right at the end it quickly sets down, which compares to us in that we build for long time before a tournament, but when it finally get theres, it goes by so quickly. In other words, we have to live in the moment, enjoy the games, enjoy the tournament, and really take advantage of the opportunities that are presented in front of us for only a short period of time. After a few more words of insight, we were all eager and ready to finish out the tournament continuing to climb.
The game versus Korea started really well for us. We came out right away with Claire Laubach scoring 2 fantastic goals off drag flicks. But Korea would not be denied. They threatened and responded with a goal of their own going into half time at 2-1. We knew the battle was just beginning. We came out fighting at the beginning of the second, but even with a multitude of chances we failed to find the back of the cage. At last, Korea struck again. The knotted the score, which would eventually see the game out into a tie. Although it was frustrating to go from a 2 goal lead to a tie, we knew we had set ourselves up for the final as long as we took care of business against Canada the next day. Despite the rivalry between the US and Canada, we stayed solid, sticking to the game plan, finishing with a final score of 3-1 against the Canucks.
One more rest day before the final test, the last game, that we had been training for, for what seemed like forever. Friday saw us back on the field for one last practice to prepare for Korea with what we learned from them in pool play. We were really sharp and felt very prepared to see them in the final. In the afternoon, I found my way to my cousins house for an afternoon of dying an decorating easter eggs. I love seeing kids and how carefree they are. Nothing worries them and they live in the moment. This really hit me and helped to calm my nerves about the possibilities of such a meaning final game.
It was only a mater of time before the game verse Korea was finally upon us. The finals. Where we wanted to be. What we play for. To put everything on the line. Leave it all on the field. You hear these phrases being said all the time, but at this point in time, they were all so meaningful. This day was one that I had been training for, that I longed for as an athlete. The challenge of a do-or-die. The challenge that the World Cup is on the line. The game began with a few nerves still lingering. Korea took advantage and capitalized on a penalty corner. Frustrated, we went into halftime a goal down. We were not ready to quit, we were not ready to back down. That has never been our team, and it is not something the United States knows how to do. We fought back, scrambled, scratched, did everything in our power to create opportunities. We had plenty, until finally we broke back with our own penalty corner goal by Carrie Lingo. At this point, carrying the momentum, we were confident that if we kept pushing, things were bound to go our way. We kept the ball in their end, pushing them to fall, but they would not. With a break in the play, Korea went down and earned another penalty corner. With 5 minutes left on the clock, Korea found the back of the net to take the lead. It was a hard blow, but we were not ready to see our dreams shatter so quickly. Within a minute we were back in their end with a penalty corner of our own. Unfortunately ours did not result in a goal. We persisted. We began to push everyone forward. It was all or nothing. This is where we take more risks, because whats losing by another goal if you don't push it to score your own. Tragically we gave up a break away and a textbook goal giving them a 3-1 lead with just minutes, seconds left in the game. Although we fought to the last second of the game, time ran out before we could respond. Heart-broken, we knew we would not claim a spot in the 2010 World Cup.
The feelings and emotions that were felt by our 18 member squad are indescribable. It felt as though the whole world had crumbled right before us. As much as our friends and families support us, it is impossible for anyone to really understand just what it means to us. How hard we worked for this, just how much we wanted it. It was crushing. Our coaches urged us to realize just how far we had come and that this is not the end. This will be the true test for our team, whether we want to succeed in the future and how much we are willing to commit when the future is so unsure. A lot of questions arise. Although it has only been a day since we lost, it makes me think and question as well. But I know what I want, for me and for my team. I know we all want to be at the top, we want to be better, we want to never feel the pain that we felt yesterday (and the pain we are still feeling) ever again. I know WE will be stronger for this. Even though it is hard to see it now, we are the type of people who aren't willing to accept failure. We are the type of people who work harder, fight harder, train smarter, otherwise we wouldn't have made it to this point. It hurts now. But I am willing to say that if we are ever put in this situation again, we will be ready. We will be better. The United States will stand tall. We proudly represent our country, our families, and ourselves.