Thursday, May 26, 2011

We're goin' to the 'ship!

It's has been a long week of hockey, dorm rooms, and campus cafeteria food, but we have finally arrived to the final day of National Championships 2011. It wasn't easy, but we managed to have fun in the process- and earn a spot in the final, the championship game. Today, we will suit up and face the New Jersey team one more time.

After a great start to the tournament, the last 3 games have been much more of a fight for us. It is hard to maintain an extremely high level of play and high tempo for a whole tournament. We saw this all too well this week. Although we didn't play our best, we managed to get the points we needed, and remain undefeated to put ourselves into the final. We tied Mid-Atlantic 1-1 in our 3rd test, as they tied the game in the final minutes. We only scored 1 goal in our 4th match-up against New England, but we did a better job late in the game keeping a clean slate. Against Pennsylvania in the final pool play game, we needed to tie, win, or not lose by more than 5 to make it into the final. We again saw our 1-0 lead go to 1-1 in the final minutes of the game. It is always disappointing to give up a win in the last bit of the game, but we got the job done that we came to do. We got to the final. At the end of the day, it didn't really matter how we got there, but it is nice to go into the last day with no losses and the best goal differential.

That being said, none of that matters today. None of the other games count today. It is one game and it is a must-win. It is the finals. We know it is going to be a fight. Both teams are extremely skilled, and we've both endured a long week of games. Although we are excited for it to almost be over and to head home tonight, we have a job to do first. And we want to finally be bringing that trophy back down to the SOUTH after a few years hiatus.

Here we go South!

I should probably try to stay on my feet a bit more today too! haha....

Monday, May 23, 2011

National Championship Update

We arrived at American University in Washington, D.C. Thursday afternoon and soon after took the field for our last practice before the start of the tournament. We were confident going into it because we had practiced more than any team and many of us have played together before... a lot before. So our final day of preparation consisted of just getting used to the field, going over some set plays, and just getting our legs under us on a new field in a new city.

To say we were a bit more prepared for the first game than our opponent may be an understatement. Given the fact that California had to travel further than we did and only had 2 practices with their full team (on Thursday, the day before). We felt confident that our organization and cohesiveness would give us an advantage going into the game. Indeed it did. We scored 2 goals in each half, keeping a clean sheet at the other end, to leave us with a 4-0 win on the scoreboard. Although California is a very skilled team, we were fortunate to play them first. They have already improved tremendously from our game to the second and could make some waves as the tournament continues.

But every team improves as the tournament continues on. We are no different. We had one of our biggest tests in the second game though. New Jersey is the reigning Champ (for a few years running now) and we know from past experience they are always a contender with a lot of very skilled players. We feel this is our year though so we were up for the challenge.

The game started evenly matched. New Jersey found the back of the goal first on a corner. Minutes later, we did the same. But New Jersey wouldn't back down and responded with yet another goal and high pressure the rest of the half. We went into halftime trailing 2-1, but we knew we were not out of the fight yet- not even close. The second half started as the first, back and forth for each team. Finally with 11 minutes left in the game, we found the equalizer. As the momentum began to shift our way, New Jersey pushed pack, throwing more and more people forward into the attacking zone. We stayed steady, absorbed the pressure, and took advantage of our counter opportunities. We put 3 more goals in the back of the cage in the last 10 minutes to finish with a defiant 5-2 win.

It definitely felt good to knock off one of the top teams, but we know there is still a long tournament ahead of us, and every game is important if we still want to reach the final and have a shot at winning it all. Not to mention the pace of the game was so high that it is impossible to maintain that tempo for a whole tournament without burning out. Fortunately though, we had a day off yesterday to recover.

A few of my South teammates and I decided to go explore Georgetown for a bit in the afternoon. Georgetown is a very cute little town with lots of little shops and restaurants. It reminded me so much of Holland, just the way it looked and felt!

I was dying to stop by DC Cupcakes, but when we got there, the line was down the street! GO FIGURE!

So instead, we went to a place called Sprinkles and I got a delicious peanut butter chocolate chip cupcake! Mmmmm Lekker!!

Finally, to end the day on another Dutch note.... we went to the DC United vs. AJAX game!!! It was a great game- very exciting with lots of goal shots! Even though the final score was only 2-1, it was really fun for me to watch the Dutch side I had seen so often play while in Holland over in the states. Plus I love a good soccer match and DC United has always been one of my favorite MLS teams, I just don't live close enough to ever go to a game.

Monday, May 16, 2011

The Dream

I saw this quote today and it really struck a chord with me.

“To be an Olympian, you must dream no other dream. You must come to love the taste of pain. The wounding defeats that force you forward. You must learn from others but work alone. Striving for goals that only you can set. You must do it all knowing the glory may elude you. The dream itself has to be enough.”

The words written above cannot be any truer than how I feel. It is a dream that I have been dreaming about since I was a little girl and caught my first glimpse on television of the amazing spectacle that is the Olympic Games.

I never embarked on my journey towards the National Team and the Olympics Games because of the fame or the money. It is always something I have wanted to be a part of, at the top of my sport, amongst those from all around the world that have reached the highest degrees of athletics as well.

The road to the top has never been easy. No matter what anyone may think, every single athlete has gone through wins and loses, ups and downs, triumphs and defeats. From Michael Jordan, to Mia Hamm, to Michael Phelps. They haven't won every race or every game. They haven't made every shot. But what they all have in common, is a dream. An unwavering dream and a desire to reach it that surpassed all others of their generation. They worked harder and longer. They learned from their mistakes. They also learned from coaches and teammates alike. They did all of these things because of their dream, their vision of standing on top. There were no guarantees. There never are in sports. But without the dream and the willingness to sacrifice for that dream, there is no chance for greatness.

So although I know there is no certainty that all the years of hard work, blood, sweat, and tears I have put in will amount to my dream of one day not only being at the Olympic Games, but standing on that podium- I continue to DREAM.

No matter what, I will never stop dreaming.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Chapel Hill

I did not have your typical experience growing up, and I wouldn't have had it any other way. I grew up in Chapel Hill, NC, the home of the University of North Carolina. When the students are in the town, there are always things going on and people everywhere. When the students are off on break, it is almost a ghost town; it turns into a small Southern town where those who are full-time residents run into each other no matter where you go.

I love both sides to this town. Luckily, my High Performance team in based here and I get to return home for a week every year while still in training. In preparations for National Championships this year, I have returned to my hometown for what seems like the first time in ages! (Well, months really!) Not only do I love being able to see my family and friends that still live in town, I get to see some of my old college teammates as well!

Our High Performance team, the South, is made up of players from mostly Wake, UNC, and Duke. I have always enjoyed being able to combine the players from our schools in a fun, competitive tournament, when we are so used to being bitter rivals on the field during the college seasons. So now, as I return home and back to the High Performance team that I've always played with, it is great to see the many faces of the younger players behind me, but also the new faces as players graduate and new ones step up.

And after training with the National Team day-in and day-out, it is nice to be a part of a team with different players that proposes different challenges to overcome. Not only does it give me a chance to be a leader in new ways, I get a chance to see new things the younger generations might be doing, and it's always fun to see how much those youngin's have improved over the last year!

So although I have only been home a few days and attended a couple practices, I am excited for this years National Championships, with this team. I think we have a strong possibility to vie for the title! Watch out for us!! GO SOUTH!

Saturday, May 7, 2011

San Diego and SEALs

As our time here in California comes to a close (well, for this block anyways) we all get ready to head back to our regional sites for National Championships. It has been a busy couple of weeks, with the conclusion of our series against Japan. Although it did not end exactly how we would have hoped, we learned some things about ourselves as a team and individuals, as well as what works (and what doesn't) against Japan. This should serves us well down the road, particularly in the Champions Challenge in June.

After two weeks of non-stop training and games, we finally had 2 days off after the seres conclusion. This felt like ages, as we never have this much time off! Especially after weeks without a break. Friday night we had a BBQ at the beach which was just what the doctor ordered. Time to sit and relax, with the waves in the background, great food, and even better company! :) Saturday was a day to catch up on rest. I did quite a bit of sleeping and catching up on some TV shows I'd missed! Sunday morning, bright and early, a bunch of us met at the Lung Cancer Walk down by the bay. It was such a great cause to take part in! We took the stage to warm everyone up, then took park in the 5k walk with survivors and families who had lost loved ones. The walk raised over $100,000 for the cause. From there, we spent the rest of the day relaxing at the beach (actually Mission Bay which is quieter), getting away from the hockey world. I love the beach- playing card, reading, napping, watching the boats, taking the kayaks out, and just people watching. It never gets old! And that's why I love that we live in San Diego!!!

Finally, I thought that this week of practice would go back to normal. I should have known better. That rarely happens!! So Tuesday rolls around, when we were told practice would be pushed up an hour and a half to 7am (instead of 8:30), and we knew something was up. Our coach ran our warm-up (which never happens- we always run it ourselves) and our sports psychologist was coming in just for the day. We knew something was up, and we had already figured it out: the Navy SEALs were coming to OUR HOUSE. Without warning, the SEALs popped out from their hiding spots and took over.... needless to say, it was a long day!! From pushups to crawling to running, we did it all. We did countless log carries up on the Archery field (yes, they brought their logs with them), then we carried to boats (they brought those too!) down to the lake for hours of rowing and competitions. Personally, my favorite part of the day was when we got to Dump Boat (aka flip it over) when we were on the water. :) We finally pulled the boats out of the water around 11am, 4 hours later. We were then told to hop in the vans... I knew there was no way we could be just heading back to the training center. No way this day was over. As we drove through the local neighborhoods, we realized we were going to running/hiking one of the mountains that is the beautiful backdrop to the lake we look at everyday. After close to 3 miles of up-hill battling, and almost an hour later, we all made it to the top of Mt. Miguel. On one of the hottest days of the year in San Diego, after 4 hours of training, the SEALs told us we made it in the same time if not faster than some of their guys, who do it in shorts and a t-shirt (we were in camo pants long sleeves) and without training beforehand. I would say it was a pretty successful day. The view from up there was amazing too! You could see downtown San Diego, Coronado, Mexico... if only we had our cameras!

So as this final week comes to a close and we head to our regional sites for training, we know that when we return to San Diego, the team could very well take a different look. A new team will be named for the coming year and anything can happen. I wish all my teammates the best! I can't wait to see you on the field in DC! And GO SOUTH!!! :)