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.

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