This past weekend saw us out of town playing together for the first time. The weather was nice, great complex with super fields, and the competition was excellent. Overall, it was a nicely organized and well run tournament!
Let me begin with the statement that I really had no expectations going into this weekend other than I wanted to see just how the girls played together and how they faired on the pitch under pressure. What I came away with was a sense of just who they are, what they are capable of and what we need to address- all the things that one should expect to gain from an early season tourney.
So going into the weekend, there were numerous little things that could, would or might have conspired to put players off of their game, such as our keeper was not going to be present for the first couple of matches, our uniforms had not come in till the evening before the 1st game and then, there was some discrepancies with sizes, we were all in different hotels and areas, we had not had a chance to scrimmage to work out the kinks and get a feel for the new formation we wanted to play…small things but sometimes it is those little things that have the most impact on our game…
Saturday our first game kicked off with a fairly organized opponent and we were only 2 deep on our bench against their army of many legs and lungs. TBH- I was somewhat concerned as we were playing a bit outside ourselves and getting too far ahead of play to have any real impact on situational play. At halftime, we asked the players to calm down and think about their actions and how could we play where we controlled the tempo and pace of the game. The other team had one opportunity at goal early in the second half and capitalized on that chance.
Having been with sides that conceded the match after 1st blood was drawn by the other team in the second half, I worried that we would take our foot off of the gas due to our mental state. Those fears were quickly put to rest as the girls put the petal down and went on to ring the bell 3 times to take the win.
Our next two games were to be a chance for us to hit a stride and start to discover who were are- we walked away from both contests with shut outs to put us firmly in 1st place (we were the only undefeated team in our division). However- the lack of subs and the fatigue from a soft preseason regiment soon took their toll on us as we went into the final game.
As the whistle blew for the final match, we struggled with fatigue and no respite or chances to recover as our opponent capitalized on having a full bench. As they sent wave after wave of fresh legs and lungs onto the pitch and played us with long ball, the out come was inevitable. We tilted to them 0-1 but held them off until the 2nd half before they were able to hit the net.
As other coaches asked me about what I felt could have been done differently, I could only say that given all the circumstances we had to face going into that match, nothing. As we mature as a team, we will learn that we have to be aware of what is happening on the field- in this case, we matched their style of long ball play and just ran ourselves in the ground, instead of just playing simple possession to hold onto the ball. This match was a great opportunity for us to see where we are, where we need adjustments and why those adjustments are needed.
Yes, as I was driving up to the tournament, I was focused on all the aspects of the games except winning. Having 3 wins out back to back our first time out was a pleasant surprise. I am so proud of these girls and so thankful for the opportunity to share this season with them and see them grow in our sport.
till I see you on the pitch