Kickin' It With Kendyl

Oct. 23, 2008

I never thought dribbling the ball would be considered a criminal offense. But if you're playing by Jim Thomas's rules, it means serving time.

When our team arrived to practice Tuesday after our losses against USC and UCLA the previous weekend, we knew we were in trouble. We assumed the punishment was going to be some form of running, like wind sprints, shuttles or the worst: 120's. However, we soon realized we were in for something quite unexpected. In an attempt to make us play better, Jim had the 'crackin'' idea to make up his own laws of soccer, which if broken meant time in jail: a 10x10 box made of cones at the corner of the field.

Therefore, if we took more than two touches, gave the ball away, miss-hit a ball, reached for a pass, didn't tackle, didn't make a run, took a water break, were too sweaty, jersey un-tucked, talked, smiled, or sneezed (you get the idea) we had to serve time. People were running in and out of jail all practice long. When V (Veronica Perez) was sent off for missing a shot, I was going to argue that she should demand a lawyer, or have her Miranda rights read. But when Jim gave her a longer sentence for rolling her eyes, I thought best to keep that to myself. By the end of the day, pretty much our entire team had a criminal record, and Jim had a new nickname: The Warden.

Of course this was only said behind his back.

The theme for the rest of the week was two-touch play. We learned from our trip to L.A. that we need to play quicker by limiting our touches on the ball. Starting the Pac-10 season off with UCLA and USC proved to be hard, but with the rest of our Pac-10 season ahead of us we could only focus on improvement.

However, that improvement didn't necessarily present itself with our first conference home game against Stanford. A top team with skill and pace, we came out timid and defensive, which resulted in early goals for the Cardinal. The rest of the game didn't fare much better and by the end of 90 minutes we were faced with our first home loss. Lesle, who had to sit on her birthday and watch our defeat, could only be disappointed. The fact that we 'made a good team look better' was not a good feeling and definitely not a good birthday present.

The next day at 9 a.m. we met at Husky field for a light practice. Personally, I was a little cranky and the last place I wanted to be was at our soccer field, where less than 24 hours earlier we saw our worst loss of the season. We were all feeling down and low, which was why the coaches found it appropriate to give us a little bit of a reality check.

Lesle made it clear that we weren't going to get anywhere by feeling sorry for ourselves. The self-deprecating attitude wasn't going to cut it, and whining (Lesle's number one pet peeve) was a waste of time and energy. We began to realize that success wasn't going to just come to us if we practiced better runs or quicker passes; our attitudes needed to change. Going through the motions isn't good enough, especially when we're playing some of the top teams in the nation. Every game, every day we have to commit 100% because, like our game against Stanford proved, no team is going to feel sorry for us so we shouldn't feel sorry for ourselves. The effort and hard work has to be there, not just by a few players, but the whole team.

Our wakeup call gave us an edge going into Sunday's game against Cal. We knew this was a must-win game and we went in with a whatever-it-takes attitude. The fact that this was Amy's last home game with us (before going to New Zealand with the U-17 National Team) compounded the feeling that it was do or die.

It was obvious from the beginning that we were going to put up a fight. Even when we found ourselves down, 1-0, in the first half, we weren't going to concede. Within the first five minutes of the second half we equalized with a cross from J-Ro (Jenna Robison) hitting Kate at the back post who sacrificed her body - or at least her leg - to score. Later in the half, the ref gave Cal a free kick in the box that put them a goal up for the second time in the game. Momentary distress was zapped away as we rallied to keep fighting. Veronica started the comeback with a goal from a through ball given by McKenna. As the clock wound down, the score remained tied until V took an outside shot that slipped in far post, literally bringing the Bears' defense to their knees. The last seven minutes was a battle filled with pushing, shoving and tackling to keep the lead. In the end, we were able to hold off Cal and nab our first 'W' of our Pac-10 season.

With a big win under our belt, we again look forward to the second half of our season starting with our games this weekend against rivals Oregon State and U of O. Our aim from each game to the next is to get better, so we will continue to learn from our mistakes and keep improving. As Jim would see it, we are essentially on parole, and a few more misdemeanors could land us in jail with no bail.

But, what does he know? He's English. :)

~Kendyl

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