Kickin' It With Kendyl
Nov. 12, 2008
We all knew that our last two games of the season against the Arizona schools was our ticket into the NCAA tournament. After working hard all season long to build up our record, it's ironic how fate waited until the last two games to throw us a couple curve balls.
Friday night we arrived to our locker room early to find it decorated with purple and gold ribbons and balloons (compliments of the men's tennis team) for our last Pac-10 weekend. Not knowing much about ASU, we were all a little nervous for the game, especially since these last two games were crucial to our chances in making the NCAA tournament. Though this was an obvious fact, the coaches stayed away from the subject of the tournament and tried to focus us on the game ahead. With our heads focused back on the game, we stepped out onto our wet and muddy field ready to play.
From the start, we took control of the game. Shot after shot, it seemed like only a matter of time before one would make it into the back of the net. Unfortunately, the first goal came half-way into the half from ASU. The linesman raised his flag for a foul. However, the center referee let the play continue, giving ASU the opportunity to take a shot while everyone had stopped play. Finding ourselves 1-0 down in a game that we were dominating got everyone fired up, especially Lesle. Not at all happy with the referee's decision to ignore the foul, Lesle 'discussed' with the referee 'what exactly [he] was thinking.' After some heated words, Lesle decided to leave the game and give Jim some coaching experience. I don't know if it was the rain that was dripping down his face or sweat, but it was obvious that Jim was a little tense to be given the reins in the second-to-last game of the season. Fortunately, Kate Deines eased his worries when she headed in a ball served from miss clutch-queen herself, Jenna Robison. With that we left the half tied 1-1.
We started the second half much like the first, attacking the Sun Devils' defense and creating plenty of opportunities to score. There were a few scary counter attacks, but the defense played outstanding (if I do say so myself), and kept the Devils out of our defensive third for the majority of the game. At one point in the game, I found myself standing, watching the play develop up top, when Lesle's voice entered my mind: 'Kendyl! Move your feet!' I quickly looked to the bench and remembered that Lesle was gone. I began to relax, giving myself a mental note to get more sleep before games, but then I heard her voice again! I was getting a little freaked out that my coach was in my head when I looked over my shoulder towards the baseball field and realized Lesle was standing at the top of the bleachers! I guess the view from the top suited her better.
While Lesle cheered from a distance, on the field we were becoming more and more frustrated. Racking up 26 shots, more than doubling ASU's attempts, we were still tied after 90 minutes. We weren't going to leave the field without a win, so we went into our fifth overtime determined to get a 'W.' Only a minute into the first period we were rewarded a penalty kick after 'V' was taken down in the box. With the game on the line, we were all confident in our leading scorer to put the game away for us. So when the keeper blocked the first shot, M-VP followed through with a second shot into the back of the net. Overjoyed, we all rushed to celebrate, but V had her own plans that involved running around like a chicken with her head cut off and sliding through the mud. I waited for her to shower after the game to give her a hug instead.
After yet another long game this season, the coaches decided that we deserved the day off to recuperate. We should have felt all rested up by Sunday, but our 7:30 breakfast had me feeling a little tired. So after hitting up Noah's Bagels, Kate and I thought we'd hit the sack. It was still a few hours before game time, so we thought that a little pre-game nap couldn't hurt. In a deep slumber on the leather coaches in our team room, I was dreaming easy about our upcoming game. And just as I was about to score the game-winning goal (obvious it was a dream right?), I heard Lesle's voice! I was a little freaked out to say the least. First she's in my head and now my dreams! But then I snapped back into reality as the lights flicked on and an amused Lesle greeted us a good morning. That quickly got Kate and I looking lively as we jumped off our seats and rushed out of the room to prepare for the game.
By the time game time rolled around, we had turned our focus back to U of A and were ready to finish off our regular season on a positive note. Lesle decided that Jim had done a good job in the previous game, so she stepped aside once again to enjoy the game from the sidelines, cocoa in hand. Just like in Friday's game, we started the match dominating possession, but this time lacking intensity. We were playing as if we had just woken up...
Although it wasn't our best soccer, we went up early in the game when V took an outside shot that the goalie couldn't keep her hands on. We were heading into halftime up 1-0, but with just a few minutes remaining Alex Webber, who was following through a pass from Nikki Murray, slid in for a shot colliding with the U of A goalie. While both girls were carted off the field, Webber was the one that was given a red card, leaving us to play a man down for the rest of the game. At halftime, we took inventory and found that we were down two coaches (counting Amy), one player, and we were still missing a few players from prior injury. With all the setbacks, we rallied around each other and focused on the last 45 minutes.
Coming back onto the pitch, we were able to control the game despite being a player down. We were rewarded midway into the half with another goal off a cross from Jane Mitchell to Kate Deines, which put us 2-0 up on the Wildcats. As the clock wound down, the physical play went up. While every game is filled with trash talking and complaining, Sunday's game was different in that the majority of the fighting was between the U of A players. Even the fans in the stands could see that we were on the verge of a 'Cat' fight. Though there were some close calls, we ended the last game of our Pac-10 season brawl-free and with a 2-1 win over the U of A Wildcats.
We had little time to rest because the next day at 5 p.m. the teams would be announced for the NCAA tournament. Although we were confident we had secured a spot on the list, it wasn't a sure thing until we saw our name on the board. So the whole next day I was a nervous wreck. I couldn't focus in my classes; all I could think about was meeting my team at 4:30 in our team room to find out our fate.I was done with school early so I decided to go home and take a nap before our meeting. Now, I should have learned my lesson about napping before big events from Sunday, but as I snuggled into my bed pulling my down comforter over my head, I thought 'what could possibly go wrong?' Obviously I should have thought better because as I woke up from my deep slumber I glanced at my phone and realized that it was 4:25! My roommate/teammate Nikki Murray was going to wake me, thought about waking me, even sent me a text message, but in the end decided to let me get my beauty rest. After an exchange of words along the lines of, 'what the heck were you thinking?' we raced out of the house (I was still wearing my slippers) and into the car where we jetted off towards school. Since I know my mom reads this blog, I just want to go on record that we 'jetted' at the speed limit while wearing our seatbelts. : )
We arrived to school considerably late, and Nikki and I were a little nervous punching the code to our team room. The door opened to Lesle starring at us in the doorway from a pitch black room. I think I quite possibly peed my pants at that moment. But after a few moments, she flicked on the lights to reveal the team and staff who were now all laughing at us. I didn't really appreciate the joke, but at the same time was relieved that I wasn't in trouble. When Lesle asked us what happened, I was a little embarrassed to admit that I was napping...yet again. While I did receive an eye roll all, was soon forgotten as the clock struck 5 p.m.
We sat in anticipation watching the announcer slowly go through each bracket. I'm not sure who the broadcaster was, but he could give Ryan Seacrest a run for his money on stalling for time. Finally, after what seemed like forever, we were down to the last bracket. As the screen changed to reveal the teams I felt a wave of panic when I didn't immediately see our name, but I was assured that we were there from the cheers that went up around me. That's when I saw Washington in big bold letters on the TV right under our first opponent, LSU.
We soaked in the moment, enjoying our success. But as we realized that we had made it, the coaches remind us to think of 'what's next?' Throughout the year, this has been our motto to get us from game to game. Making the tournament was a big step but 'what's next' has to be our focus now. And after the season, and especially the weekend, we have had we are confident that we can face whatever is thrown at us as long as we stick together, play hard and have an alarm clock handy.