Kickin' It With Kendyl

Dec. 19, 2008

A few differences from last year's season to this year's season: 1) we're scoring 2) we're defending 3) we're winning, and 4) I constantly get asked 'when's the blog coming out?' Now, you would think that after missing almost a full week of school nearing finals, my friends, family, and, yes, even the academic staff, would want to know about my grades and classes. But, surprisingly, as we returned back to our normal life after our Second Round appearance in the NCAA tournament, I was bombarded with questions of what was going to go into the last write-up of the season.

With so much to write about, the task of summarizing our last week together was a challenge (the first paragraph took me a half hour alone). I wasn't sure if I should mention the long plane ride to Texas, the three-hour drive to College Station, Wolfies - with its five-dollar salmon and, as our bus driver, Ed, put it, 'the best chicken wings around!' - or the culture shock that occurred as we pulled into College Station for what would be a long weekend.

Never having visited these here parts (insert southern accent) before, I was expecting desert prairies, dry weather, big trucks and cowboy hats. As we pulled up to our hotel, my assumptions were pretty much correct with one exception: across the street, a mere 10 yards from us was a SONIC! Having the best ice cream and shakes around, my roommate and partner in crime, Kate, and I didn't waste any time testing out the variety of desserts.

Since the beginning of the season Jim, aka 'The Warden,' aka 'The Cookie Police,' has been trying to break our team's habit of sweets. But as Kate and I crossed the four-lane road towards our chocolate haven, Jim's words from the past (insert snobby English accent), 'don't eat that' and 'you have perfectly good health bars in your room,' were pushed to the back of my mind. After a satisfying vanilla milkshake and Kate's extra-Oreo cookie ice cream, we were ready to Hit the hay.

Our Wednesday arrival gave us plenty of time to acclimate ourselves to the time change, different weather, new field and, of course, new restaurants! Eating out is an event in itself, and with more than 30 people, efficiency is crucial. It is common law on our team to be present and ready at the arranged time, but the night before our NCAA debut, McKenna and Kellye must have figured the laws didn't apply in the South because as we all sat waiting in the bus at 6 p.m. sharp, we were all wondering where they could be. As 6:01 hit, Lesle signaled for the bus driver to move along, leaving the offenders behind at the hotel. Like any institution, laws are meant to be obeyed and when broken they are often punishable by... walking? When the two blondes finally realized they were left behind, the instructions were simple: walk out the front lobby, take a right and go straight till you hit the stop light, turn right and keep going until you reach the restaurant. Though it didn't take them long to find the place, it can be argued that Kellye and McKenna found a new meaning to the phrase, 'walk of shame'.

The events of the night must have been a sign of the struggles that were to come. Friday should have been like any other game day, but with no one having any experience in the tournament (besides Dana), we were all nervous for kick-off. I guess it didn't help matters that right before warm-up, I was sent into a fit of tears as I discovered that my mom had secretly flown down to Texas! Normally my mother's presence would have never made me cry, but the fact that she had tried to surprise me and that her and the other moms were wearing matching purple-and-gold Rockawear high top shoes was enough to make any daughter want to cry. Despite her heinous fashion choice, I quickly wiped away the tears and got ready for the game.

Like most of our games this season we took control in the first few minutes. However, this didn't last long, and as the game progressed the play only became worse. While we probably played our worst half of the season the coaches at least tried to keep it positive at halftime, and as Lesle put it, 'well, at least we didn't get scored on.' We should have knocked on wood because in the first fifteen minutes of the second half we found ourselves two goals down.

Looking back I'm not really sure what changed, but after LSU's second goal it was like our team woke up and started playing. Kate kicked off the comeback attack quickly making it a 2-1 game. For the remainder of the half, we dominated possession and led the stats in shots. Finally, with the clock ticking down, Veronica tied up the game giving us yet another shot at overtime.

Although I was nervous going into overtime, I was confident that our team could pull out a win. And as I looked around the stadium and saw all the support we had, including my mother and Linda Kasser, who were dancing in the stands to the warm-up tape, I knew that we were going to pull through. Plus, we had something that the other team didn't: J-Ro! There was no need for a second overtime because as we pressed the LSU defense, a loose ball found J-Ro's feet, and she did what she has done all season for us. Taking a touch, J drilled the ball into the crowded box and as the keeper dove the opposite way, the ball found the back of the net. The next few moments were a blur as our entire team rushed the field and formed what you could call a soccer mosh-pit. After we got our voices back and the ringing in my ears stopped, the icing on the cake came when the coaches told us that after dinner we could get dessert!

After yet another long day and my chocolate fudge brownie cake digested, I was ready to go back to the hotel and pass out. The next day seemed no different than any other Saturday. For almost three months our team has dealt with double headers, so we were used to the routine of early mornings, light trainings and resting. We were all nervous with excitement as we moved into the Second Round of the tournament, facing the hosting team, Texas A&M.

While I wasn't thrown into a fit of tears before the Texas A&M game, I was still feeling the nerves as we walked onto the same field that only two nights before gave us our first tournament victory. From the beginning, the game was fast-paced, with chances for both teams. However, the Aggies were able to get on the board off a free kick, giving them the lead going into half. Going into the second half, Texas A&M got an early goal, giving them the familiar 2-0 lead. We continued to press the Aggies, which eventually paid off in a goal, but our high pressure left us vulnerable on defense, and with time running out, Texas A&M was able to widen their lead once again, securing the win at 3-1.

The realization that our season was over came with the final whistle. Exhausted and overcome with emotion, we gathered together for our final huddle. Though it was over, Lesle could only speak of how proud she was of our team. Overcoming adversity, beating the odds and sticking together as a team, we were able to achieve what seemed like an impossible dream just one year ago.

So, with still another night left in Texas, we did what any other team would do at the end of their season: celebrate! We headed to On the Border - a major upgrade from Wolfies - and filled up on chips, salsa and the best Mexican food around. And as the seniors and coaching staff toasted to a great year, they called for the waiter to bring a second round, apparently in honor of our second round finish. The night was capped off with cookie dough ice cream for Kate and chocolate cake for me.

Now, I have learned my lesson about waking up on time, so when we learned that we had to be up at 5 a.m. the next morning, I was sure to set my alarm...Someone should have passed the memo on to our coaches.Outside waiting for the shuttle to take us the airport, everyone was wondering where the coaches could be. My repeated re-dial attempts finally put me through to Jim... only after we were all at the airport. Not knowing what to do, I turned to The Warden for direction. Since we had to pay for all of our bags, he instructed us to wait. One problem: our flight was supposed to leave in 30 minutes! Thankfully, Mo (Melissa Beal) had her credit card, so we charged the bags checked in and headed for security.

Just as I was about to check myself in, Lesle and Jim showed up in the nick of time (obviously not bothering to look in a mirror in their haste). While Jim prides himself on being a fashionable guy, even my mother with her purple shoes would know not to wear sunglasses in the absence of sun. But with everyone finally together, we sprinted to the gate (not an easy task for some) and boarded with minutes to spare.

As we departed Texas and made our way back home, the coaches managed to wake up (however Jim still kept his glasses on), J-Ro lost the Southern accent that she managed to perfect during our time at College Station and the rest of us caught up on some much needed rest. Although we tend to complain about the long weekends and hours spent traveling, this last trip I was hoping would last just a little bit longer. After spending almost every moment together for the past four months, separation anxiety hit as we all parted ways in Seattle.

Although we were all going to see each other in a few days, I was going to miss the late-night ice cream runs with Kate, Kerry's foul mouth, Kellye's dirty habits, Chelsea's loud singing, McKenna's dinner outfits and even J-Ro's southern drawl. We're all glad that our seniors were able to leave on a positive note, especially after lasting through three hard years. At the same time, we're all excited at the thought of next season and moving forward. And after the show the coaches and seniors gave us on our last night in Texas, we'll follow their lead and look forward to not just the 2nd round, but a 3rd round, a 4th round...

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