Kickin' It With Kendyl

Oct. 9, 2008

All of last week, our team prepared and trained for Friday night's game against Portland. It was our only game of the weekend, so there was no excuse to not come out and give it our all. Even Thursday saw an improvement in practice, although there were some-eye rolling moments in our game of keep away. I think Lesle officially wore out the phrase, 'yellow's in the middle.'

Thursday's practice was also a reunion for the many who were ill and injured. Dana Stirn and Sarah Martinez both returned after a few weeks of absence, Kerry L eslie and Chelsea Bumbaugh both recovered from being sick during the week, and 30 minutes before departure for Portland, Hannah was cleared to play after suffering a concussion the week before. With everyone healthy the day before our big game, I think Jim was trying to tempt fate by making the team head balls that he dropped kicked 50 yards into the sky! I wisely opted for the ten push-ups that was punishment for not heading them!

After practice, we cleaned up, got on the bus and headed to Vancouver for the night. The trip was long and we were all ready to eat and sleep when we finally arrived at our hotel. We woke up early the next morning and went through our regular routine of breakfast, nap (an unspoken after-breakfast norm), an afternoon walk, lunch and pre-game prep.

When we arrived to the field, the clouds had already rolled in and the threat of a torrential down pour was likely. We were pretty early, so while the coaches were going over the game plan, we passed the time by playing 'How many songs have the word `love' in it?' We got through Whitney Houston's, 'I will always love you,' to the classic nursery rhyme 'I love you, you love me' before the coaches came in to talk business. We briefly went over what we had been working on all week in practice: strong and tight defense and quick and fast attacks. We were ready to play.

The game started off quick right off the bat. Portland's skill and pace up front put us under pressure right away, but our patience in defense kept them quiet during the half. We were able to create some chances up front but struggled to convert those chances into a goal, and at the end of the half the score was tied at 0-0.

We regrouped in the shelter of the locker room where the coaches applauded our defensive efforts but made it clear we could still play a lot better. Simpler passing, fewer touches, and early runs were the key points of the talk. The coaches had high expectations and with the pressure on and only a half to play we returned to the field even more determined than before.

As soon as the whistle blew, it was obvious that Portland was equally motivated, which resulted in a hard, physical half. As the rain began to pour, the ball skidded about and the field softened making every cut a challenge. Although the conditions gradually grew worse, we played on, no one willing to let the circumstances affect them. As the clock drew closer to the end of regulation time, Portland became desperate in their attack, hitting crosses and taking shots, which were snatched up by Alex Phillips in goal. Alex's presence in the net was probably the key factor in keeping our team in the game. There were numerous occasions where she had to come off her line to make a play on the ball, which might have otherwise been a goal. When the clock finally hit zero we were still at 0-0 heading for our second overtime of the season.

We played golden goal rule and halfway into the first overtime period Portland converted a slot back pass into a goal.

With our jersey's soaking and our cleats muddy we walked off the field disappointed and angry. The coaches, who were feeling the same emotions, reminded us that we could be angry with the loss, but be proud of our effort. An away game, in the pouring rain, playing a top-five school, we were able to work for 90 minutes, tackling, sprinting and fighting to the end.

With that said, we got cleaned up and headed home, all of us eager to get back to Seattle. Of course, it wouldn't be a proper trip without some kind of incident, so when our bus pulled over to the side of the road because of broken windshield wipers, a groan of exasperation could be heard from every player. A few hours, one movie and Jim's life story later, we were finally up and running on a new bus!

The mood the rest of the way home was mellow, with the loss of the game still lingering. But as Lesle and the coaches have told us, we need to look forward to 'what's next'. Each game is a learning experience that reveals something new we can work on. We move forward, learn from our mistakes and apply it to the next game. We are going to hit bumps in the road and things will inevitably break down, but it's how we handle those moments on the side of the road that truly defines a team. So heading into our Pac-10 season, we plan to get back on the bus.

-Kendyl Pele



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