August 20, 2006
Finally! After battling through the last of our "2-a-days" (and "3-a-days") we arrived at our first game, or what our goalie coach, Richard Reece, calls it: our reward at the end of the week. The UW-SPU match up, played on the night of August 18th, was not allowed to be publicized in any way because of Division 2 NCAA restrictions. Word-of-mouth advertising* provided a nice base of fans though, and we had a decent crowd to witness this age-old rivalry.
Today, the UW-SPU rivalry is just an exhibition game, but it used to occur as a regular season game back in the days when SPU was winning national championships left and right. UW was still establishing itself as a consistently strong D-1 soccer program and the upsets by the Division 2 team happened more frequently than the Huskies liked. Although both of these Northwest programs root for each other during the season, there still exists a tension for Northwest bragging rights. There is only one way to earn those rights, and that is by putting it out on the field, but I'll get to that in a bit.
The remainder of the "2-a-days" (from my last entry) focused primarily on solidifying our defense. We worked on individual defending, defensive shape, closing down opponents as a unit, and the coaches tried different guys at the back to find the most cohesive backline. As coach Dean likes to say, "A strong defense will keep you in every game." The team also looked on in wonder as still another group of freshmen and transfers felt the need to get their haircut in outrageous designs, only to erase them a few days later with a complete shave. Nevertheless, when the last double day was over the guys, normal and bald alike, were ready for game time.
One pre-game locker room habit I have is to watch my teammates to see how they prepare mentally. It's interesting to witness the variety of approaches guys take. Some get really pumped up with hard rock music, some get really serious and focused, some like to try and motivate their teammates, and some guys are just relaxed, like you wouldn't know they were just about to play a game.
My personal approach is a mix between getting focused and trying to stay relaxed. I need to focus because I'm preparing to tackle hard, be sharp, and keep a high intensity for 90 minutes. But I have learned that I get consistent performances by not putting pressure on myself or over-thinking the game. It can be a fine line between getting overly serious and not having fun or playing free, and staying too relaxed and not bringing enough aggression. Although I believe everyone has a unique way they can best prepare themselves, I think it would do players well to learn to focus on, what Coach Seth likes to call, "Controlling the controllables." For example, you can't directly control how many goals you're going to score, if your team will win, or if the guy you're marking is fast. But you can control how much work you put into your shooting technique, how hard you practice, and your physical condition. So if you prepare these things during the week, there is no reason to stress out just before a game! Anyway, that is my sports psychology lesson for the day, so onto the game.
We took the field feeling excited, but nobody was sure of just how good we were. Like I said in my last entry, you have to play in a game to get a real measure of a teams' ability. (This game was unique because seven of the players starting the game all played for the same youth club team: The Huskies' Derek Crismier, Bobbak Talebi, Matt Fischer and I along with SPU's Mike Morris, Dave Reuhl, and Colin Rigby all played for the Crossfire Sounders under Alan Hinton). During the first half our team worked through a few midfield issues but still held total control of the game. We had several chances and SPU was not very threatening to our astute backline. We finished the half up 1-0. The second half displayed our offensive prowess as we pounded three more goals in to finish the game 4-0. Normally I will attach a link to the 'box score' for specific stats (shots, goals, assists, minutes played etc) but this game did not have one so I will list some of the vital stats:
Shots: UW - 19, SPU - 6
1st Goal: Ely Allen (Kevin Forrest)
Best Shoes: Centerback Ty Harden with Brand New All-Gold R-10 Legends
We are excited about the win, but even more so about the potential our team showed and that we could give our fans a lot to cheer about. Our excitement is tempered though, because we know that our record is still 0-0, and we have a long road ahead. We will work this week to improve individually and as a team from our last game, all in preparation for our first home game against UC Davis on Friday, August 25 at 7:00pm. We hope to see you there supporting us!
*My marketing major at work