Gallimore Reflects On Spring Season
May 10, 2012
SEATTLE - The non-traditional season in soccer is always a mixed bag of tricks. You typically play without your graduating seniors and without those rehabbing injuries or surgeries from the fall season. Things were no different for women's soccer this spring.
Sophomore Brianna Sweeney decided at season's end to transfer to Humboldt State in the spring for soccer, personal and academic reasons; 17. Sophomore Morgan Swanson and junior Kellie Welch were both forced into medical retirement based on multiple knee injuries and surgeries undergone both in high school and while at UW; 15.
The saving grace is that included in this fifteen and returning for five-years are seniors Kari Davidson and Faustine Dufka. Despite having a stand-out freshmen fall and making very good headway during winter training, freshmen forward Jaclyn Softli suffered a back injury that eventually required surgery and would put her out of spring games; 13: 12 field players and two goalkeepers, this is how we'd tackle our spring.
Scheduling for spring matches is also usually a dicey proposition. No missed class time for games, trying to limit the dollars spent on travel, trying to schedule quality opponents are all parameters to be considered along with when teams are available to play. Our spring schedule included great quality in Portland, Seattle U (twice), the Sounders Women and Oregon State, but the timing was far from ideal, but there wasn't really much to be done about it.
We played Portland immediately after spring break and didn't fare well; didn't look sharp in front of goal and had a lapse at the beginning of the second half that cost us the game; a 2-0 loss. The positives taken from this match were that we looked at a new system and players that hadn't played a lot in the fall or at all, as was the case with junior Kelsea Brajkovich, had ample playing time and started to find their rhythm and stride. Redshirt freshmen goalkeeper, Megan Kufeld, suffered an ankle sprain against Portland that would keep her out for multiple weeks: 13
We'd now have almost a three-week break to train before playing Seattle U and this helped us gain game fitness and just get our general game sense back and get used to playing together again. It would remain a challenge all spring to replicate the game exactly in training as we never had the number for 11-aside scrimmages. This is where I was most pleased with our team; they really were able to translate our 7 v. 7 or 8 v. 8 training to the big game when they needed to. You could tell that the idea of "competing" harder, becoming a "grittier" team, and really laying it out there physically had started to sink in with our group. We played well against Seattle U and came away with a 1-0 win. Hillary Zevenbergen, Lindsay Elston, Annie Sittauer, Davidson and Stine Schoening all really had standout performances in this match and the group as a whole did well to manage the game and see it through playing with only two substitutes.
I would miss the next game due to my trip to Morocco, but the team was fired up and in good hands with associated head coach Amy Griffin and assistant Jim Thomas. The issue now became who we'd play as Seattle Pacific had to pull out because of their problem with numbers and healthy players. We thought about an alumni game but then Seattle U graciously agreed to play us again.
We'd go up in this game on a Dufka to Elston goal but unlike the week before weren't able to hold on and despite Davidson's best effort to keep a tremendous Seattle U strike out of the back of our net the game ended in a 1-1 draw. The team would agree that we took a small slide back on the "grittiness" scale.
It was now time to prepare for the biggest and toughest opponent of the spring: the Seattle Sounders Women. The stars had aligned in the W-League as the perfect storm of misfortune for the WPS (Women's Professional Soccer) led to a windfall for the Sounders Women. The U.S. Women's National Team players would need to find games before London. Many of these players have ties to the Northwest and suddenly the Sounders Women became a mini-women's National Team with a roster comprised of Alex Morgan, Veronica Perez, Hope Solo, Keelin Winters, Stephanie Cox, Megan Rapinoe and Sydney Leroux. In addition, former Huskies Kelli Smith and Kate Deines, along with incoming Husky Isabel Farrell would also don the rave green. We were no doubt under-Dawgs and would have to find our GRIT and find it quickly.
The atmosphere at Starfire Soccer Complex was electric and our team was able to experience a professional atmosphere against a more than formidable opponent. The match was sold out at 4500 plus for weeks and there was definitely a pre-match buzz in the air about this David versus Goliath match-up. I am extremely proud to say that our Huskies not only found their GRIT, they found their confidence, and they found their belief in one another. A scoreless first half was a victory and we even managed to create a few chances despite having less possession. Our back line of Molly Boyd, Schoening, Sittauer and Bos was fantastic and Davidson made a save at the end of the first half that even made Hope Solo raise an eyebrow from where she stood around half-field (yes, she plays off her line a bit).
The second half was a battle, and young National Team stud Alex Morgan found the back of the net on a poor clearance by us. The highlight of the match happened minutes later when Elston thread a picture perfect ball to striker Zevenbergen on the left side of the field where she struck a low "worm-burner" to the far post beating Solo to tie the match up 1-1. It was a fun moment for Husky fans and our team for sure. It is no small feat to score on Solo or the Sounders Women. The game wore on and former Husky and Mexican National Team World Cup phenom, Veronica Perez, scored a cracker of a goal to give her a goal per game in the Sounder's young exhibition season: 2-1 Sounders. Instead of riding the game out and continuing to defend without going forward much we opened ourselves up a bit by pushing for the game-tying goal, but Rapinoe and Cox, darn those Pilots, were starting to have their way down the left flank and end up combining to zip a pass into to a racing Lyndsey Patterson who put the game out of hand in the 89th minute. It was a 3-1 loss but most certainly a moral victory for our Dawgs and one gritty and confident performance. We had left it all out there and it was a more than memorable night for women's soccer in the Pacific Northwest.
The game versus the Sounders was supposed to take place on May 10 but was moved to May 4 to accommodate the U.S. National Team players. We'd already scheduled Oregon State for May 5 and they couldn't switch it. This was far from ideal and our dead-legged Dawgs started the game poorly and on two defensive errors early handed the game to the Beavers, 2-0. Our back line specifically just didn't have the juice to play mistake free and it cost us. To the credit of a few different players we didn't go down without a fight as Zevenbergen and Elston again distinguished themselves for effort and attitude to attack. I don't think there was a blade of grass left untouched by Elston as she did the work of five people it seemed. Those two both had chances but were not sharp on goal and we could muster the finishing we needed. It was a tall order to play this game, one we couldn't quite fill.
Spring culminated this week with our traditional Dawg Bowl finale which is our annual 4 v. 4 team challenge. It comes complete with great team names and costumes. This year Team Chief would take high honors with the Slumdawgs and House Elves finishing second and third respectively.
As is always the case we will step away from the pitch take stock of lessons learned, headway made and start to plan for the arrival of our future Huskies this summer. This small group accomplished some big things on and off the field this spring, now it's all about how it translate into summer training.