Last night, the high school girls soccer team that I help coach had their first league game. Under the lights, at the stadium in town, on the turf, and against one of our in-town rivals–it was a big game. Our varsity team has nine freshmen, and their nerves were palpable as they arrived at the field and started lacing their cleats.
Chatter and laughter filled the air as they prepared for the game. After our head coach announced the starting line-up, the girls started warming up–passing, stretching, shooting, and getting the feel of the field. The jitters began to fade, and I could see the girls find their confidence and comfort.
When the game began, the teams were very evenly matched. Their defense played hard, and their keeper was tough. She stopped shot after shot after shot.
The first half ended scoreless, and the second half began with a 0-0 score staring down at us from the scoreboard. Tension mounted as the minutes ticked away. More opportunities came, but no goals.
Finally, with less than three minutes left on the clock, one of our defenders sent the ball soaring to midfield. A speedy striker trapped it, turned, and lofted it over the defense. From the outside midfield, one of our freshmen managed to stop the ball. It looked like she was going to lose it, but she dribbled around the defender and took a shot.
After all of the blocked or missed shots, this one was different. Low and fast, it crossed the box, just out of the keeper’s reach, and drilled into the corner of the net. Goal!!!
Cheers erupted. The players jumped up and down, hugging one another and shouting. A collective sigh of relief came from our sideline. Our head coach looked over at me. “I hope we can play smart defense for the last two minutes,” he said.
The knot in my stomach didn’t disappear until the final whistle blew. Game over. Our first league victory! What a night!