Nationals is a difficult tournament in that there is no way to know what your opponent is all about. In a way, it is a tournament for the players to showcase their ability to recognize and adapt their game to the opponent as the game unfolds. As a coach I can try to make changes from the side but the girls have to come out sharp and be ready to immediately recognize any threat that the other team might pose and exploit any weakness that the opponent might have. so, as a coach, you always worry when things are out of your control...probably the hardest part of coaching soccer over most other sports. Once that whistle blows your impact is minimal.
Fortunately the girls came out flying and put Cornell on their heels immediately! Over the past two weeks we have worked on trying to get our opponents under more pressure both by staying more connected as a team and working harder than our opponent. We have an extremely deep team and can throw 20 field players at any opponent through the course of any game. With that, I asked the girls not to pace themselves. Go out and give it everything you have for as long as you can and then get a sub. The work ethic I saw today was very impressive! They played with a heart, passion and desire that I haven't seen from them all year. We kept the ball in Cornell's half of the field for much of the game with a few counter attacks by them and a few moments of sustained possession in our half thrown in. In the end, it was a Stephanie March (Jr. midfielder from Chino Hills, CA) toe poke past the keeper from in close that wins the game for MSU 1-0!
In a game where work ethic was at an all time team high Steph also stood out in this category. Her work rate today was off the charts! As a midfielder she was up with the forwards pressuring their back line and then getting back to support our back line and bring double teams against their forwards. Centerbacks Meg Galea (Jr. from Grosse Point Park, MI) and Knar Topouzian (Fr. from West Bloomfield Hills, MI.) and Annie Waldoch off the bench (Fr. from Geneva Hills, IL.) were also dominant in back not allowing any balls through or over the top and winning every head ball that was possible.
We still don't know if UNC has made it to Memphis so our 8:15 pm game is scheduled. I hope to know more soon and will update everyone via Facebook and Twitter.
Thank you for all of the support!