Sept. 29, 2008
Through the course of the season you hope that your team can grow, both as individuals and as a collective unit, to be stronger by the end of the season than they are in the beginning. It would be nice if growth could occur without having to go through tough times, but often times the greatest growth occurs when things don't go your way and you have find a way to pick yourself up and move on. This past weekend we were forced to deal with two different difficult situations. On Friday night we traveled to play #1 Notre Dame and battled them throughout but still found ourselves on the losing end. Then on Sunday we returned home to take on DePaul, and while we won the match our performance was not indicative of a team with high aspirations of postseason success.
The chance to play the #1 ranked team in the country in front of over two thousand fans is one that few teams get, and we knew that we would need each player to be on her game for us to be successful on the night. Unfortunately in the first half we did not execute in the way we had hoped and found ourselves having to climb out of a 3-0 deficit at halftime. To our credit, we came back in the second half and battled our way into the game. We got our reward with twenty minutes left to go when Kate Cunningham headed a ball into the box in behind the Notre Dame defense that created a scramble with the Notre Dame defenders, their goalkeeper, and Giselle Mangal. Giselle got a touch in behind the defense and onrushing goalkeeper, and Shannon Smyth followed up the play and was able to finish off Giselle's effort to make the score 3-1. Regrettably we ended up giving back another goal shortly after, but as disappointed as we were with giving back a goal, overall we showed a lot of character and resilience throughout the second half.
Sunday's game vs. DePaul was a chance to get back to winning ways and hopefully play some good soccer. While the elements were there for us to play good attacking soccer like we have played throughout the year, we simply could not seem to play to the level we are capable of playing. But, we were able to find a breakthrough in the first half when Shannon Smyth was taken down in the box trying to dribble past a DePaul defender. The referee called a penalty kick, and Kelsey Hunyadi stepped up and fired a shot high past the DePaul goalkeeper to give us the 1-0 lead at the half. We addressed some issues at halftime and in the second half we began to connect our passes more and build a more sustained attack, but DePaul played well and put us under pressure throughout the match. We were, however, able to take advantage of our chances, and in the end that is what counts. Shannon Smyth sent a cross into the far post that was redirected by Shannon Leamy toward goal, where the goalkeeper parried it off the crossbar, and it bounced out to Lindsay Boling who was there to head the ball in and double our advantage. Both teams had some opportunities late in the game as DePaul pushed more numbers forward trying to get a goal back, but we defended well and Katie Zoeller in goal was solid enough to earn the shutout in her first collegiate start.
We have two key Big East games ahead of us against UConn and Providence, and we must grow from last weekend's experience and perform the way we are capable of playing. If we do that then I am sure we can be successful.