Saturday, October 11, 2008

Tradition renewed

Well, here I am once again.

For the first time in nearly a year, I'm at the Panera Bread in Smithfield after an Anchorwomen soccer game typing away my postgame notes.

In full disclosure, I did not know how much I'd miss this little routine of mine 'til today. Last year, after each RIC soccer game, I'd have my Acura take me to the nearest casual wi-fi equipped dining spot so I could dutifully convert my fresh postgame thoughts to written form onto this blog. And it's only fitting that I resume this ritual only minutes after I caught up with last year's senior captain Kerry Donahue and her mother Pam, both of whom took in this afternoon's RIC-Keene State game.

It was great to see them again - it's difficult for me to believe that it's also been nearly a year since I last saw them in the aftermath of last year's LEC semifinal loss to WestConn on a cold Danbury night. Kerry was one of the best collegiate defenders I'd ever seen. And Pam? Her homemade Rice Krispy treats are still 572% better than those pre-packaged imitations at the supermarket.

As for today's game - it was played under a cool blue sky and surrounded by brilliant oranges, subtle siennas and lively yellows. The air was a warm seventy degrees Fahrenheit. There was barely a hint of a breeze throughout. It was the quintessential New England autumn day.

On the pitch, the final score was 4-1, Keene State. That line is somewhat misleading: The final two goals were scored in the waning minutes after the Anchorwomen had kept the game 1-1 for 65 minutes. On paper, it looks like they're still sliding. Their last victory took place back in August, a 4-0 victory over Pitt-Bradford. On the contrary: the first sixty minutes displayed a confident bunch of players who menaced an opponent that should have taken care of them by the 20th minute.

The Anchorwomen were relentless - they pressured the Owls for a good 85 minutes before thet ran out of gas in the final five and conceded two unlucky goals. It was almost the exact opposite of their 2-4 loss to Bridgewater State, in which they morphed into a firing squad an lit up the board for two goals in the final eight minutes. If only the two sides could have been combined...

Mike Koperda's club continues to build off of these tough games, win, lose or draw. They are getting better*, and they will continue to do so for the remainder of the season. They know they're all but finished from Little East Conference playoff contention. That's the reality. There's nothing that can be done about the past. In essence, each game is a mini-playoff for these ladies. Spoilmakers? Why not? If they can do their best to knock out a few play0ff-caliber teams from contention, then all the better.

(*You may be sensing a theme here. No, I am not seeing a psychiatrist. Nor have I drank any Kool-Aid lately. So I challenge anyone to join me at any upcoming Anchorwomen game and tell me with a straight face that they're watching a bad team.)

Anyway, I was talking to Kerry at the half, and she said that despite the team's record (1-12-1), the team she joined as a freshman in 2004 also had its struggles before finding its form. But because they were all coming up together as a unit, they were able to get on the same page quickly. And you know what? That crop of freshmen in '04 ended up only three minutes away from clinching the school's first LEC Finals appearance.

Will this year's squad follow suit and achieve the same level of success come 2011? I don't know. But what I do know is that I have no doubt about the improvement I've witnessed through this season. I've seen some bad soccer, and let me tell you, I haven't seen it at Mount Pleasant at all. These ladies are not bad players. They are good, but very few are great. But ask Babe Ruth about fielding a team of great players:

"The way a team plays as a whole determines its success. You may have the greatest bunch of individual stars in the world, but if they don't play together, the club won't be worth a dime. "

This team, as a whole, has played marvelously at times. It has also played horribly. But, the moments of the former have already begun to outweigh the latter. There's been some crisp soccer played by Fleming, Tavana & Co. and there hasn't been any indication to suggest that they're going to let up before their season finale on November 1st.

Don't get me wrong. I am not Aladdin. I do not have a genie. But if the last few games are any indication, this will team will be a serious contender before I finally exit with my Master's.*

(*Tentative completion of said graduate studies: May 2067.)

So, just before my battery dies, I look outside my table window and release a subtle chuckle.

It's been a year since I last found my Saturday schedule with Anchorwomen soccer and post-game Panera Bread.

Who knows where this crop of Anchorwomen will be a year from now?

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