Going into playoffs, sometimes you tend to over analyze. You start to question whether or not to change your formation, do you move people around, do you do a complete overhaul of your system and game plan? Well fortunately that is not what we did. In fact, what we did is stuck with the same exact game plan and system that got us to the number 4 seed, but executed it to perfection. We decided that technically these girls are as sound as any team that they will face so the focus does not need to be on that. But we really focused on the tactical piece, the movement of the ball, the movement off the ball, the combinations, using the space out on the field to create opportunities. These ladies took those couple days of practice and what we went over and came out yesterday and proved that THEY ARE A SOCCER TEAM, THAT THEY ARE WORTHY OF THE NUMBER 4 SPOT. However, although we felt confident about the practices and everything that we went over…….. there was something that was missing. Something, or someone, that needed to really pull it all together and pull the girls together……… and pull the girls together is what she did. Coach Patty Deschaine paid us a visit at the end of our last practice before the game yesterday because she really wanted to have a moment to speak with the girls. Now who are Tom and I to turn down a coach that has years of experience, especially come playoff time, and besides being a coach, but a fan that truly cares about not only the girls soccer program, but all the programs Stevens has to offer. I think that I can safely speak for Tom in saying that she really pulled everything together for us. Everything that she said to the girls really put things in perspective for them. I think they truly understood that making it to the playoffs is not something you are guaranteed, it is something you earn, and to embrace it, embrace every moment of it. If there was any question of whether or not what Patty said got through to them, well if you were there right before the whistle to start the game, then you witnessed all the girls reaching down to touch the grass. That was a Patty Deschaine moment. That was a clear indication to us that they had taken Patty’s words to heart and that they were embracing this moment and they would not take it for granted. The girls solidified it by winning the first round of the playoffs with a 5-0 victory over Gilford. So Patty, a huge debt of gratitude to you for what you not only did for the girls but for Tom and I. As coaches we certainly learned a lot in that moment you spent with the girls and realize that you are a huge part of that victory. Thank you.
If you were there then you witnessed a tremendous game by the Lady Cardinals. It took sometime to find their rhythm, but once they did, there was no stopping them. The scoring opened up when a solid defensive play by Lindsey Bateman stopped a Gilford transition in it’s tracks and she was able to slot a through ball to Katelyn Belaire who buried it in the back of the net to put Stevens up 1-0. Always great to get the first goal, but as a coach you realize that the most dangerous point in a game is the minute after you score that goal. Sometimes players can get a little lax, a little too confident. Fortunately our girls showed their heart and determination and kept up the pressure and the intensity. The girls were able to add another goal when Pia Schuster made a run that found her on the receiving end of a low driven cross from Jazmyn Griffin to put the Lady Cards up 2-0. Everything seemed to be looking on the up and up, the girls were rolling, and the momentum was in their favor. The ladies were able to tally one more goal before halftime. With solid play, Maddy Whipple retrieved a loose ball and was able to slip a pass to Aly Lizotte who teed up a shot that soared over the Gilford keeper’s head and landed in the back of the net far post, putting the Stevens girls up 3-0 going into half. Come halftime there really was not much to be said, just keep it up ladies. The second half started where the first half ended, with the ladies playing their possession brand of soccer mixed with high intensity. Katelyn Belaire tallied her second goal of the game when she broke through the Gilford defense and ripped a shot to put the Lady Cards up 4-0. The final goal of the game was scored by Kelsey Belisle as Katelyn Belaire made a run down the right wing and slipped a pass that found Kelsey and placed a ball perfectly off the inside of the post to put the Stevens girls up 5-0.
The effort that these girls put in, and I mean all of the girls, from the first whistle to the final whistle is a testament to the skill, dedication, and desire of this team. From the keepers, to the defense, to the midfield, to the forwards, they played soccer the way it was meant to be played. They proved not only to fans and spectators, but to themselves, that they deserve to be here. They deserve the opportunity to strive toward a State Championship. We as coaches can not be more proud. Ladies, enjoy the moment, you earned it.
A special thanks to Cardinal Country for coming out and supporting the ladies on a dreary, rainy day. A special thanks to the boys soccer team and football team for coming over and showing their support for the girls….. and good luck to the boys soccer team today. Again, a huge thank you to Patty Deschaine for her invaluable words to the girls.
The girls will be playing Campbell on Sunday at 2pm, so please come out and show your support for these girls, they value it.