Friday, October 31, 2008

Deja Vu All Over Again

Our next game is against Park at Park's Julien field located at the corner of Highway 9 and East 6th Street in Parkville, Missouri, Saturday, November 1 at high noon. It will be a forshadowing of things to come. And maybe you could say it is a bit eerie (see how I work in the subtle Halloween reference here on Oct. 31st?)

The next weekend (Nov. 7-8) is the MCAC Conference Tournament and we are playing Park in the first round of the tourney at Park. It will be deja vu all over again since we will be playing them two weekends in a row (almost like the movies Halloween I and the sequel, Halloween II.) Deja vu, of course is the feeling that you have been somewhere before (maybe we should call it deja boo? :) The winner of the conference tourney moves on to the National Tournament.

Make no bones about it, playing Park two weekends in a row will be a monster challenge for us. But as I told the players, if we can go up to South Dakota and play a D-I team in winds howling like a werewolf at 50 miles an hour and beat them--we can do anything. Nothing is scary anymore, we have banished all our ghosts back to the shadows of the graveyard. I believe next 2 weekends will be all treats for us and no tricks.

See you there.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Perseverence Paying Off Perfectly

A great weekend for the College of Saint Mary Flames. We defeated conference rival York 2-0 and the University of South Dakota 1-0. The York game was moved to Ralston High School's artificial surface after our game field endured a weeks worth of rain. Versus York, we played a complete game with both goals coming in the second half within minutes of each other. The first goal was created and finished by Daniela "D" Padilla and the second was finished by Melissa King from a cross by Daniela. That was Daniela's last regular season home game for the Flames--she is our lone senior. Molly "Mojo" Jones recorded her first solo collegiate shut out.

On Sunday we drove through gale force winds on the way to Vermillion, South Dakota to play the NCAA division one 'Yotes on their field in front of the Dakota Dome (see pic.) The trainer at USD told me that the winds were howling at 40 miles per hour with gusts up to 50 mph. In the locker room inside the Dakota Dome before the game I addressed their concerns about the wind. I basically said, yes--it is ridiculous that we have to play in these conditions but we don't have any control over the weather. However, we do have control over how we react to the weather. I told them not to freak out about it but play smart and remember there are advantages and disadvantages to having the wind at your back and in your face. They must have really taken it to heart cuz we went out there and won 1-0!

The local paper wrote about the game and even quoted me in the story. We didn't make the silly mistakes that we have made too often this season. We capitalized on our opportunities and remained mentally strong when experiencing adversity. Jessica Alexander had a great goal--she got the ball up into the wind and it was very difficult for the keeper to deal with. That is great for Jessica--she had been shooting some awesome shots in practice and it was good to see her get one on Sunday. Against the wind in the second half, we came out the first 5 minutes and played a little keep away with the 'Yotes in their half. I think they weren't expecting that and they became a bit disheartened. USD was able to get off 23 shots for the game, but nothing that Jackie Swanger and the defense couldn't handle. Jackie recorded her first solo collegiate shut out also.

We beat a good opponent at their place under extreme conditions and we did it not by being lucky, but by playing good, solid soccer. I am very proud. All we need to do is build on it, step by step.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Taking Steps

We made some progress today but didn't do quite enough on a 0-1 loss to cross-town rival the Bellevue University Bruins. Bellevue scored about 20 minutes in after a couple mistakes by the team left the ball sitting in the box and the Bruins were able to get a good shot off and put the ball in the back of the net. We had a bit of a lull the last 10 minutes of the first half and were back on our heals for awhile. We had 3 shots to Bellevue's 10 during the first half.

The second half we came out strong and had much more possession. The team got a definate lift from the sideline's enthusiasm and spirit. We fed off of that for a lot of the second half. We increased our shot total to 11 and let Bellevue have 8.

Our problem was when we got into the offensive third we weren't able to get that final killer pass or cross to get a good opportunity at the goal. We did have a free kick just outside the box but the kick went straight into the wall. Unable to capitalize on our possession, we failed to tie and the game ended 0-1.

We have been doing well in practice and just need to take that energy and enthusiasm, skill and smarts to the game. We played better and at times, out played Bellevue, but didn't quite do enough. I thought our team played very well on the defensive side of the ball for the most part and really didn't give BU any clear cut chances in the second half.

I believe we are a team about to catch fire. We had some sparks today. I saw improvement. We just need to stay positive, persevere and good things will happen. I believe that eventually our team will find its groove and shine. It has been quite a climb to get there, but we are almost there. Count on it.

Friday, October 17, 2008


Tomorrow we play Bellevue University at 1 PM at our place. It is an important game for us (although they all are important, aren't they?) We have been a team that is inconsistent and that has hurt us at times and other times it hasn't. The only way to approach inconsistency is to keep working hard and persevere. We have had a great week of practice and I am looking forward to the challenge on Saturday.

How will we perform? What is my prediction? I predict that we will step up our performance and have moments of brilliance. I believe we are a team about to catch fire. (Get it--fire! We are the Flames. Fire and Flames, sometimes I just can't help myself.)

One exciting thing that happened recently at practice is I was able to purchase a big yellow wagon to cart our stuff from the Lied Center out the field. We can now pile up the big water jug, the cone bag, the penny bag and the soccer balls right on the wagon and wheel it out to the field. The players were very excited to use the wagon instead of hauling all the heavy stuff on their backs. It is the small things that make us happy.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

We are in Pain

Can you give me another AAARRGH! We are trying to find a way to excel for 90 minutes and we are not there yet. Close enough to touch, but not there yet. We are inches away. Case in point: Central Christian College 3, CSM 1. We had 90% possession and 38 shots yet could not finish. We let CCC off the hook early by scoring but being in an offide position. The goal got called back. Moments later, CCC scored against the run of play. We fought back in the second half and got a goal back, but the thing that has been dogging us all season reared its ugly head. What is it you ask? We tend to let down when goals are scored. Happened again. Then we were fighting back and not paying attention, made 2 mistakes in a row and they finished again.

This place we are living in reminds me of that scene in "Any Given Sunday" when Coach Al Pacino give his famous speech. (Watch out, cuss words involved.)

What do we do? There are no instant solutions for sale at Home Depot (I know, I looked.) We just climb back in, inch by inch, step by step, degree by degree until we are there. And we will get there, we will. I believe we will rise again.

Monday, October 6, 2008

All Day Long I Sit by the River, Selling River Water

OK. Here it is. CSM lost to Rogers State University, 1-4. With the score tied 0-0 at halftime, RSU put 4 on us included 2 goals in the 70th minute within seconds of each other and the last goal with 12 seconds to go in the game. We scored off of a phenomenal free kick by Kaela Croushorn.

Our second half performance prompted me to prepare and give a long speech after the team had warmed down and taken off their equipment. A lot of things went through my mind about what to say. We have been talking a lot to the team about their performance and I really didn't know if more talking would have effect. But, I talked anyway. I sat down in the stands of RSU's Soldier field soccer stadium after the game and prepared my speech. I wrote down a lot of ideas. I was hoping to inspire the team to greatness.

My basic message was this team has untapped strength that we need to use. I challenged the players to dig deep and find it in themselves. I even told a story about how my daugher Alex was born.

We have had some moments of brillance this year, without a doubt. Our problem is that we mix in the gruesome with the great. We have peaks, but our valleys are too low and too often. Our team has all the tools they need for success--they almost don't need us coaches. They just have to step forward and take it instead of looking for someone else to sell it to them. Lately, our mentality is getting in the way. As a team, it looks like we are all just waiting for something bad to happen instead of playing to play great. I challenged the team to change the way they think and to begin believing. That is the first step. Time to rise.

Next game at home versus Central Christian College at 3 PM this Wednesday, October 6th.

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Pulled Out in the Nick of Time

CSM defeated the Oklahoma Wesleyan Eagles 2-1 on a goal by Melissa King. King scored off of a corner kick by Daniela Padilla with 17 seconds left in a windy game. We started off scoring in the first half with a goal by King but OWU equalized on a midfield shot about 2 minutes after we scored. The first half finished with the scored tied at 1-1.

The second half was dominated by CSM. OWU barely crossed the midfield stripe yet our shots were saved, shot wide or hit the cross bar. However, CSM won a corner with about 35 seconds to go. Daniela hurried up to get the corner off in time--but she paused right before she was about to kick it. A gust of wind came up and Daniela decided to wait until it died down. It was the right decision, because when she hit the ball--it was perfect. A lofted ball drew the keeper to the near post but it was too high for her. The ball bent to mid goal over the keeper and Melissa was there to finish. The OWU keeper had a very nice half, frustrating us by constantly cutting off our dangerous crosses with her long arms and well timed saves. She just came up 17 seconds short to our delight.

After the game-- we dicovered that after our driver returned from getting gas, he decided to back up into some shade and accidentally got the bus stuck. The parking lot was an uneven pasture and the driver high centered it. Deju vu all over again. Remember a couple weeks ago--we got our van stuck on the way to a game? It happened again. 2 pickups tried to pull it out and actually snapped a tow strap. Along came another pickup and all 3 were eventually successful in getting the bus unstuck. The third pickup got there in the nick of time and our final goal also showed up at the right time to pull out a victory in Bartlesville, OK.

OK here we are!

OK, we are in OK (Oklahoma) getting ready to meet the Oklahoma Wesleyan soccer team today at 1:00. We arrived at the sprawling metropolis of Bartlesville yesterday and ended up eating at the Oriental SUPER BUFFET! They had everything--a mongolian grill, every oriental dish ever invented and they even had crawfish, shrimp and alaskan snow crab legs. We chowed down, so to speak. Oklahoman oriental food seems to be pretty good.

If my wife and I have another kid, I think I will name him Okla (Homan.)

After dinner, back at the hotel, we commmenced our individual meetings. There is really nothing else to do--so why not? Actually, it is kind of a tradition that when we travel, the coaches meet individually with the student-athletes to see how they are doing, to comment on things they are doing well and go over areas they need to improve upon. It is also a great opportunity for the players to offer any suggestions. We didn't have a dry erase board or a chalk board to diagram formations so we ad-libbed by breaking out some change. The pennies were the opponents and the silver coins were the flames. We made a soccer ball out of kleenex and Coach Kim decorated it with her sharpie. Are we good or what? I think we started a trend. Perhaps I can sell this idea on ebay? Forget the dry erase board, the magnetic board! For only $19.95 you can buy our 11 pennies and 11 dimes to diagram your soccer formations. All you need is a flat surface! No more searching for dry erase markers, the whole system fits in your pocket. Act now and we will throw in a hand made soccer ball made out of kleenex for no extra charge.

We are going to leave in an hour to head over to OWU. Wish us luck.

Tomorrow we travel to Claremore, OK for a match with Will Rogers State. I never met a soccer team I didn't like.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

A Tale of Two Halves

If only we could erase the first half of our game against Midland Lutheran. The second half, Midland scored early on a breakaway, but CSM controlled possession, had a lot of chances and scored 2 goals. Unfortunately, we gave up 3 goals in the first half to lose 2-4.

In the first half, we made silly mistakes and didn't defend very well 1v1. We did a lot of ball watching and reacting instead of anticipating. Midland did an excellent job of punishing us for our mistakes.

The second half we played more like ourselves and spent a majority of the half in the Midland side of the field. Hopefully we learn from our mistakes and move on.

Road trip next! We leave for Oklahoma on Friday. We play Oklahoma Wesleyan at 2:00 on Saturday and play Rogers State at 1:00 on Sunday. We hop to do well!