2009 Lanier Cup Tournament Notes

We are certainly the Shockers.  But, this weekend, I would submit to you we are legion.

It was my view, and hopes, that we would accomplish three primary objectives this weekend at the Lanier Cup:

1.  Bond and come together as a team;

2.  Clarify strengths and weaknesses while identifying critical areas to focus our training; and,

3.  Have a terrific experience and loads of fun.

All three objectives exceeded even my own (oft optimistic) expectations.

Aside from Haley Anne’s /1 Goal (I will always be a Dad first), perhaps my favorite and immediate memory from the weekend will be of the girls gathered around the table at O’Charley’s (thanks for the excellent scouting Jim Erger [Hanna E.’s” dad]) completely relaxed; enjoying themselves with the confident knowledge they are a team that performed admirably (without exception), and will only get better each week (probably despite their coach).

Match One:  Fusion shockers vs. ASA Rockets

It was likely only me.  But, I felt the first match of the tournament with the ASA Rockets was important due to our history with ASA. Our Shockers pulled together as a new and developing squad and held their own against a more mature and established team. Rocket Coach Bob handled his team well. Our girls were, for the most part, unflinching albeit tentative (I feel this is a fair word) in the first half. Our Defense (a historical constant) was sorely tested, but never broke. Our Midfield was disorganized.  But, athleticism and desire prevailed. Oddly we had no less than seven scoring opportunities.  In each case, we always found ourselves out of position left to right, and failed to converge on the goal (“We Charge The Goal”).

But, we had created scoring opportunities. This would mark the single most critical transition form the ASA Blast legacy to the Fusion shockers future.

We made adjustments.

The second half we took the ball to their Keeper more often.  The Midfield had already begun to gel.  We kept the ball 70% on the other half of the field (that is Shocker Ball). The Defense adjusted and supported the Midfield.  Our Keeper, Hannah Derezinski managed a Clean sheet.

Although no single player stood out (other than Captain Mars Twitchell setting up some scoring opportunities) Chris Tovar and I saw verification of the potential that always seems to follow the Shockers each generation.

NOTE: Mallory Charlton began to petition for a shot at right-side Stryker.

Match Two: Fusion Shockers vs. Jackson County Wildcats

The Wildcats were nothing if not an unruly bunch.

My own primary take-away from that match was observing that our players are resilient and not nearly as “fragile” as a prior coach had warned me. The Wildcats were physical. However, the Shockers stayed on their feet, and always played with integrity. We are citizens first.

Our Midfield was having to sort out continued changes in the line-up as we tried different combinations based on skills, speed – or, both. But, again, athleticism and character showed itself – and, this began to give Chris Tovar and I some ideas. The first half rarely saw the ball make it to the Wildcat side of the field – and, certainly the Keeper. But, the key had to be transition play perhaps starting with the Defense.

Sarah Bowers, as distracted as she appeared during that match, was demonstrating field vision presence (amazing for her age) often catching open Wildcats and covering them at critical moments. KC Lownthal had flashes of brilliance with key ball control on the line.  Hannah Erger proved an invaluable sub showing grit (and emerging confidence) navigating the ball through multiple opponents with two key transitions to her Strykers. AC Anderson and Haley Anne Cork ran down and cut-off wave after gut-wrenching wave of Wildcat attacks. And, it was Claire Guthrie that held the right side (with several inspired transition of her own). Mallory Charlton showed some brilliance and toughness at Midfield with some deft ball handling. And, Jessica Curtis seemed to appear, as if my magic, more often than not where ever she was needed (often deep in the Defense), stuffing attackers and blasting the ball. And, this was pivotal because it set the stage for a crucial change in the line-up, scheme and strategy.

In the end, the difference in this match was two freak goals against us. However, that is soccer. Balls bounce funny. It’s referred to around the globe as “The Beautiful Game” because it is so unpredictable.

Saturday night Chris Tovar and I (and, Joanne) found ourselves coming to very similar conclusions regarding how the “puzzle pieces” could fit (personality, skills, etc). We had questions, and the answers were coming into focus.

What about Lindsay Wojcik, who can stop a truck, and take the ball from anyone if she can tangle with them (but, one-on-one she needs backup if the ball handler is coming on the fly)?  She is left-side strong and best in the corner. So, you make sure she understands how to work with her teammates; attack the ball; and, always have backup.

How do you use Grace Guthrie’s speed and heart when she hates Defense? NOTE: The answer is stick her in the middle as an “ranging Midfielder” and vital sub where she changes the tempo of the match by adding an extra Stopper element. We told her:

Just get the ball.  Run everyone down.

She did that very thing.

How do we teach Emily Dwane how the very game itself works (she has never played before) through a “trial-by-fire”; keeping it fun; and, not putting the team in harms way? She has no fear going after the ball. And, she is quick. She only needs confidence born of experience. Just wait and see.

What if we listened to Mallory and gave her a starting shot at right-side Stryker? KC likes to crowd left from that spot which pushed Christy Tovar back (its her personality) during the first match. But, KC fights (endlessly) for the ball, and is an unselfish passer.  We are a strong-left-oriented attack team (Mars is at the left-side Stryker position and sets up the attack).

What if we put Jessica in the center Defense with Haley Anne, and repositioned AC to the left side Defense where she can scan the field and plug-in as needed with her speed (that is, after all, her nature)?  Haley Anne and Jessica are both relentless pursuers. Now Jessica can transition the ball deep into the Midfield (but with a focus on pin-point passing) to establish the transition.

What if we put Sarah in the Midfield Stopper position where she can use her field presence and East-West (sideline to sideline) style of play?

What if we put Michelle Higgins at the right-side Midfield spot because she understands where the ball needs to be to set up a transition?  And, she is a deft passer in a crowd.

What if we have KC and Hanah E. focus on the left-side Midfield role that stops opponent attacks (most teams tend right) and requires “fighters” – but, can also be a scoring threat (KC now and eventually Hannah as she grows and matures [she will learn a lot from KC who is also an emerging leader]).

It started to come together.

On paper it looked right and made sense based on what we had seen in a scrimmage and two matches.

The stage is set.

Match Three: Fusion Shockers vs. Lanier Lady Panthers

Different as night and day.

Even though the wind had an icy bite, we were on the pitch a good 20 minutes before the Panthers began to straggle in. I moved amongst the girls as usual making adjustments, adding some off-hand incentive, chiding, and guiding. Hannah D. was a bit more subdued – but, I knew that was because she was thinking. She was gonna “bring it” this morning. She went right to her Captain and asked to be warmed up. This was a signal for the team to begin some impromptu goal shots.  They were lose and confident; laughing and comfortable with one another (certainly COLD).

I pulled Jessica and Haley Anne aside and made them practice “static kicks” for goal kick opportunities. Joanne had been pointing out that the other teams could see what we were doing and “jumping us” before the ball could reach the midline.  In just a few minutes both girls had the ball in the air

“kick through the ball at it’s lower axis – more velocity, and higher lift.”

We let Mallory know she had the right side Stryker position, and to work with Christy and Mars.

All she said was:

“Got it.”

Michelle would start at right Wing; Hannah E. left Wing (KC likes to observe the other team to get “psyched-up” [it works]). The other key changes were Sarah at Stopper, and Jessica on Defense.

We formed our circle; our hands together knowing we HAD to win – and, with a shut-out.

I asked them what we wanted. And, with nothing less than the firmest of conviction they replied:

“WE WANT THE BALL.”

And, they proved it.

From the whistle we were a different team.

Michelle was working right away with Sarah. Every Midfielder (Michelle, Hannah E., Sarah, Grace and KC) fought for EVERY ball. They were stubborn and unyielding.

We “Controlled the Midline”.

When the ball was kicked over our Midfield Jessica would blast it back and right to Mallory that evidenced an uncanny ability to “drag” the ball through traffic and tap it off to Mars or Christy.  It was like Mars, Christy and Mallory had been playing together since U7.  They anticipated one another with exquisite timing.

We “Charged the Goal”.

When the Panthers dared to cross the Midline they were stuffed. When the ball bounced against us, our Defenders rallied and constantly frustrated the Panther’s Strykers. AC ran everyone down if Haley Anne or Claire did not cut them off. Jessica stole the ball again and again like a pick-pocket. Lindsay timed her angles better and kept her backups in mind.

Emily learned the hard way to stay out of Haley Anne’s way. But, also stopped two attacks cold single handed with well timed clears.

We “Protected Our Goalie!”

Hannah “went to the ground” making several phenomenal stops – protecting that vital shut-out.

We earned a 5 to 0 victory, and the clear understanding that we had come together as a team possessed of a will to win.

No “silly little kittens” this lot. But, “Mighty Tigers” all.

Coach Brian

1/ NOTE:  Haley Anne does not like it when Daddy calls her Haley Anne. She prefers just “Haley”.

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Comments

  • Mary Guthrie  On February 24, 2009 at 1:40 am

    Bravo Shockers! Thank you for this fabulous analysis.
    M

  • Coach Chris  On February 24, 2009 at 3:53 pm

    Well said Coach B!

  • Bob Twitchell  On February 24, 2009 at 8:23 pm

    You had me on the edge of my seat, and I was there.

    Great Job this weekend.

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