Category Archives: Matches

U10 Shockers show great form in opener

U10 Shockers Nation:

We played very aggressive football pushing our Defenders up high. I’m confident we played ninety percent of both matches on our opponents side of the pitch. By the way, that is both historically and traditionally referred to as: “Shocker ball”, and a term you will hear more and more often from me.

When you have an opposing coach grousing an entire match about the refs you know your team is under his skin. By the way… The ref was fine, and our Shockers were awesome in terms of effort and sportsmanship (it means a lot to me when a ref tells me my players are excellent sports).

We had several good attempts around the goal – especially the second match on Sunday. We’ll be learning how to “finish” this coming week in practice. I’m confident Jason and Joanne agree with me we did a solid job of swarming opponents with the ball. But, we’ll also need to work on transition skills (taking the ball away from opponents). I was particularly pleased with the way we kept pressure on the opposing team during the entire match. As the season progresses we will sort-out where our players are strongest, and I’m certain you will see the begin to take shape in terms of passing and tactics.

To put things into perspective, that Cyclones squad has been together for a number of years under the same coach. They Cyclone players average a full year older than our Shockers. A terrific way to measure ourselves in terms of both player development and coaching will be our progress against that more mature squad as the season progresses.

NOTE: At U10 I’m an advocate of letting every player try their boots at all of the positions. Some of them will show natural affinity for ball control, fast-breaks, passing, defense, etc. (My own U14 Haley Anne is a natural Defender, and she has always thrived there). But, half the fun at this age is learning all aspects of the “beautiful game”. Let’s be clear… I like to win (legacy Shockers parents understand what that means). But, it’s more important for them to build confidence, then skills, and have fun. As it turns out, winning tends to follow that view of the game. The one exception is Keeper (goalie). We’ll need to eventually find (maybe recruit) one or two players that have the nerve, presence of mind, and strength to “man the cage”. The little ones often can’t even defend themselves under fire.

I believe we have the core of a team that could play together for several years. Building on tradition and feeling part of something that is wholesome and grounded in integrity and teamwork does wonderful things for young girls.

As the season progresses I will highlight particular play and effort (I know parents keep these summaries). But, for today, I think it’s fair to say that WE ARE SHOCKERS. And, we proved that we WANTED THE BALL. You’ll recognize those as elements of our team cheer.

Coach Brian

Finding the will to win

Our hearty and ferocious Shockers found themselves in unfamiliar territory this past Saturday at the RYSA 3v3 tournament.

However, as it turns out that format matches both the way we train and our style of play. We fight for the ball and score on smart passing.

The U14 Shockers learned quickly and adjusted with improved play the entire tournament, and earning their way to the finals where they only lost in sudden death against a veteran squad aptly named the “five fab”. In any event, we’ve qualified for the National Championships in Orlando, Florida.

Congratulations to Haley Anne, Christy, Rachel, Suzane and new Shocker – Kimmy Gibson for a job well done.

Coach Brian

the virtuous shockers Mom

The telling of the tale will be fodder, not doubt, for the robust legacy of our Shockers Nation.

So…

I’ll likely send out a more detailed email tomorrow morning summarizing the ferocious match schedule we have this weekend (five matches across both days between the two squads). But, in the mean time, I need to correct a blunder I made just yesterday (although, it might have been Tuesday).

To wit…

Background:

Michelle Chamblee (U14 Shockers Leah’s Mom) offered the following:

“I couldn’t imagine doing anything else on Mother’s Day, than by being at my daughter’s soccer games.  It reminds me just how blessed I am to be a mother:)  I hope everyone else feels that way for their Mother’s Day also.  Can’t wait til the fun weekend!! – Michelle”

Then, we had the critically important news from Allison Crawford (U14 Shocker AC’s Mom) letting us know they’ve cancelled plans to visit AC’s Grandmother (who is also having surgery) in Alabama for Mother’s Day. They did this to make sure AC was shoulder-to-shoulder with her teammates this weekend for, what might be, the two most critical matches of the U14 regular season.

I am, and sincerely so, both moved, and deeply impressed by the dedication our Shockers Nation evidences daily.

My blunder, you ask?

During the email exchanges between Allison, Patty, Chris and myself, I actually (with naught but gravitas admit it’s true) tasked Allison and Patty with arranging the meals between the U14 Shockers 3pm and 7pm matches… I suggested pizza. I assure you, my lack of sensitivity brings me to my knees with the fervent hope I’m forgiven.

The Solution:

My only hope for redemption might lay within the understanding hands of my fellow Shockers Dads, of whom I beseech succor. Gentlemen, you must rally to the Shockers Mom’s, the players, and myself, and coordinate our nutritional solutions Sunday. We have the two matches… The first at 3pm, the other at 7pm – both at Georgia FC. We have roughly 2 1/2 hours between the matches. The repast must be “smart food”. I’m sure you understand.

So…. Goodly men, all – whom may I point to as a leader for this august effort?

Coach Brian

Behind the scenes… Yet another exchange between the contrite Coach Brian and certain hearty and ferocious Shockers Moms:

You know… I meant what I wrote; and Chris, in his own way, echoed our (that collective “our” reflecting the ferocious will of Patty, as well) joint philosophy around family, character – and, all the things that comprise: “the stuff of life”.

Soccer offers its drama, opportunities for comaraderie, and reflections of the epic…

But, what about your own heart, and that of young AC? Does your Mother need you there?

As passionate as I am about the “beautiful game”, and our children’s role in the representation of it, the drawing of a quiet breath and the focus on family is understood in relation to it’s importance.

My attempt at flowery language aside – are you sure?

I’ll gladly set aside, and lose any match, for any opportunity to teach a lesson around priorities. I value soccer, but I love your family so much more.

I am grateful to all of you regardless of where providence finds you Saturday.

By the way… A quote from Michelle Chamblee (Leah’s Mom): “I couldn’t imagine doing anything else on Mother’s Day, than by being at my daughter’s soccer games.  It reminds me just how blessed I am to be a mother:)  I hope everyone else feels that way for their Mother’s Day also.  Can’t wait til the fun weekend!! – Michelle”

There’s a perspective, eh. Not a day goes by that I can barely comprehend how blessed I am by our small (albeit hearty and ferocious) Shockers Nation community.

Coach Brian


2009 ASA Cup Summary: Proving our fortitude and demonstrating our nerve

Much of this story, of course, began last Fall.

Christy, Haley Anne, and Hannah E. were coming off an undefeated U12 season at ASA. Christy and Haley Anne were invited to play-up for the struggling U14 Blast in the ASA Cup. This gave Christy and Haley Anne an opportunity to rejoin Shockers alum AC with whom they had won the U12 Extreme Cup the prior Spring. Coach Chris and I Observed that patch-work team play together (three draws), and got to know some of the parents. And, we saw great promise.

Drama (and, that is certainly an understatement) was afoot as Chris and I decided to break from ASA, and pull the core of our U12 team up early into U14. We merged with that Blast squad, regrouped with Mars and Hannah D., and built a team around a focused goal of going to the Spring State Cup.

That U14 team exceeded all expectations, and the story is chronicled on this team blogsite at.

I feel the stage was set, in epic fashion, as we returned to ASA this past weekend for the ASA Cup.

With a pair of key defenders injured (Claire and Loren) and others expected to be on holiday, we knew our U16 Shockers were going to be low on reserves. I had not really thought about it (and, truthfully so) until we arrived at The Polo Grounds (with my heart, admittedly, in my throat), but Christy and Haley Anne (with their hearty and ferocious U14 teammate Rachel) were once again joining an older squad to lend support. The vital difference this year was a more than reasonable expectation that we could win a Cup (and, coach Brian might realize a promise he made to the Claire and Grace the prior year).

Match One Saturday U16 Shockers vs. ASA Xplosion

In the very first match Saturday, under perfect condition to include cobalt blue skies, we faced ASA Xplosion. This is a hand-picked team of select players, many of whom have played together for over four years, dropped into the Rec divisions with the specific mission to win a State Cup in the coming Spring. The team is trained more often than not by Jeff Salas, one of the ASA directors who has a daughter on the squad. They were undefeated through the Fall season. We are told they averaged six goals per match against all opponents, and often won by shut-out, with only four goals scored against them in the regular season.

That was precisely the test I wanted, as we are really only now peaking, coming into our own, and preparing for Athens.

The Xplosion defense lived up to their training. Our vaunted Shockers attack had much fewer shots on goal than usual. But, we pressed hard, passed well, with very good communication, and saw the ball often on their end of the pitch. At roughly the 20th minute in the first half, Christy found herself facing a rebounded ball, spinning off a cross from Shelby, and placed it neatly into the back of the Xplosion net. I can look back on that match now and understand that we should have then changed our lineup to keep Xplosion on their heels. However, our intensity never let up. Both sides fought hard and passed well. We’ll offer no excuses. But, our defense that day was just getting accustomed to the lineup and the addition of Haley Anne. We had some miscommunication, and the very experienced Xplosion were able to convert on two goals. The final score was 2 to 1 in favor of Xplosion, but our Shockers were clearly under their skin.

And, we had a terrific opportunity on our hands (if not our boots).

I took the position that we had a dramatic opportunity to demonstrate only great character, come off this tough loss, and fight our way into the finals to face the Xplosion for a rematch.

Match Two Saturday U16 Shockers vs. AFU Cheetahs

That thinking and objective took us to our second match of the day and against league rivals AFU Cheetahs. And, of course, there would be a brilliant twist!

We had already beaten Cheetahs 3 to 2 earlier in the season; and, ironically, in the driving rain. Our 2nd regular season match had been rained out and needed to be rescheduled. We needed the points to overtake Cheetahs sister team Angels for the league championship. I had suggested to the Cheetah coach that we use the tournament match to decide the league tally. So, our second match of the tournament had both a Cup and a League championship on the line (I did not mention this to our Shockers even though several parents knew).

Cheetahs had just beaten the ASA Rockets 1 to 0 earlier in the day, and were well positioned to advance. All they had to do was get past us for the finals. To put matters into perspective, Cheetahs had played in the finals at Kohls Cup the prior weekend.

I’ll submit to you, and right now, that every Shocker on the pitch brought both their heart and their best boots to that match. The Cheetahs midfield and defense are stubborn and skilled. The ball failed to bounce in any one teams favor. Both sides broke the others fast breaks and used the sidelines like professionals found at the World Cup level. Lauren came up with several key saves (including a heart-stopping melee right in front of our net). Our defense were pulling themselves together under the leadership of Megan while Lindsay was playing as though possessed. Haley Anne was getting used to the speed-of-play at the U16 level and offered up several timely transition kicks. Although I think it might have been Grace that frustrated the Cheetahs Forwards the most, I’ll pick Kelsie’s Stopper play as the most dominating. As we transitioned the ball, Michelle demonstrated some very savvy passing. However, it was the gritty play of U14 reserve Rachel and always reliable KC that kept the ball moving in the right direction. Those two combined with the exceptional fighting and dribbling skills of Grayce and Shelby literally carried the day. In the first half Shelby found a brilliant cross from the right and laid the ball cleanly past the Cheetah Keeper. And, it was KC’s opportunistic BIG SHOT and score (because she FINALLY played up to the box) from thirty meters out that kept the momentum in our favor. It should be noted that the last five minutes of that match were likely the longest of my coaching (or playing). That score was 2 to 1 in favor of Shockers giving us the advantage over Cheetahs in the standings and one match away from the finals. It also put us five points over AFU Angels for the league championship – meaning that both our Shockers teams ended the regular season as respective league champions with a combined record of 17-1-2 (more about that later in a separate post).

Afterwards, walking off the pitch with Grace Guthrie, I had the opportunity to look her in the eye, and remind her that she always seems to step up and bring her best play when we need her most.

Match Three Sunday U16 Shockers vs. ASA Rockets

Sunday morning broke both cold and wet. And, our Shockers appeared to hardly notice. They showed up at ASA’s Polo Grounds all grins, and knowing what they had to do with the tournament “satisfied” as opposed to “pleased”.

The Rockets coach approached me shortly before kick-off with a chuckle. He ruefully advised me that we had clearly rattled their sister team Xplosion. The players had been texting and Facebooking beseeching Rockets to take “those Shockers” out of the final. “We knew you guys were good but wow. No one is happy here”.

The Rockets had already fallen to Xplosion 5 to 0 and Cheetahs 1 to 0. So, they had an opportunity to play the spoliers and support a Club sister team. And, many of those Rockets are good fighters. However, with Xplosion and Cheetah players haplessly watching more of our match from their sidelines than their own our Shockers may have played one of the most balanced and aggressive efforts I’ve ever seem them muster. We certainly played our typical “Shocker Ball” keeping the play on the Rockets side of the pitch over 85% of the match. Our passing was text book, the confidence supreme. Our scoring onslaught started in the first minute with Grayce’s sliding out of the back, but not before cutting the angle and hammering a jaw-dropping shot across the box into the far corner of the Rocket net. The Rocket coach summed it up nicely with “wow”. And, we could hear Salas behind us (coaching the Xplosion) adding a: “you have to watch her”! Shelby’s selfless passing was relentless. By the end of the match, we had scored eight goals (although the refs had it tallied officially at nine). Grayce had a hat-trick, and over the course of the match saw Michelle, Shelby, KC and Christy add to the scoring tally. The final official score was 9 to 1 and the U16 Shockers were in the finals and ready to face Xplosion for the Cup.

This promised to be a barn-burner. Yes it did!

Tournament Finals Sunday U16 Shockers vs. ASA Xplosion

I was, admittedly, in high spirits as I approached the Polo Grounds fields just after 2:10. Then I got the news… To keep this part of the story short, the “tournament director” had made the arbitrary decision to end all finals with penalty kicks as opposed to a complete match. Oddly, even though Patty and I were registered in the system, neither of us received the text messages announcing this decision.

In any event, one of my first thoughts was actually recalling that Grayce’s Dad, Regan, had reminded me two weeks earlier that Grayce was a very talented Goal Keeper. I made up my mind even before I called Coach Chris and Patty with the news. I knew that Xplosion and their coaches had watched our usual (and very successful) Keeper Lauren in action, and knew their penalty kick trained shooters had good odds. But, they had no idea about Grayce. And, I wanted Lauren focused as one of my shooters. I knew she would come through for us if we had her placed in the lineup properly. I started making calls to Shocker parents and making fast decisions. I knew who my shooters were. But, I also understood, in my heart and gut, who would get the job done under heart-pounding, adrenaline-drenched pressure. I walked up to Grayce with the news. In typical fashion, her first concern was for her teammate Lauren. I explained the strategy of surprise, and our need to for Lauren to focus on shooting, and Grayce decided that it would be fun! Coach Bill herded the team over to a far goal and started getting them warmed up. Within minutes Grayce was limbered up and all grins while inspiring mounting confidence from her VERY nervous, but determined, teammates.

As I pulled the team together I explained the shoot-out rules, sequence, and what to expect. I told them I felt they had earned this opportunity, and it was a day they would long remember – and, likely used as a comparison for many significant events in their lives. It was less about skill, and more so luck. Often a crap-shoot. Breathe, don’t make eye contact with the Keeper. No big run ups. Shoot for a corner. As Chris watched them intently near the net looking for a an opportunity for a quick correction, I took a moment to look at them as they chattered nervously amongst themselves. I’m not sure why, but I was surprised to see confidence, in me, in their eyes. This was not about me, mind you. But, they were listening to what I was saying. And, they understood – especially the part about not making eye contact with the Keeper. And, so I knew. We had a Cup waiting for us. We only needed to finish well.

Our players, parents, families and supporters, Shockers Nation all, were standing closely together when the ref called for coaches and captains. Upon the invitation form the head ref, we called numbers and it was decided that we would take the first shot. Little did the opposing goalie realize but this is what I wanted. I knew clear-eyed Shelby would stride purposefully up to that ball, toe it, step back – and, nail it home.

And, she did that very thing.

Our lead shooters were Shelby, Christy, Lauren, Kelsie and Grayce. Megan, Michelle and KC would follow. I stood slightly away from the group watching how the other Keeper positioned herself and how the Xplosion shooters approached the ball in terms of confidence and form. I tied my decision about which shooter to use and in which sequence, shooter-by-shooter, to what I saw happening as the drama played itself out. I felt I knew who might miss but also who would then compensate. We hit six out of eight and that is very good. It might be Megan’s shot I’ll remember the most vividly. Shoulders squared, I imagined that grim smile played across her face. Grayce also came up with two big saves. And, that is HUGE. The entire time she was in the net she had a smile on hr face. I kept looking at her thinking she was having the time of her life. I was also thinking about her Dad, all the Dad’s (and, of course Mom’s), in fact, and what a terrific organization we have. I felt grounded to the pitch as the ref turned to me, pointed, and sounded his whistle.

You can also read the summary online at: CummingHome.com.

That’s a tough way to win a tournament. But, we earned the right to prove our fortitude, and demonstrate our nerve.

I held back wanting to savor the moment and watch the team rush Grayce, memorizing each and every (albeit dazed) smile in those faces.

I found Haley Anne first. And, then each of my Shockers. It was our day. It was a cold one to be sure. But, it was also brilliant, none the less.

A note from Mary Guthrie:

“…Sunday’s game was equally thrilling. It seemed like it went on forever. Finally, I asked the line judge how much time was left. He chuckled and said, “A long time. 15 minutes.” He then asked if we would be in the finals. I told him we hoped to be and explained we lost the first game on Saturday to the green team. “Wow. I can’t believe anyone could beat your team.”  A few minutes later he continued, “I mean, this ASA team really isn’t that bad. They can play soccer. But, your team is just blowing them away.”  A few minutes later, he said again, “This team is really good, every one of them. They are all really good.”   I saw him again after the penalty kick championship. He congratulated me. (When I recounted the line judge story at home, Grace and Claire found this very funny. (“You didn’t even play, mom. Why did he congratulate you?”) As the Shockers were having their picture taken in the net, he turned to the official he was standing with and described the morning game. “You wouldn’t believe how good this team is…”.

[]

We’ve come so far. But, I feel like we are only, and really, just coming into our own. We have Athens in two weeks. And, if we can keep these teams together. And, I pray we do, we go to the State Cup in the Spring. And, I wonder if that’s it for me.

For any player that still wants a tournament t-shirt, we have the distributor on standby for the order. Please let me and Patty know ASAP.

I hope to see as many Shockers at practice as possible Wednesday. We have a lot of work to do as we march, Shockers Nation all, on Athens.

Coach Brian

2009 U16 League Champions

The U16 Fusion Shockers are 2009 League Champions.

Coach Brian

U16 Shockers Win 2009 ASA Cup

Our 16 Shockers are the 2009 ASA Cup Champions.

Coach Brian

Fall 2009 U14 League Champions

With a decisive 3 to 1 victory over Fusion Lightning last night at Central Park, our U14 Shockers are the Fall 2009 league Champions.

This match was one of the most measured and balanced displays of prowess that I have seen in this squad. Everyone contributed in a significant way.

Hayla started our scoring right in front of the goal with a big booming assist from Rachel on the right side.

Minutes later, Rachel added a 2nd assist with a smooth pass to Mars right through the box.

In the 2nd half, Mars offered a deft pass to Christy who fought her way through a hard kicking crowd of opposing midfielders and defenders to blast one into the back of the net from 20 meters out.

Our Midfielders Hannah E. Caroline, Sarah, Emma and Rachel fought for every ball, and we OWNED the middle. That is, of course Shocker Ball. I was particularly pleased, and actually proud that we could rotate our midfield and get everyone a lot of minutes. Sarah did a fantastic job of transitioning from Stopper to Stryker, as needed, and has emerged as a solid and reliable utility player that keeps our momentum strong. This means our players are thriving in the “system” and style-of-play. This keeps our legs fresh, and our opponents reeling.

The Shocker defense was naught less than dominate. Haley Anne was everywhere and stuffed 80% of the Lightning play 40 meters off our goal. She also had a terrific fast break right up the middle. Meredith bedeviled the Lightning attack AT THE MIDLINE and frustrated them like a pick pocket. AC was like a ballerina (despite being knocked to the pitch twice), blithely floating past all opponents and then accelerating with blinding speed that left the Lightning drop-jawed and frustrated. Shauna demonstrated her athleticism and growing confidence by standing up to a number of fast-breaks and deftly transitioning the ball to waiting midfielders. Emily came up with a booming kick to Mars that set the stage for Christy’s goal that put the match away for us.

Hannah D. came up with three key saves including a point blank shot with four minutes to go that took all the wind our of the opposing attack.

I feel the highlight, over all, of the match was the passing and general teamwork. This, with our style of intelligent play, was a terrific way to end our regular season, and set the stage for our march on Athens in two weeks for prestigious The Athens Cup Finale, and then the Spring season.

Coach Brian

2009 Fall Kohls Cup

Shockers Nation:

I’ll consider this past weekends Kohls Cup tournament naught less than a worthy success. The U16 Shockers pulled through, demonstrating a lot of character, while up against some very mature and tough teams. We had our own destiny in our collective hands each and every match.  And, we were an odd ball bounce away, in two matches, from realizing an appearance in the finals. I think we have a very good idea of what to work on this week during practice.

My favorite memory will be Mallory actually out-sprinting a defender for the ball, pulling ahead and blasting a decisive shot past the Keeper in the second match on Saturday. That can only be equaled by the Shockers pulling it together in the final minutes of the third match and scoring for the equalizer. I believe it was an assist from Michelle to Shelby, but that was a team goal, and tears well up in my eyes each time I think about it (that’s with pride, by the way).

We had AC and Rachel guest playing up from the U14 Shockers. They were vital contributors, and a testament to how well our style-of-play allows for “snap-in” substitutions.

Below I’ll share with you all a note from Mary Guthrie that clearly underscore the spirit from the tournament…

“Brian,

As we cheered on the sidelines Sunday morning, a parent from the other team came over to talk to a few of us. “Those girls are scary.” he said. At that moment, Grayce and Rachel were running down the sidelines in front of us. Grayce having taken a precision pass from Megan and expertly passing off to Rachel- befuddling our opponents with skill and relentless determination.

I looked down the row of Shocker parents and family members (each player represented, I believe) all standing and cheering, and we were all so proud of the team. It was incredible to watch. And then  Michelle fed a perfect ball to Shelby, and she drilled in the tying goal. The stands went crazy.

I agree, I consider the tournament a success.

I cannot wait to see them play again.

Thank you Brian.

Mary”

As many of you know Christy and Mars were invited to play for the U14 Peachtree Booster Breakers. And, Caroline responded to a last-minute call from a desperate Fusion Lightning team that were facing a tournament appearance with no subs. Fusion Coach Mark Kempter was very clear that Caroline played a big role in keeping them in all three matches with dignity.

I believe Christy led the Booster Breakers in scoring (in fact, she might have lead the tournament). In a tough, bruising finals (that had two Booster Breakers carried off the pitch) against Henry County Jaguars, it was Mars’ goal that put Booster Breakers into over time play, and then penalty kicks. And, then, with the score at 3 all, it was Christy that won the match with a (toe-driven) side-winder past the Henry County Keeper. By all accounts, Coach Chris, supporting the Booster Breakers coach on the side-lines, had a firm hand in influencing the Booster Breaker style-of-play.

Thusly, Shockers were well represented at that tournament.

Coach Brian

it really is a beautiful Game

We were certainly tested this past weekend.

U16 Shockers

Our U16 Shockers fell to AFU Angels Saturday 1 to 0. The Angels put the match away with a brilliant shot into the upper left corner of the net. There were no mistakes. It was a gorgeous twenty five meter shot. And, a terrific and well fought match between two very good teams.

However, I’ll add that we dominated their end of the pitch, and had more shots on goal.

Grayce, at that right-side Stryker position, “owned” the right-side, and bombed the Angels goal relentlessly with numerous beautiful crosses. Outside Defenders Megan and Loren frustrated any hope the Angels had for an established attack, stuffing everything that came up the sidelines. Our Keeper Lauren, in the net the entire match, inspired a lot of confidence, as well as leadership, and had some of her best punts of the season.

My primary take away is how proud we must feel going toe-to-toe with those AFU teams that have been together for five years, and won many a Cup together. After Saturday’s match, both the Angels coach and managers grabbed my shoulders and acknowledged they had not played such a tough team in years. We have a history with them now, going back to last years District Cup. And, we’ll see them again in Athens, yes we certainly will!

NOTE: In light of some missed easy goals (as many as ten to fourteen, while Angles had five), we’ll be working on crossing and finishing Monday night as we prepare for two more key regular season matches, and three successive tournaments.

U14 Shockers

The U14 Shockers defeated NSA Beat 6 to 0. And, we did it a man-down with only ten players.

Apparently Meredith Black was also suffering from a bee sting. But, her determination to contribute was, nonetheless, greatly evident. I also think Hannah E. might have had one of her best matches ever. She navigated the ball right up the middle between numerous opponents at least three times (those drills are paying-off!). Hannah D. got to play an entire half out of the net. This has been a “team goal” all season”. She played Stopper with a lot of heart. And Emma was a real champ with her willingness to step into the net for her teammates. Rachel was naught less than awesome as she shelled the Beats box with one cross after another.  Mars had had four goals and then played dominant Defense in the 2nd half. AC scored another goal, bringing the ball all the way up the left side and finishing with a brilliant shot into the back of the net. Haley Anne also had a goal. We had pushed her up top to see how she fights. She was in great position the entire time. It paid off when there was a solid cross from Rachel that spun off of Sarah’s boot as it went by her. Haley collected the ball of the bounce, and shot it decisively right into the back of the net, in one move. Sarah had to canny and well-times assists, and fought hard all night. Emily stepped up (literally) and put an opponent on the ground defending the midline.

NOTE: We were a bit sloppy, despite the result. So, we need to work on holding our dribble, “bombing the box”, and communication Monday.

Coach Brian

leadership

Because the message clearly speaks for itself, I’ll add naught to this post but the original email from AC’s (our U14 Captain) Mom:

“Coach Brian,

I will not be at the game tomorrow because I am going to Alabama for a HUGE Event that we have in our hometown each year. I wanted you to know that I gave AC the choice of going with me (b/c she LOVES this event) or staying to play soccer.  She told me last night she felt that staying and meeting her obligation to her team (not in those exact words) was what she should do..  I was disappointed that she didn’t want to go with me, but excited that she feels so strongly about her team!

Allison”

character defined

So… Winning is great. Shockers tend to do that.

We call it Shocker Ball.

Before the match I advised this hearty and ferocious U16 crew that certainly Shockers have a legacy and a history of U12 and U14 winning. But this was their team, and a chapter in the history book was for their own making.

The Fusion Fury gave us five penalties. Our Shockers gave up none. Along the way, we put up a decisive nine (9) to three (3) victory that allowed for a rousing start to our 2009 Fall campaign.

Fair and even play with integrity, character and good sportsmanship.

Over all, and simply put, our offense was dominating. We had twenty nine (29) shots on goal. Five players scored. We controlled the Midfield, always a key to our historical success. Our untried Defense was clearly unsettled in the first half. And, this allowed for three fast breaks, and three goals against us. However, there was no bickering. No hands-on-hips. The defense rallied one-to-the-other, and shut the Fury out in the 2nd half.

That was an awesome way to get the season started.

However, at least from a coaching standpoint, certainly that would be mine – and, based upon what I saw in the eyes this afternoon of our Shockers – winning with courage, integrity and character offers naught but the greatest satisfaction.

This squad has some real characters. It was hot, and they got tired from wearing the Fury defense down with one relentless attack after the other. They played with all their hearts this afternoon, and put on an astounding display of grit and determination (not to mention canny passing and solid communication). Along the way, they also showed a touch of class and brought home the win with grand style and a total dissplay of team work and great sportsmanship. As the 2nd half wore on they reminded their coach that we had promised to pull out Keeper forward for some field minutes. And, by the way (with our reserve Keeper confidently in place – something new for Shocker Nation), she did just that, and was brilliant.

NOTE: They also learned going into the 2nd half why we run so much before and into the early part of the season! The Fury were hands-on-knees while we had begun to experiment, with a will and grim intent, different midfield rotations.

Fall 2009 ShockersWe took our team picture in front of the net where we scored six of our nine goals. Our Shockers stood tall and close together. A new team forged with a common goal and a sense of destiny that builds on our Shocker Nation foundation, and offers great promise for the future.

It’s in their eyes now. They can win. There is that. But they can be champions in anything they do. and, they will remember this day… The first day they, together, played Shocker Ball!

And, that day, Shocker Nation, was ours.

Coach Brian

no kittens allowed

allright ladies…

The season is afoot Saturday.

Our new players may be mortified to hear me query, and with gusto I should add:

“Shockers – are we silly little kittens, or mighty tigers?”

The expected reponse of course should be:

“Tigers!”

And, as our Shockers rally one to the other, it won’t matter, not one wit, that Tigers fails to relate, let alone rhyme, with Shockers.

No Kittens aloud.

We are Shockers, and our opponents will remember that by days end.

Coach Brian

Savannah

Today Shocker Nation descends on Savannah for the Shamrock Celtic Cup.

We appear to have a very good draw for our match schedule.

We need to rally to our Keeper more than ever.

Let’s show everyone we Want The Ball!

Coach Brian

Match #10: Finishing Well

It always feels good to win.

However, last night match against Fusion Storm may have been one of our most balanced efforts to date.

The difference in our play from this past weekend was simply that of night-and-day.

Our defense lived up to its vaunted reputation, but this time was actually led by our Keeper Hannah Derezinski, who earned her clean sheet (shut out) with no less than four big saves. She took a lot of heat with Storm who took advantage of some breakdowns in the middle. However, she came out of the goal twice, and added two booming punts for good measure – one of which we converted into a brilliant fast break that resulted in right-side Stryker Sarah Bowers taking a dramatic shot on goal. All four of our defenders contributed evenly, and appeared to be communicating well. AC Anderson took yet another fast break up the left sideline with great conviction. She now has “clearance to go” if she sees an opportunity. It’s only a matter of time before she finishes with a goal. Haley Anne Cork played one of her best heads-up matches diffusing several Storm attacks – often appearing, seemingly, out of nowhere to knock a ball out of play and confounding opponents. Claire Guthrie has become as reliable as the setting sun. She stands her ground against on-coming Strykers, and will likely strip them of the ball; and, has developed a knack for transitioning the ball nicely back upfield to set up her Strykers. Jessica Curtis evidences great athleticism by relentlessly pounding the ball back up the pipe and frustrating hapless adversaries. NOTE: Last night we tried something different and asked (well… ordered) Jessica to stay on the defensive end of the midline. We recognize that Jessica chomps at the bit to leverage her speed and endurance all over the field. However, her primary roll was to stop any fast break at the midline (we control the midfield), and give her teammates time to form up. And, that worked quite well.

We found ourselves fielding only just enough players with one sub. However, this gave our indomitable Hannah Erger an opportunity to play her first complete match of the season. And, she stepped up, fighting for every ball on the right-side, and contributing to the offensive game with some well-timed and crucial short passes. KC Lowenthal has a knack for footwork that creates opportunities for her Captain Mars Twitchell. KC is unselfish when it comes to clean passes that have more often than not allowed our offense to lead the entire league in scoring. For the rest of my days, when I look back and ponder “silly little kittens” or “mighty tigers”, I will always have KC foremost in my mind. She turns it “on” for every match (whether she stayed up until 4am the night before or not). Grace Guthrie is currently an enigma. She will chug back-and-forth like an ever-ready rabbit dutifully chasing the ball. Then, once you yell at her (better yet – make eye contact) and tell her she needs to stop chasing the ball, and go after the ball (there is, apparently, a difference), she becomes a spark. Sure enough, in the last 20 minutes she showed up and transitioned the ball three times that had coach Chris and me producing sighs of heart-felt relief.

Christy Tovar offered up a blistering shot from thirty meters out in the first half that almost collapsed the goal rigging. Unfortunately, an inexperienced ref called her offsides and negated the goal. Nonetheless, our Strykers put even pressure on Storms defense all evening. We likely had as many as ten solid shots on goal. Mars had one of her best crossing days yet. And, her corner kicks give us more and more options. Once again, it was Mars, our faithful Captain that found a way to score and broke the Storm early in the second half. Sarah Bowers now adds a new dimension to our attack with speed that almost equals that of AC Anderson, and a good sense of where to position herself (she needs to remember to shoot around the goalie – as opposed to passing to the goalie). The result is three very strong scoring candidates up top with a formidable bench of ball-handlers in reserve for looming tournaments.

The only thing that bothers me about last nights (at least in terms of Shocker ball) match is Emily Dwane. I neglected her minutes. However, that will be rectified come tournament time. She is working hard and improving every week. And, her team spirit is nothing less than clearly evident.

Shockers 1 vs. Storm 0.

We have realized a milestone by accomplishing a winning season with a very respectable regular season record of 7 -3. Storm will end the season at the top of our league. However, our Shockers demonstrated why we lead the league in scoring, and, represented themselves as the better team both in determination, as well as character.

So, we head to District Cup this weekend in good form, and with momentum.

Look for another post “Indeed, we are Shockers”, from me soon positing our Shockers recent growth as citizens (and certainly, Mighty Tigers) and a team.

Coach Brian

Match #9: Lessons Learned

I can begin this post regarding yesterday’s match against NSA Magic with some highlights…

Our defensive unit was solid. AC Anderson had a brilliant fast break the entire length of the pitch – and, darn near scored. Ironically our Strykers were off-sides and diffused the play. But, that was a ‘shocking’ reminder of AC’s blistering speed, and something we need to capitalize on more often. Haley Anne Cork probably saved three goals with two headers and a desperate dash across the box to block a strong shot from a magic Forward. In the second half, Christy Tovar put on one brilliant display of footwork after another, battling her way up the pipe. Sarah Bowers dug deep and gave it her best playing the awkward left-side Stryker position, almost managing a shot that missed the net by an inch at best. Jessica Curtis was simply everywhere. Even though that might actually be a problem, we could not question her fierce desire and will.

But…

We have the highest scoring offense in the league. We put far more shots on goal during the first half – yet we put no balls in the net.

In fact, the only score in the entire grueling defensive struggle was offered up by our Keeper when she fumbled the ball right into her own goal. A lack of concentration and fundamentals aside, that goal did not lose the match, and a shot at the league title, for us…

We lost our match to Magic yesterday because we left more than blood and sweat on that Pickneyville Filed #4; we punted our Esprit de Corps.

Shockers 0 and NSA Magic 1.

I can take losing any day as long as everyone walks off the pitch with heads high, and feeling we all did our collective best. However, I was decidedly dejected after yesterday because I felt I let our team down. I am not wired to shrug these things off as simple games. I feel every practice and every match is a vital test of character, desire and a lesson waiting to be learned.

It’s not every day a coach must admit he lost a match for his team.

This current Shocker squad shares something special with teams of the past (and, I pray the future). We can and do win as a team – and a team that genuinely cares about one another and believes in one another. We do have some very good athletes. However, it will ALWAYS be heart that puts a team either over the top, or, drops them to the bottom.

Our own goal took the wind right out of us. We soldiered on, but with heads down.

We had a meltdown at half time where a player (actually two players) essentially refused to play a position. This created consternation in the ranks and ignited bickering that carried right over to the pitch. We went into the match Sunday with a clear game plan with contingencies that went out the window. My gut tells me had we stuck with the plan that simply involved “hot-swapping” three key offensive players, we likely would have had more activity up top.

I may have been flustered myself because I expect the girls to trust me, and to do what ever I ask. The typical result is our own kind of magic. I realize this is my ego – possibly misplaced self-esteem.

I must submit to everyone that my heart was broken by what happened both on the pitch and amongst our players.

So, perhaps mine has to be the greatest, if not most important lesson (I just need to understand what it is).

Mind you… If the ball bounces the right way against Storm; and, if Lightning beats Magic next week, the league standing make another dramatic shift.

But, suddenly that matters less. As I work my way through this post, my resolve to return to basics is working in the back of my head. We are going to invoke some significant changes in our line-up for tomorrow nights match against Fusion Storm. I understand this is going to make for a handful of ‘sad little kittens’. This team has two, and possibly three tournaments yet to play this season. We formed ourselves this year with the strategic purpose of being a tournament squad. We have a winning regular season under our collective belts no matter what happens tomorrow night. More importantly, beginning this weekend at District Cup we have a chance to turn ourselves around.

In speaking with Bob Twitchell today it occurred to me that we are now the underdogs going into the District Cup. We will find ourselves with a tough seed and surrounded by other teams that will view us as weaker. This is our best opportunity to dig in and remember that we are Shockers.

In my heart I feel that losing yesterday’s match might end up being a good thing. We probably can’t be that ‘Cinderella’ team that goes from worst to first, and wins that storybook league title. However, we can be that team that makes the critical decision to reunite ourselves around a renewed sense of purpose. A raison d’etre (if I misspelled that, feel free to correct me) if you will.

I ask our shocker parents to pull their player aside and ask the simple question:

“Can they play for their teammates – and not themselves.”

Tuesday (or Thursday depending on weather) night I am going to ask them to look at the player to their right and left and commit themselves to that person – and, to me.

Every practice and every match this month of May must be ever greater evidence that we Want The Ball, and we are a team.

So… The regular season ends tomorrow night – and, our best challenge as a team begins Thursday and Saturday morning when we take it to the State of Georgia where we hope to realize our team goal of reaching State Cup.

Coach Brian

Match #8: The psychology of victory

It struck me around the 30th minute in the first half of today’s match against Fusion Fury that the psychology of “the beautiful game” is as important as training and preparation.

Possibly the difference between coaching and a careful hand on a shoulder. Perhaps it’s all the same. But, each player is different – and, so is how they relate to one another, and how they approach each day, and all matches.

Our Shockers knew they have to keep winning as the season winds down to take a good seed in the pending District Cup. But, they started the match today tentative at best. Flat is a very good word. They were specifically told to:

“Beat all white jerseys to the ball.”

That did not happen. In fact, we were out hustled the entire first half. Mind you we had six shots on goal – including a penalty kick. But, we simply could not find the goal with the ball always going sideways off a toe.

Captain Mars Twitchell did launch a beautiful corner kick that rattled off Christy Tovar for a decisive goal. And, our defense dug in with gritty play. Keeper Hannah Derezinski had the save of her young life actually stretching full-out to her left to finger tip a hard shot beyond the post. That was really fun to watch.

We began to try some different combinations just to shake things up at the midline and amongst our Strykers.

Some heart were broken with some harsh words amongst the players. That was new. But, it will be corrected. I say this mostly because we play as a team – and, we always play as a team. We support one another. Always. That is all there is to it.

During half time we simply reminded them that when we control the midline and communicate, everyone relaxes, and we score goals. We lead the entire league in goals. An eye-popping thirty (30) after this morning, to be exact. So, we should always feel that we can control any match by Wanting The Ball.

Voila! As simple as that, the light turned on, and we began to play Shocker Ball from the opening minute of the second half.

Christy Tovar woke up and began to deny Fury their lines up the middle. She set up plays – often taking transitions from her defenders. Sarah Bowers was pushed up to the right-side Stryker position and the game simply changed in it’s pace. Mars Twitchell offered up a brilliant left-footed shot from 20 meters out that was clearly goal bound when Sarah tapped in in for good measure, and her first goal of the season. We debated who should have the goal. But, in the end, it’s generally the last boot on the ball that gets the goal; and, the ref made it official on his tally sheet. Mars is a great Captain and continues to lead her team with unselfish passes and crosses. She is also raising her game to new heights with ever better corner kicks.

Once we had momentum our Shockers were relaxed and set up some splendid fast breaks up the right side.

We had an awkward moment when our Keeper bent over for a slow moving ball, losing her concentration, neglecting to smother it with her body, and allowing it to dribble morosely into a corner.

However, Christy Tovar was heads-down and looking for another “hat-trick. And, within a six minute span, had two more hard shots for goals and another win that should give us a lot of confidence for tomorrow’s critical match against NSA Magic.

We willed ourselves to victory. This is what winning teams do.

Shockers 4 vs. Fury 1.

Coach Brian

Shocker Nation

Shocker Families:

Our 2009 Spring campaign is drawing to a close with our final matches of the regular season this coming weekend.

Saturday we play a surging Fusion Fury, and then Sunday we play, what may be our most pivotal match of the season, against NSA Magic at Pickneyville Field. Count on that being a tough match, and we need all-hands-on-deck, and very much ready to play Shocker Ball.

Next Tuesday around 7:30pm (this time is “negotiable” at the moment), we have a “friendly” match with Dawsonville. During this match we will be trying some new things in preparation for our May tournament schedule.

We still need to reschedule our rained-out match against Storm. But, they do not appear eager to face us again. So, that match is uncertain.

Tournaments

I had a parent that was apparently surprised to learn that we had a tournament over Memorial Day weekend (May 23rd and 24th). Veteran Shocker families know this is a tradition. We actually have three tournament options that weekend, but obviously will only choose one. We will likely go with the Celtic Cup in Savannah because we think it’s the most competitive, and the girls have specifically requested an overnight tournament as a reward for a terrific season.  In any event, all of this has been on the Shockers Blogsite (www.shockers.wordpress.com) since the first week of the season. Our stated objective for this season has been to qualify for State Cup. We made the District Cup, but need to keep winning to earn a good seed. If we can finish well at District Cup, we achieve that primary goal (other than being good citizens and team players) of State Cup.

Nevertheless, no family should feel compelled to sacrifice family or other interests for a soccer tournament. I know we can field a team, and the girls will have a wonderful experience to cap-off a fantastic first season together. But, if the Memorial Day weekend is a burden, please let me know so we can adjust the roster.

If I have not made it clear, I am deeply grateful to you for trusting me with your daughters. I am so very proud of all of them, and pray that this has been a terrific experience for each and everyone of them (and the families).

Coach Brian

Match #7: A Return to Form

After Saturday’s match against Fusion Storm it was greatly evident that our Shockers were keen on returning to form and ready to play NSA Revolution.

The majority of the team was at the pitch early and eager to warm up. I reminded them that we still control our destiny and need to keep points to be seeded well for the looming District Cup Tournament.

The first fifteen minutes of the match were slow as the Shockers worked their way into a rhythm. We were keeping the ball on our opponents side of the pitch. We had asked them to focus on not bunching up and communicating more.

They did just that.

They also charged the goal.

And, fought for the ball at the midline.

And, I might add – were relentless.

Mallory Charlton began the scoring with a deft move past two Defenders and a sweet shot from the right side that caught the goalie out of position. Minutes later Christy Tovar added another pair of goals (one off a beautiful corner kick from Mars Twitchell).

The Shockers then put on a veritable clinic, passing the ball along neat lines and being stubborn at Defense. Hannah Erger had her finest match of the season subbing in at right-side Midfield, standing her ground against larger and older players. She may have had an assist, we were not sure. But, in a scrummage, the ball was bouncing crazily in front of the Revolution goal, and Hannah was in the thick of it. she has now ably demonstrated she can hold her own at either Midfield side and advance the ball. She clearly inspired her teammates.

Then Grace Guthrie, who has been a terrific Defensive Midfielder all season, advanced the ball up the pipe with a pass from her sister Claire Guthrie. Grace had passed the ball right to Mallory, who pushed the ball back left. It spun in front of Grace at the top of the box, and with one purposeful stride, and a solid boot, popped high and just under the cross bar for a ‘purty-as-you-please’ goal – and, I believe her first goal ever (I am confident Mary will otherwise correct me). It should be noted that Claire is getting quite good at moving the ball deftly around opposing players and creating space for solid and timely passing.

NOTE: What happened around Grace and Hannah is precisely why we stress charging and massing up to the goal.

Michelle Higgins reminded me why I want her on my team by racing for the ball, and making some tight crossing passes subbing in the right Stryker position.

I do need to add, that all things considered, I may have been most impressed by the gritty play of KC Lowenthal. Her footwork was dazzling as she denied opponents the ball and moved the ball upfield with determination and sacrifice as she passed the ball brilliantly to open teammates. She had several solid shots on goal and can always be counted upon to be a crucial contributor. This is why she is our Midfield Captain.

Keeper Hannah Derezinski earned another clean sheet with a couple of confident saves. She was protected by a stubborn defense led by AC Anderson who demonstrated the speed that recently gave her a County 200 meter championship and record. Haley Anne Cork was also in good form stumping all Revolution Strykers a good 30 meters in front of her goalie, and shelling the Revolution with booming kicks that set up a number of fast breaks. Jessica Curtis has become a “mad woman”, racing all over the pitch beating EVERYONE to the ball (some times her own teammates included). We ordered her to stay South of the midline. The result was a very frustrated Revolution team that could not muster but a few breaks. Emily Dwane has a knack for finding herself alone and facing hard-charging opponents with the ball. We don’t know if it’s luck, or stubborness (she is becoming like a daughter to me – I suspect I know it’s both) yet… But, when she goes after their feet, she buys her team time to rally. Keep watching that one.

Christy Tovar blasted our fifth goal of the match over the head of the frustrated keeper for  her third of the match, and a “hat-trick”. This brought her even with Mars Twitch for the season. They now share the lead in goals scored for the entire league. In fact, each has scored more than any other one team combined.

This was classic Shocker ball. We controlled the midline; charged the goal; and protected our goalie.

Shockers 5 vs. NSA Revolution 0.

There is a “Storm brewing” as we seethe for a rematch, and prepare for the final leg of our regular season campaign with key matches against Fusion Fury and NSA Magic next weekend.

Coach Brian

Match #6: Hard Lessons

This past weekend was tough for the Shockers, albeit fortuitous, because it presented a wake-up call.

We met the undefeated Fusion Storm on Saturday.

Storm scored early taking advantage of confusion amongst our vaunted defense. The whole match saw a decidedly flat Shockers playing against themselves, and getting beat to the ball.  We were constantly bunching up, and this cost us along the sidelines, having to endure fast-breaks.

Interestingly, the Shockers ended up with twelve shots on goal, but never got a break.

Captain Mars Twitchell demonstrated why she leads the entire league in goals by bouncing one strong shot off a bar, and then fighting through the stubborn Storm defense for a solid one-on-one goal against their outstanding keeper, bringing the match even.

However, with ten minutes to go, Defender Haley Anne Cork found herself swarmed by opponents (a grim reminder why “charging the goal” is a good idea) and dropped a blindly kicked ball into our own goal.

The only good news is we beat ourselves, but have another shot at Storm in a few weeks.

Shockers 1 vs. Storm 2.

Coach Brian

Match #5: Determination

Our fifth match of the season, played on a breezy Saturday evening, brought us back into the sites of  a Fusion Lightning squad that had naught to lose but an opportunity to take us out of the running to lead our flight.

Spoilers can be dangerous.

The entire first half represented a titanic defensive struggle with both sides getting some good shots on goal.  Fortunately Hannah Derezinski had one of her best matches defending the net with a heads-up display of dexterity and confidence. She had some solid booming punts as well.

I love yelling:

“That’s My KEEPER!”

Late in the second half our Shockers rallied themselves with some particularly ferocious fast-breaks. A brilliant cross from the right side by Sara Bowers put the ball cleanly at the boot of Mars Twitchell whom knocked the ball cleanly past the defending keeper, and the upper left corner.

In the final fifteen seconds, three Lightning had broken past all defenders with only Haley Anne Cork between them and her Keeper. As both a coach and a father, my gut told me were fine. And, sure enough, Haley Anne positioned herself perfectly forcing an early and poorly-timed pass that she was able to deftly knock out of bounds. Moments later we had our fourth victory of the season.

This was another team victory with all players digging in and fighting for every ball. I think the Lightning may have had a faster step on us. However, we some how managed to take the ball back, and mount one attack after another.

Determination, a mounting sense of destiny, and a belief in ourselves as a team, gave us this well earned victory.

Everybody is improving as players and citizens.

Shockers 1 vs Lightning 0.

Coach Brian

Double Header

This past blustery Saturday our mighty Shockers played a double-header against NSA Magic and Revolution.

That is a lot to ask of any team. However, they conducted themselves brilliantly both in terms of character, as well as play, at naught but the highest of levels.

The first match against NSA Magic saw the Shockers a bit unnerved by our missing goalie that has mistakenly gone to the wrong fields and the prospect of only one substitute player. Nonetheless, we found ourselves executing determined “Shocker Ball” playing ninety percent of the match around the Magic goal with numerous fast breaks. We had no less then fifteen shots on goal – but, with no strikes (concentration and “finishing” must now be a focus in training). Magic had only two shots on goal. Our Defense, even missing a key leader, were nothing less than ferocious, and our Midfield, all but impenetrable. Unfortunately this included the wind partnered with the strong boot of Magics Keeper; and, the tragic result (depending of course, what side you were on) was a high bouncing ball that slipped over our on Keeper’s fingers.

Shockers 0 and Magic 1.

NOTE: We should never call that a “freak” goal. It’s simply part of “the Beautiful Game” – and, in this game the unpredictable is always the greated possibility.

But, I submit to you, we played some of our best soccer to date.

That, of course, set the stage for our second match versus NSA Revolution.

I believe that match may have, indeed, been our finest performance to date. The Shockers understood they had to rally. So, they responded by keeping, again, the ball on the Revolution side most of the match (this is, of course, a crucial part of “Shocker Ball”). We saw another ten shots on goal with no less than six strikes. However, the key was incredible communication and passing up the middle, that began with strong Defensive transitions and played right up the pipe.

Shockers 6 and Revolution 1.

I also want to point out that every single player contributed and are showing enormous improvement in both skills, as well as, confidence. It was a team if “Mighty Tigers” (and, not “silly kittens”) all that made Coach Chris and I very proud.

Coach Brian

Weekend Challenge

We have a pivotal weekend looming before our worthy Shockers.

Two big matches vs. NSA Magic and Revolution.

We approach this challenge with but one sub.

We play Shocker Ball, we prevail.

Lets muster at the South Complex Saturday around 11am.

Team Manager Mom Patty hopes to put together a picnic of sorts (light easy food mind you) between matches to keep us properly fueled.

Coach Brian

Shockers and Silverbacks

The Fusion U14 Shockers have been selected by the Atlanta Silverbacks to represent Atlanta Youth Soccer as the “walk-out” squad for the Lady Silverbacks season-opener Saturday May 16th.

Members of the Shockers will also be the official ball girls for the match.

In other news, Brian Cork has been named to the Atlanta Silverbacks Board of Directors.

Coach Brian

Momentum

Great scrimmage last night (Tuesday).

Much improved close-quarters passing (those drills are paying-off). Solid communication. Determination was greatly evident. Three goals in five minutes with a shut-out says it all.

Hope to most everyone tomorrow Thursday for practice. But, have a great Spring Break.

Be ready for our two matches with NSA Magic and Revolution Saturday the 11th.

Coach Brian

Match #2: Bench Strength

Updated version.

Blue skies; a gentle cooling breeze; and, late afternoon brought sister Fusion team Fury to our mighty and fearless Shockers.

From the kickoff it was Shocker ball.

Majority team Captain Mars Twitchell had Girls Leadership Club duties.  So, Stryker Christy Tovar stepped up for a hat-trick (three goals) in the first half including a brilliant corner kick from Erin Nables.

Midfield Captain KC Lowenthal shared Left-side Stryker duties with Sarah Bowers and put a solid shot in the lower left corner of the Fury net just before half-time. Sarah did a terrific job of moving the ball up the left side and passing to her teammates to set up multiple scoring opportunities.

Our legendary Defensive unit of Captain AC Anderson, Haley Anne Cork, Claire Guthrie, Jessica Curtis, Lindsay Wojcik and Emily Dwane played an almost flawless game easing their Keeper Hannah Derezinski into her first clean sheet of the regular season. The only errors were giving away four corner kicks. But, always redeemed themselves with determined clears that often resulted in Shocker fast breaks. Lindsay continues to goof off less and improve each match with tough on-on-one stands against on-coming Forwards. Emily, who has never played soccer before this season, stood her ground (albeit all bug-eyed) against two fast-breaks until teammate and BFF Haley Anne swooped in and blasted that ball back across the midline.

Observations:

Every player contributed for a decisive 4 to 0 victory. As the girls skills and confidence (in themselves as well as one another), we have demonstrated depth across Defense, Midfield and Forwards.

It was fun to note, as the first half progressed, that several of the girls observed:

We are really playing Shocker Ball.

Erin was a force of nature at Center Midfield and set up no less than seven scoring opportunities with precision passes and jaw-dropping aerial bombs with her “big boot”. She also held the Fury at the midline denying one fast break after another.

Mallory Charlton had nine shots on goal. Six of these were essentially one-on-ones where she beat Defenders on fast breaks. Once she takes her physics lessons seriously, and remembers that the ball keeps going at the same speed – even if she slows down when she approached the goal, she will no doubt net more than a few.

Hannah Erger and Sarah are probably two of my smartest players.  Just really bright kids. You can see it in how they position themselves to optimize a situation. They outthink opponents (however, sometimes, Sarah thinks too much, and slows herself down around the goal). Today, Hannah demonstrated tremendous grit making her determined stance against much larger opponents. She was put on the ground a few times but frustrated the Fury along the left side with stubborn defense and skillful close-quarters passing.

Michelle Higgins reminded coach Brian why he wants her on his teams with moments of brilliance on the right side. When Michelle remembers how quick she is, and decides to win the ball, she will be a scoring threat.

Haley Anne has it rather tough being a coaches daughter. I expect a lot of her. And, she puts a lot of pressure on herself. But, I always know that when she is around the ball we can expect it to transition efficiently. I can count on her. She has proven she can score as a Defender. Watching her gain confidence navigating the ball is a benchmark I am proud of as both a coach, and a father.

If KC had kept left more often, she would likely have had two more shots on goal. When she creeps to the right, she crowds Christy, who will always defer. We need to watch that. KC is better coming off an angle of attack, whereas Christy clearly dominates up the “pipe” (middle).

I continue to be impressed with the consistent and expanded play of both Claire and Grace Guthrie. Claire had a tough match two weeks ago. However, she bounced back today and was clearly determined to go after the ball.

At this point, if I tell Grace to:

“go after the ball”

…she will do it.

That is impressive. And, it means a lot to me, Coach Chris, and this team, that she can spark that Midfield at both Center and Right-side.

I made a big mistake today. I had promised Hannah Derezinski that if we had a solid lead going into the fourth quarter, I would put her into the Midfield. she has earned that opportunity in practice. I flat-out forgot. I won’t make that mistake again. She practices hard and is a great sport. Keeper is a tough spot. Its often thankless with most of the pressure.

In closing, we are getting ready for a heavy match schedule in the next few weeks. This includes a challenge from a Select team.

We are Shockers. We take all comers.

We want the ball.

Coach Brian

UPDATE (03-22-2009): I changed the title of this post from “Match #2: a Clean Sheet” to “Match #2: Bench Strength”.