Tag Archives: Fusion Shockers

2009 District Cup

My mind whirls with thoughts and emotions around this past weekend and the 2009 District Cup.

Bottom Row: Jessica Curtis, Lindsay Wojcik, Christy Tovar, Mallory Charlton, Sarah Bowers, Hannah Erger, AC Anderson,KCLowenthal Back Row: Coach Brian Patrick Cork, Grace Guthrie, Claire Guthrie, Mars Twitchell, Michelle Higgins, Haley Anne Cork, Emily Dwane, Hannah Derezinski, Coach Chris Tovar

Bottom Row: Jessica Curtis, Lindsay Wojcik, Christy Tovar, Mallory Charlton, Sarah Bowers, Hannah Erger, AC Anderson,KCLowenthal Back Row: Coach Brian Patrick Cork, Grace Guthrie, Claire Guthrie, Mars Twitchell, Michelle Higgins, Haley Anne Cork, Emily Dwane, Hannah Derezinski, Coach Chris Tovar

I’ll not detail each match because they have combined to make for a powerful and dramatic total experience for our Shockers.

Every moment was, in itself, a highlight.

I believe we emerged with vital lessons learned about establishing goals and working hard to achieve them. Playing with the highest levels of integrity, and digging deep into tired bodies for that final surge of strength needed to hold their heads high.

We did, however, literally, begin on the right foot…

We had an opportunity to force GSA Sparks into a forfeit for our first match of the tournament Saturday. We would simply have none of that. This gave us an opportunity to tell our Shockers this was a clear indication of the faith we have in them. We earn our victories. The Shockers responded with a decisive 4 to 0 victory that quickly separated them from many of the finest teams to represent the region.

Ultimately, those four goals earned us vital tie-breaker points that made the difference, and gave us a a shot at AFCU Bengals for the District Cup Finals.

We played with the highest levels of integrity, and we earned medals as a glittering reminder of what happens when we Control, Charge and Protect.

An enduring image of the District Cup will be our Keeper, Hannah Derezinski, crumpled in a painful heap, having gone to the ground for a ball defending her goal.

Another was the look on the faces of Shocker Nation as they burst into cheers, en masse, with the news that our Shockers (Mighty Tigers all) had fought their way into the District Cup Finals – earning a trip to the Georgia State Cup Championships next week in Columbus, Georgia.

Certainly, there was drama; stories of sizzling shots, courage in the middle, brilliant passes, cries of rage and defiance. There was also sweat – and, oh yes, blood. Tears abounded. We had moments where we hung our heads – but, some how prevailed.

As I wrap up this post, I am thinking of Claire Guthrie. We made a deal; and, she kept her end of the bargain. She also reminded me that I had promised Grace I would take them to State if they would trust me.

I told her that I always keep my word.

I am not sure what I read in her eyes at that moment. But, maybe one day I might find that sort of covenant made a difference in her life. In my heart, winning matches and cups aside, I know that is what coaching, and being a Dad, is all about.

Coach Brian

Indeed, we are Shockers

Surely, given our collective experiences, we recognize that change and growth can come unexpectedly. We believe we are faced with a bad situation. Then suddenly, sequential events create a positive, if not dramatic, result.

We saw that very scenario unfold over the past three weeks with our Shockers.

Beginning with our first match with Storm, we saw Shockers appear to lose vital focus, and they began, to my dismay, to bicker amongst themselves. We subsequently suffered a 2 to 1 loss that appeared to be the result of our own flat and uninspired play – and, an own goal.

Losing is, in many respects, a vital part of the beautiful game. However, integrity and character must separate themselves from errantly bouncing balls.

Shocker ball found itself deflated.

We rallied the following week against NSA Revolution with a decisive 5 to 0 victory.

Oddly, our players became tentative at practice, and confidence appeared to be eroding. Certainly we had two diverse cultures that had only recently converged. Some of the younger players had been with me for several years, and knew little else than a history of winning and a dramatic Cup victory. However, much of this hardy squad had suffered through uninspired leadership and two losing seasons at ASA, and might have begun to feel their current campaign was a fluke.

We then met a surging Fusion Fury that severely tested us even though we pulled away with a 4 to 1 victory, and a Christy Tovar hat-trick.

Yet, there was, again, mounting dissent.

All of this came to a horrific head last weekend when we simply fell apart against an admittedly well-coached and inspired NSA Magic. As I relayed in a prior post: Match #9: Lessons Learned, we suffered poor sportsmanship, a veritable melt-down, and a crisis of confidence that saw us shut-out 1 to 0; and a lost opportunity for the league title.

That was bad. But, what happened next was good. The real story, was the realization of a different kind of magic.

By Monday it was evident our Shockers not only did not like losing, they were deeply offended by how they suddenly saw themselves being reflected. Facebook connections and texting proliferated. Leaders and leadership were manifested in unexpected ways. Sophomoric philosophy was born and realized. Most importantly, only one side was ultimately taken – and, that was one Shocker simply united for the other.

My dramatic prose aside, the girls did not like they way they felt. They were quickly realizing it was more fun to care about and support one another. Unexpected allies reinforced the notion that sticking together and saying good things about people was satisfying. Almost as one, each of them concluded in a fury of electronic exchanges that they cared about one another (articulated only in the manner that adolescent girls can in their modern techspeak). Esprit de Corps is time-honored, and builds it’s own mystical momentum. And, we saw that energize our shockers.

Let me be all the more clear: They, as a group, saw a wrong, came to a consensus, and solved the problem with decisiveness and emerging maturity.

The best possible test of this was realized Tuesday when we met Fusion Storm for the second time. What should have (or, maybe only could have) been the match to decide league champions, the Shockers would be playing for the point of pride.

Having sorted themselves out, they were (as always) the first team on the pitch warming up. We were loose and comraderie filled the air. A small group had pulled our Keeper, Hanna D, aside and were warming her up (both with support and in fact).

I had them form a circle around me. There was no pressure. I asked them to look left then right at the players and teammates around them – and, to consider playing for those citizens and not themselves. They did giggle (they will always have that element of silly little kittens). However, that passed quickly when I reminded them that we had met one of our primary goals of the Spring – a winning season; and no one could take that away from them. The next objective was our secondary, and a stated goal, of making it to State Cup. I also explained that they were now a tournament team, going into District Cup, to take on the entire state of Georgia’s finest soccer teams – as underdogs.

That got their collective attention. There was our truest bonding agent. A renewed cause celebre and our raison d’etre.

I have already recounted the tale of our victory over Storm with Match #10: Finishing Well. As a father and coach, winning in the manner our fearsome Shockers did Tuesday night was damn satisfying.

We had overcome angst and self-doubt. We then met questionable referees, and a Storm coach that, amazingly, felt compelled to stack his team against us with guest players.

Before the kick-off I thumped my chest and bellowed:

Ladies… This fateful day – are we silly little kittens or Mighty Tigers all?

Without hesitation they responded with firm conviction:

MIGHTY TIGERS!

There were “cat calls” from the Storm bench. However, those were quickly silenced after a quick melee at midfield followed by a fast break on the Storm goal.

Perhaps the best part of the match for me was half time. The team came off the pitch united by fury; their eyes blazing. They were incensed by ref calls, and the unfortunate lack of sportsmanship by Storm. However, Chris and I recognized that as Tiger Food.

As the center ref blew her (over used) whistle to end the match, our Shockers found one another and joined their coaches with less celebration, and so much more grim satisfaction. They, each one of them, knew they had played a great match; and, it was best savoured as a team.

That is, and always will be, Shocker Ball.

See everyone tomorrow outside of Stone Mountain (or,will certainly feel you). No matter how that wily ball bounces, it’s always a beautiful game – and all the more because we are, indeed Shocker Nation.

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

Underdogs

So…

If Facebook exchanges, texting and parent telephone calls are an indication, our Shockers have realized their own pain, and are quickly rallying themselves.

Can this signal and set the stage for their best days of the season – and, perhaps their finest hours as citizens?

We have a winning season behind us. No one can take that from a team that learned how to be winners and are learning how to grow through adversity. The looming District Cup represents nothing less than a splendid opportunity to make themselves proud and take on the entire state of Georgia as underdogs.

The New Yorker is always sort of hit and miss, for me, and the less said about some of their content the better, but every once in a while an article comes along that reminds me why I bother to read the thing in the first place.

Malcolm Gladwell’s recent piece on the phenomenon of underdogs beating superior foes is an engrossing and varied look at a subject that should be dear to anyone’s heart. His analysis is astute and inspiring, but also a tad provocative: underdogs frequently win, he says, and would win more, too, if only they knew how likely their victory actually was:

“David’s victory over Goliath, in the Biblical account, is held to be an anomaly. It was not. Davids win all the time. The political scientist Ivan Arreguín-Toft recently looked at every war fought in the past two hundred years between strong and weak combatants. The Goliaths, he found, won in 71.5 per cent of the cases. That is a remarkable fact. Arreguín-Toft was analyzing conflicts in which one side was at least ten times as powerful—in terms of armed might and population—as its opponent, and even in those lopsided contests the underdog won almost a third of the time.”

In the Biblical story of David and Goliath, David initially put on a coat of mail and a brass helmet and girded himself with a sword: he prepared to wage a conventional battle of swords against Goliath. But then he stopped. “I cannot walk in these, for I am unused to it,” he said (in Robert Alter’s translation), and picked up those five smooth stones. What happened, Arreguín-Toft wondered, when the underdogs likewise acknowledged their weakness and chose an unconventional strategy? He went back and re-analyzed his data. In those cases, David’s winning percentage went from 28.5 to 63.6. When underdogs choose not to play by Goliath’s rules, they win, Arreguín-Toft concluded, “even when everything we think we know about power says they shouldn’t.

[…]

Drawing on subjects as various as T.E. Lawrence and a pre-teen girls’ basketball team, he offers up several illustrations of the general principle of efforttrumping ability so long as that effort is being expended furiously and immediately. The example of the full-court press is frequently returned to, and he makes a number of good points about the importance of turning the tables on one’s more powerful opponent at once and forever rather than waiting for him to make the first move and establish the ground rules of the conflict. This naturally bears upon questions of insurgency (which he touches upon), but even if he were only writing about the girls and their ruthless program of basketball supremacy it would be worth reading.

I am not familiar with Mr. Gladwell’s work elsewhere (though he seems quite popular, judging by what I’ve seen in the stores), but this, at least, is certainly worth your time. We should exercise caution in taking these ideas as a solid ethical metric, for to do so would be to flirt with consequentialism, but there is much here that is of value for those engrossed in the dynamics of human competition.

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

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

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”.

Match #1: Shocker Ball

What is it about “Shocker Ball”?

It feels as though it’s as simple as wanting the ball – and, then force of will.

We saw that vital difference in halfs this afternoon.

The Fusion Lightning were clearly the more aggressive team, and had our Shockers on their heels.

The key correction we made was “hot-swapping” two Midfielders that are naturally aggressive with confident ball-handling skills in traffic.

Also, Captain Mars Twitchell fighting through three Defenders to punch the ball decisively past a rattled Goalie for our second score.

The result was a third quarter where we kept the ball on our opponents goal with no less than six shots at (not necessarily on) goal.

We will take a 2-1 victory  to begin our regular season; and, some clear ideas where we need to focus skills training.

In any event, I got to yell:

“THAT IS SHOCKER BALL LADIES”

…a bunch in the second half.

Coach’s NOTES:

KC Lowenthal shows particular grit and determination on the Left-side Midfield.  She often finds herself having to fight the ball through as many as three determined opponents. She is successful more often than not. This allows a successful transition up the left side that helps Mars center the ball.

Hannah Erger has a knack for fighting balls through crowds as well. She never backs down, and I feel this is a key element to “managing momentum”.

When Christy Tovar is “on” its rare for any opponent to get the ball past our mid-line.

We are accustomed to seeing AC Anderson and Haley Anne Cork come out of no where to shut down an opposing fast-break. However, today we saw Lindsay Wojcik hold the right side at Defense while sustaining some nasty scrapes.

It’s only a matter of time before Mallory Charlton “see’s herslf” as a big-time influence on the Right-side Forward position. She had two great opportunities on the goal. I can see her being a consistent two-goals-per-game Stryker.

Jessica Curtis is not only a huge influence as a Defender; but, she could score from anywhere.  She does not realize it yet. I suspect the same can be said for Erin Nable.

If you ask Grace Guthrie to go after every ball, she will do it with single-minded will and focus. She can be a dominate force once we teach her how not to bunch up and crowd Erin (for example), and move to open-ground for a quick give-and-go pass.

Coach Brian

Transitions

Last night during scrimmage our Shockers proved their performance in the final match at the Lanier tournament was no fluke.

They came ready for practice and were clearly determined to comport themselves with valor in drills and on the pitch.

Focus combined with grit always tells.

We had several mutely awed parents in attendance that were witnesses.

We put them on the field without a goalie in the net. I asked them, simply enough, to protect the goal.

My only real advice?

“Keep the ball at the other end of the field.”

They did that very thing.

The few times our opponents managed a fast break they broke on “the wall” now formed by a legendary defense.

Our girls added new meaning to “wanting the ball”.  Not one Shocker, I tell you, failed to fight with all their might for every single ball.

These girls are fighters; winners; possessed of great character; and the object of tremendous pride on the part of their coach (whom it should be noted has no voice this morning).

By the way…  Alex Rodriguez at Totally Soccer thinks we will have the rest of our gear by Friday. So, be on standby to meet off Post Road for a quick distribution.

Coach Brian

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”.

Haley Anne Scores a Goal

It was nothing less than a THING of beauty.

There is my Haley Anne, age 12, playing “up” ( a full year early) at U14 with her next generation Fusion Shockers at their first tournament together (that would be the 2009 Lanier Cup).

As you probably know, Haley Anne is a FORMIDABLE Defender. /1

It’s early in our third match of the tournament. We need five goals with any hope to reach the tournament finals.

On a corner kick, in the 8th minute, from teammate and Captain Mars Twitchell (whom ultimately two goals herself), the ball spins off the boot of another teammate Jessica Curtis (one assist). Haley comes furiously pounding up the “pipe” (middle of the pitch [soccer field]). In seemingly surreal fashion (certainly slow-motion to her coach and father) she connects her right boot with the ball in a perfect stride that sends the ball arcing beautifully towards the goal from (at least) 40 meters out.

The hapless opposing goalie can only reach for the ball in a moot effort as it passes just cleanly beneath the cross bar and settling purposefully in the back of the net.

Brian Patrick Cork (Dad first and then Coach) /2 :

HAAAAAAAA!!!!

I only know the crowd and her teammates have gone wild because I am told later this is, indeed, fact. But, it had to be drowned out by the blood rushing from my head to my heart and the exultation (and chest thumping that followed) that erupts from my hoarse throat – as I leap (certainly with the most awe-inspiring of agility) upon my friend, and assistant coach, Chris Tovar (clearly the proud father, in his own right [and, for very good cause] of Haley Anne’s multi-season teammate Christy [who also had a goal herself]) – whom could be barely less delighted than myself.

Our teams first goal of the season is scored. By MY daughter – and, a Defender at that.

Could there be greater joy this day?

Possibly only in that the Shockers (“Mighty Tigers” all) go on to seal this victory with a five to zero demonstration of grit, fire power and indomitable defense.

It should be noted that, in Haley Anne’s view (this is typical of Haley Anne), the best goal was actually that scored by teammate Mallory Charlton. Mallory had  no less than four brilliant breakaway’s – with the fourth culminating in a one-on-one with the Keeper and a clean goal in the upper left corner of the net.

Peace be to my Brothers and Sisters.

brian patrick cork

__________________________

1/ Her Fall 2008 ASA Shockers went 12 – 0 with 7 shut-outs.  Haley Anne had no less than 13 assists as a Defender and team Captain.

2/ Convinced, no less, that his teams have a tendency to win despite his efforts.