Monday, September 19, 2011

September 19th- Stanford Women’s Soccer V Santa Clara

With Stanford Women’s Basketball still a world away, C and R have been enjoying other women’s college sports, most notably volleyball and soccer. So when C saw that number one ranked Stanford soccer team was playing number 18th ranked Santa Clara at Santa Clara’s Buck Shaw Stadium, which is a mile away from R’s house, well, she knew they had to go.

The game was set for 8 PM on Sunday, September 18th, which happens to be a school night and late for a soccer game, but since the stadium was only a mile from R’s house, as she likes to point out every time we think about going to see Santa Clara, we were still in. When we heard they would retire Brandi Chastain’s number at half time, we knew were would be there early to get a good seat!

It was a beautiful balmy night, the day having been warm for our Bay Area neck of the woods, and we go there to watch both teams warm up. Now, C’s only dilemma was who to root for. See, when she, okay me, hate the pronoun thing, when I was coaching my daughter in recreational soccer, there would be special Santa Clara Women’s Soccer games where tix would either be inexpensive for groups or free for youth if you wore their soccer shirt. So we would pile the whole team in a few minivans and spend the glorious fall afternoons in the bleachers cheering on the Broncos and making up creative cheers for them! The girls loved it. One year I caught a T-Shirt flung into the stands and got it autographed by the whole team after the game. That year they went on to win the National Championship!

When we were going to those games, there was one Santa Clara player that did a throw-in in a crazy way. She would run to the line, then bend and place the ball on the ground, then place her head on the ball and flip herself over the ball, landing back on her feet. As she came upright bringing the ball from way behind her head she would fling it forward. The extra strength would make it sail halfway across the pitch. It was an amazing feat to behold and the girls loved it. “Look, look, she’s going to do the flip again!” they would nudge and tell each other.

One year, an opposing coach placed her defender an inch inside the boundary line, lined up just where the flipping throw-in player would land. She was to stand there and see if she could either disrupt the throw or get collision and a foul called on the player. The girls and I stared with horror as we realized what she trying to do as the throw-in player began her run. With hands over their mouths, we all held our breath, the flipper came upright and threw the ball and stopped her body from colliding with the other player. The girls sighed relief. I was more interested in the other player. Would she flinch or duck when the ball came around? (I know I would!). Amazingly, she held her ground and didn’t move, the only exception was she closed her eyes when the flipper went upright and threw it over her head, as if preparing for a crash. Do you know what kind of muscle control it would take to tell your body to not move a muscle when perceived danger is coming at it? Well, a lot! Just try not to flinch or protect yourself if someone is throwing a hard baseball at you! I dare you. So, I give that player huge kudos for braving that!

Anyhoo, the stadium and C have a long history of rooting for the Broncos. When C and R took their seats, a Stanford fan was trying to get the Stanford troops fired up by starting the “Go! Stanford!” chant. Then we saw Brandi Chastain right before the game started and nudged each other like the little girls! Also, big kudos for Santa Clara for getting a lot of students to walk over to the stadium and cheer loudly for the team.

So to solve our cheering dilemma, we tried to stay neutral, which was easy to do because both women’s soccer teams feature amazing athletes. It is such a joy to watch women compete at such a high level. Both teams played a similar possession-type game, although Stanford was more patient in holding the ball and waiting to pick their time to attack. They were rewarded with a goal in the 30th minute. Then Stanford did a quick free kick to a streaking player and got another goal at the 36th minute. It was 2-0 at the half.

Brandi came out at half time. They announced her number was retired, and listed her accomplishments, and dang, she is accomplished as a player! Then back to soccer.

The half resumed (with no rain and thunder and lightening of the Notre Dame game) and, we are sorry to report, Stanford got sloppy, making mental mistakes and unforced errors, and getting the ball stolen. So different from when we saw them play Notre Dame a few weeks ago where they played about as technically perfect game as you can imagine. With about 10 minutes left in the match and Santa Clara still down by 2, they started hustling after every ball and pressuring Stanford. The result was Santa Clara winning a lot of balls, or Stanford making mistakes to give them the balls. And, Stanford looked tired and just stopped chasing down balls. Santa Clara didn’t, so you got to admire them for never quitting. Unfortunately, SC’s plan of attack was speed, and Stanford could counter that on defense, so Santa Clara remained scoreless, with the game ending 2-0. We were also glad to see Stanford goalie Emily Oliver back in goal, when the last time we saw her vs. Notre Dame, she had banged her knee on a ND goal and was removed from the game.

Santa Clara is playing again this coming Saturday, and their opponent is NOT Stanford. Hmm, we might have to go and cheer for them outright, especially since the stadium is a mile from R’s house! Let’s just take a peek at the opponent…it’s Cal! Oh, now we really have to go!

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