Friday, November 23, 2007

Women's Soccer vs UConn 11/23/2007

Stanford 0 UConn 2
Initially I had planned to fly back from home Friday morning with the intention of watching the final regular season volleyball game of the year against Cal, but then the soccer team beat Cal and had their game scheduled for the exact same time on the exact same day. Since Zhihao said he’d rather go to volleyball, I went to soccer. Unfortunately, we did not play our best and UConn came in with a strategy to shut us down and a brick wall named Stephanie Labbe(#0 GK).

I was surprised at the large turnout for the game considering that it was the day after Thanksgiving, but at the same time soccer is one of those sports (like volleyball and softball) that is a good draw with the local girls’ soccer leagues and their parents. The student presence was negligible, but I think the announced crowd was in the 1500s which is fairly close to selling out LCQ.

In the first half, I was sure that we would get a tough, but comfortable, victory. We controlled possession and outplayed UConn throughout the half and basically were in control of the game. It was a little sloppy, but Buehler, Kirby, and Marissa were controlling the back line as usual and not letting much through. #11 on UConn (MF Megan Schnur) was the only player who consistently gave us trouble as she seemed to almost be toying with and then blowing by April Wall on the right side of our D at will (foreshadowing). They got a couple of chances in the first half this way, but Buehler was around to clean up the mess. We had 3 great shots, but each time the keeper would punch it over the bar. Out of all of the goalies I’ve seen this year, she was the most confident and steady in the box. All crosses were snuffed out, and it seemed like it was going to take something extraordinary to beat her. UConn’s strategy seemed to be to sag back a little up top and keep Press, Riley, O’Hara, etc. from getting the ball and making the runs that they usually make. Then they would counter attack off of that and use their speed on the wings to try and make plays from there. #3 and #11 had some serious speed and today was the first time I could remember someone being able to outrun Marisa for balls on the left side.

UConn got their first goal about 5 min into the 2nd half off of a counterattack headed by #11 down their left side(our right). She got by April pretty easily and when Buehler came over to help, someone else made a run right down the middle and it was an easy finish. For some reason, everything we had been doing went to hell after that goal even though there were still 35 minutes left, and we were only down by one goal. We immediately lost our composure and seemed to be in a hurry. Instead of trying any build up, we resorted to long passes up field from the back; however, this didn’t work because of UConn sitting back to prevent that specific thing. We had no flow to our offense after that first goal, and after the second UConn score, the writing was on the wall.

I was sitting in front of a couple of ladies who had played college soccer recently, one I believe for Stanford (or she was really good friends with the team) and the other from Northwestern. From listening to them, they were impressed with UConn’s #11 and their keeper as well. They also felt like Press was not in the game. She never really seemed to impose herself on the game like I’ve seen her do before. They wondered why Ratcliffe never subbed Lizzy for Christen like he’s done before. My only guess can be that once we got down two goals, we needed Christen’s ability to make something from nothing more than Lizzy’s steady, physicality, but I definitely would have given her a chance earlier in the game. (Sidenote: My favorite Lizzy story is hearing her tell a story about how she broke her HS boyfriend’s nose in front of his friends after hearing that he cheated on her. Apparently she throws a mean right.) One last thing that they kept coming back to was our inability to string anything together offensively. We had bad first touches, passes to no one in particular, and missed passes. Surprisingly we seemed far less composed than we should have been. Our attack never really got untracked, and the difference in the game was their ability to counterattack on the wings and convert the couple of chances they got. All in all in was a good year, but I’d bet that the girls are a little more than pissed that it ended the way they did. We played nowhere near our best and UConn came out, executed, and took advantage of the chances they were given.

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