Dateline: September 6, 2008, Holmes School Field. Decked out in brand new black and white uniforms, the young women of St. Giles U8 OPASYO Team 25 met briefly and picked a name: the Penguins. This hand-selected roster of under-8 soccer allstars includes: Number 2, Adela Duewel; Number 3, Taylor Leibig; Number 4, Maura Reilly; Number 5, Andie Corsino; Number 6, Sarah Steadman; Number 7, Audrey Madura; and Number 9, Jackie McShan. All but rookie Corsino are hardened, experienced players who know the drill from last year's campaign -- but as reported below, in this her first game, Corsino too showed her ability to contribute to the team's success. Veteran player Number 8 Lauren Atchley missed the first game for a family commitment, but figures to be an important part of the team's future.
After a brief practice and scrimmage, Team Captain and center Reilly won the coin toss. The team took the pitch, and Reilly kicked off against the Panthers (a team undoubtedly named after the late Peter Sellers character, because they were decked out in neon pink). A crowd of at least tens waited expectantly to see what would happen. The coin toss augered well for the Penguins, however, and after some hard scrimmaging Reilly kicked the game's and team's first goal. Leibig played especially hard, her face bright red with effort, keeping the Panthers out of the Penguins' end for the most part, and goalie McShan had a brilliant save to close the first quarter. The Penguins led the Pink Panthers 1-0.
The Panthers finally scored in the second quarter to even the match 1-1. Steadman had a shot on goal, Duewel hustled all over the field, McShan had another save, but the Penguins could not manage another goal in the second. The Lady Panthers' player Mary came alive, kicking the ball all over the field and leaving the Penguins temporarily without an answer. The game slowed to a draw, and the Black-and-White Penguins and the Pink Panthers went into halftime all tied up.
Halftime saw first-year coaches Paul Steadman and Brian Reilly intently focussing the team on their assignments, and working on the lineup. Their hard work showed through in the second half.
In the third quarter, the Penguins finally showed their true power. Madura had two shots on goal, then made a brilliant pass that led to Corsino's first goal and gave the Penguins a lead they never surrendered. Corsino's play was especially impressive as she was the smallest player on the field but packed a huge punch, with several saves on defense and several long runs with the ball upfield. Duewel, another smaller player, was all over the left side for the Penguins forcing Panther mistakes. Midway through the third period, Madura scored two quick goals in a row and the team huddled into a jumping, cheering mob to celebrate a 4-1 lead. Reilly, who took over goal-tending duties from McShan for the second half, had two key saves in the third quarter while Duewel and McShan had key assists to save the goalie from any additional danger. Steadman gave her all in the third, literally throwing her body into the fray and landing on her face no less than four times. Leibig, sitting out the third for some well-deserved rest, cheered the Penguins on as did the by-now ecstatic crowd.
The fourth quarter saw Madura score her third goal to secure a hat trick -- Leibig's father literally throwing his hat on the field from the sideline in celebration as Coaches Steadman and Reilly heaped praise on the team that assisted her. Exhausted Madura was then pulled from the game for a well-deserved rest -- a rest that did not last long. The remainder of game turned into a long, hard slog as Lady Leopard player Mary repeatedly hammered the ball at the Penguins in a vain attempt to even the score. Steadman took a hard shot from Mary to the thigh and left the game injured, forcing Madura to return to the fray in the middle of the fourth period.
Time was called with the Penguins on top 5-3, icing the Penguin's first victory and setting the stage for what promises to be a long but successful campaign. After the game, Coach Steadman was quoted saying "I thought the team played well today. They are a tough group, not the biggest, perhaps not the fastest team in the league, but easily the most committed. We think our fans will enjoy a hard-fought season. Our goal is not to leave anything on the field. But we have a long, hard season ahead and the other teams are not going to stand still for us." Coach Reilly echoed these sentiments, saying: "In a bacon and egg breakfast, the chicken is involved but the pig is COMMITTED. We intend to be the pig, and win with our commitment." The seven Lady Penguin players released a statement thanking their parents for their support and promising to give their all to bring home additional wins. They later released an unofficial team photo.
Player Steadman later told the press that she intends to bag her first goal this season, even if it costs her face another hundred trips to the pitch. The Associated Press named forward Audrey Madura the Player of the Game.
Photos of the Match can be found here.
The Lady Penguin's next test is September 13, 2008 at Maple North field. Players have been asked to arrive around noon for a 12:15pm anticipated practice and scrimmage, followed by Game 2 of their season.
Sports exploits of the amazing Steadman children.