FC Penguins Celebrate
Sweet Victory at Holmes.
Sweet Victory at Holmes.
Dateline: September 27, 2008 at Holmes Field. FC Penguins snatched victory in the last minute of their nail-biter match against the Jade Dragons Football Club, pecking their way to 2-1 on the season. The team combined vastly improved passing and excellent footwork with spectacular goalie play to smoke the Dragons' aggressive offensive and overwhelm its stubborn defense in the end.
Starting where they left off in the Penguins' last match against Pink Panthers II, the Ladies bounced back and forth across the pitch exchanging shots and great defense with the Dragons for 40 minutes.
First came practice. The Penguins were joined by a professional soccer player from England, an AYSO trainer. During practice, Jackie McShan played goalie but took a hard kick from a coach off her forehead. As if to prove just how tough this football team is, McShan said between tears "That's all right, I'll be fine by game time." Was she ever.
The match opened with McShan at goalie, Adela Duewel and Taylor Leibig on defense, Audrey Madura at center, and Sarah "Roku" Steadman and Andie Corsino at forward. The Penguins won the toss and started on offense. The Penguins played brilliant offense from the start. In one first quarter sequence, Steadman (who goes by the nickname "Roku," the Japanese word for her jersey number 6) made a hard shot on goal that hammered the Dragons' goalie in the chest. The Dragons cleared the ball back up field to make a shot of their own, which McShan covered with ease. Then McShan displayed a new talent, punting the ball nearly 30 yards downfield. This set up another clean shot for the Penguins, this time with Madura hammering the Dragons' goalie. "Take it to the HOUSE" yelled Coach Steadman, to the cheers of the crowd. Duewel and Leibig played hard defense, and Corsino did her best to feed the ball to the bigger Madura. But it all went for naught, as the Dragons' goalie proved as good as McShan in the first period and kept the match even at zero all.
Things took an unexpected twist in the second period, as the Dragons revealed a ringer. Chloe, who had rested for the first period, took the pitch. Like Jonah Lomu appearing for the first time out of nowhere at the 1995 Rugby World Cup, Chloe was a head taller than any girl on the pitch and immediately set out to intimidate the Penguins. Only then did the Dragons' coach reveal Chloe was from the Netherlands -- a true European football giant. The Penguins held their own, however, and the match slowed to a defensive grind with neither team able to make headway. McShan stayed in goal, making several more saves, assisted by Leibig and Lauren Atchley who joined the match from the sidelines. Corsino, Madura and Maura Reilly played offense and kept the Dragons back on their heels. Near the end of the second quarter, Madura was forced to leave the match after being smacked by a Dragon running headlong down the pitch and falling hard on her chest. The Penguins didn't miss a beat, as Roku Steadman spelled Madura. The half ended all even at zero, and the ladies huddled with Coach Steadman for some revised planning and Gatorade.
In the third quarter, Reilly took over goaltending duties from McShan. Atchley and Roku Steadman took over defensive duties, while McShan, Leibig and Duewel took over hammering it to the Dragons. Reilly was incredible, blocking shot after shot and smothering the ball. The match turned lateral, with the ball hopping from out-of-bounds to out-of-bounds, and the Ladies learned a lot about throw-ins. Most of the third quarter was played in the Penguins end, forcing Atchley and Roku Steadman to display their natural defensive talents. Steadman in particular showed a ton of natural talent, staying always between the ball and the goal and helping Reilly immensely. Leibig too was all over the pitch, taking the ball from the Dragons and pushing them back to their side. The Penguins were a brick wall, and try as they might Chloe and the Dragons could not penetrate.
As the referee blew the whistle for the last break, Coach Steadman substituted Duewel in on defense and Corsino in on offense to give the Penguins some fresh legs for a last push. He walked the entire pitch, speaking to each player personally and reminding them that a single goal would likely take the match. The Penguins clenched their beaks for seven more minutes of hard fighting.
The fourth quarter began as the third quarter had ended, mostly in the Penguins end. It looked like it would be a zero-zero tie. But with less than two minutes to play, Roku Steadman and Duewel freed the ball from the Dragons and kicked it downfield. Corsino and Madura seized the opportunity, breaking away towards the Dragons' end. Corsino made a brilliant pass and ended up with an assist, as Madura kicked her fourth goal of the season with a brilliant, unblockable shot past he Dragons' goalie and into the net. The exhausted Penguins celebrated, then dug in for two minutes to kill the clock. As the whistle blew, the crowed cheered and the Penguins brought home their second victory of the season.
Exhausted and hoarse, Coach Steadman praised his team. "We left nothing on the pitch today. Absolutely nothing. I give the Dragons a lot of credit, they pass better than any team we have seen, and they never gave up. But our girls were just a little better today. The defensive play was tremendous, and the offensive coordination was terrific. If we play like this in the rest of the season, we'll be in the running at the end of the year I'm sure." Coach Reilly was equally effusive. "We really preach teamwork, and today it all paid off. It was a great match to watch."
Afterward, Corsino asked reporters "Who was that Chloe? She's fantastic. I didn't know they allowed teenagers to play in this league." Informed that Chloe is in fact seven years old, and European, Corsino asked "European? Do they play football in Europe? C'mon, you've got to be kidding."
Madura was seen leaving the pitch with a huge grin, reveling in her fourth goal in three matches. "Our rally cry is 'Peck 'em Penguins' and Peck 'em we did today."
The AP named the Penguins defense co-Players of the Match. Press photos from the contest are available at ladypenguinsgame3.shutterfly.com
The Penguins are beginning to feel at home on the spacious and level Holmes Field, but must travel south for their next match. After a week of rest, the Penguins face their next opponent back on the rolling pitch of Maple Field. They face Tom Wegener's Team 32 at 1:30pm on Maple North Field on Saturday, October 4, 2008. Coaches asked players to arrive at about 1:20pm to again insure a full practice.