Taylor Leibig scoring her second goal of the game
Dateline November 1, 2008, Maple North Field. Football Club Penguins put on a solid performance this afternoon, scoring two goals and demonstrating another defensive clinic to win their final match and cap a successful season. Their opponent, the Lincoln Bumblebees Football Club, arrived donned in yellow and black, a veteran team of second-graders with two full seasons of experience and full of vinegar.
The Penguins' season has been full of highs and lows. Coaches Steadman and Reilly held a serious discussion with players before the match. "Today is the last game of the season," said Coach Steadman. "This is our last opportunity to prove how far we have come. Offense: every time you have scored early, we have won. Defense: if the other team does not score, they cannot beat us. Let's go out there and do it." Coach Reilly, for his part, ran drills emphasizing ball control and passing.
A group of hearty fans turned out for the Penguins' goodbye game. Surprisingly, however, the Leibigs (family of star player Taylor Leibig and also League Commish Lee Leibig) were not in attendance. "Where is Taylor?" screamed Coach Steadman. "Someone call her family!" Someone did. "We had the wrong schedule," said Mother Leibig, notwithstanding that Commish Leibig was the one who promulgated it. "We'll be right there!"
Even so, the Penguins were forced to start without Leibig, and fielded Maura Reilly in goal, Lauren Atchley and Sarah "Roku" Steadman on defense, and Andie Corsino, Audrey Madura and Jackie McShan on offense. As has become their trademark, the Penguins kept the ball in the Bees' end, rarely letting it out. Madura had a shot on goal, and Reilly had a save or two. The big moment in the first quarter came with Steadman's shot on goal, which looked to go in but was stopped at the last second by the Bees' goalie's diving grab. The quarter ended tied zero all.
Leibig arrived at the break, and was immediately substituted in. This made the Penguins' lineup Reilly in goal, Atchley and Steadman on defense, McShan, Madura and Leibig up front. McShan, who has shown fans something new so many times this season, broke out her final surprise of the season. Reilly blocked a shot early in the period, then threw the ball high in the air. McShan got under the ball, and headed it straight up and over the Bees, chased it down, and moved the ball back where it belonged -- the Bees' end of the field. "That's using your head," shouted the referee (who looked suspiciously like Coach Reilly). Later in the second, Madura made a nice pass to an open Leibig streaking down the left side of the field. Leibig controlled the ball, turned it back into the field, and smashed it across goal to net the first score of the match.
Leibig hammers the ball across the goal past the Bees' goaltender for the game winner
McShan also had a shot on goal, blocked by the Bees' goalie, and the half ended with the Penguins up 1-0.
After a short halftime, play resumed on the pitch. McShan took over goal duties, with Atchley and Madura on defense, Corsino, Reilly and Leibig on offense. Leibig took control of the game, making passes to both Corsino and Madura that resulted in shots on goal. By this point, the Penguins were firmly in control of the match, and kept the ball largely in the Bees' end. When the ball did occasionally break to the Penguins' end, McShan demonstrated awesome goaltending skills. Taking a page from the book of Inferno's Van Erhman, McShan roamed the defensive end breaking up plays and stealing the ball from the hapless Bees.
For their final quarter, McShan stayed in goal, Atchley and Steadman took defensive duties, and Madura, Leibig and Corsino played offense. "Remember: Penguin Defense!" shouted Coach Steadman. "They can't beat us if they don't score. Be a brick wall. Be impenetrable!" he screamed. "What's impenetrable?" asked Roku Steadman. She needn't have asked. Leibig had two shots on goal, followed by two from Corsino and Madura. McShan put on a goaltending clinic, aided by Steadman and Atchley, roaming the field and displaying terrifying athletic talent. Then, in the most exciting moment of the game, Leibig broke away from the pack at midfield with the ball, followed her own pass, and hammered the ball home again. Steadman, Steadman, and Corsino all had an additional shot on goal, before the match ended Penguins 2, Bees 0.
"That McShan, she's tremendous." groused the Bees' coach. "She kicked our butts."
Kick she did, as did the whole Penguin crew. They were simply outstanding in their final game of the year, pushing their record to 6-3 and ending the season near the top of the U8 OPAYSO standings. "We accomplished what we set out to do this year," said Coach Reilly. "We aimed to improve. We improved." He said. "We aimed to play aggressive. We were very aggressive.' Said Coach Steadman. "We won far more than we lost, and we were in every single game but one. We spread the ball around, and we got tremendous defense from our goalies and defensemen. The girls played hard all season long, and you can't ask more than that. But for two lucky goals, one from the Panthers and one from the Dragons, we'd be 6-1-2. I am so proud of these girls. I'd go to war with them anytime. I really believe that every single one of them can do anything they set their mind to."
Word from League Headquarters was that Coach Steadman may have some issues yet, however. He was last seen tearing down the net at Maple North. "That's a basketball thing," said League Management. "Football nets are expensive. He may be facing a fine." Word from Coach Steadman is that he's glad to take the fine in return for the ability to celebrate the Ladies' triumph in this, their last game.