Dateline: September 19, 2009, Lindberg Park. Fresh off their opening win against Cool Blue, Torpedoes F.C. entered today's match with high expectations and even higher hopes. The squad arrived fresh and energetic, ready for a footrace with F.C. Greyhounds.
Coach Nikolai, the team's constant, was unavoidably absent, so the team was warmed up by Coach Drew and Coach Steadman. When the league referee did not show up, Coach Drew was forced into his alternative role as League Referee, and Coach Steadman took the team's helm for gametime.
Coach Steadman began with a conservative lineup, fielding veteran goalie Emma Nikolai, Kelsey Buress and Sarah "Go-san" Steadman on Defense, Maura Reilly and Katie Bodlak in midfield, and Jada Harris, Erin Sullivan and Braley Failor up front. Coach Steadman intentionally rested scoring threat Helen Leboe to let the Greyhounds wear down in the heat before facing a fresh Leboe in the second quarter. Both teams hammered away in the first period, but there was no scoring. Having drilled on passing all week, Torpedoes showed increased skills in that department -- a harbinger of things to come.
In the second quarter, Nikolai stayed in goal, Steadman and Failor stayed back to help her, Taylor Leibig and Lauren Flowers held the midfield, while Harris, Katie Bodlak, and Leboe moved upfront to provide some scoring. Steadman put up stout defense, which did not go unnoticed by the Torpedoes faithful. Harris had a shot on goal almost immediately after the kickoff, which was blocked by the Greyhounds' goalie. Leboe followed with her own shot. Then Leboe made a brilliant pass to Flowers, splitting defenders, for a breakaway. Flowers passed back to Leboe in front of the goal, and Leboe hammered the ball into the corner in a perfect shot. Coach Steadman went nuts, pumping his fist in the air, and the score was Torpedoes 1, Greyhounds 0 into halftime. Coach Steadman and Assistant Coach Brian Reilly agreed that on a hot day in a defensive contest, they were happy to have the first goal.
Over halftime, Referee Nikolai had to reprimand Coach Steadman for his abundant and energetic running of the sidelines, instructing him to stay on his side of mid-field or there would be a yellow card.
After a short halftime, Coach Steadman set up his team for offense. Sullivan volunteered to hold the goal, while Buress and Flowers assisted on defense, Reilly held midfield, and Harris, Leibig, Nikolia played forward, and Leboe held the center position. Reilly showed off substantial new skills, playing the best game of her career and earning massing praise from Coach Steadman. Flowers made an outstanding steal and back pass. Steadman's configuration paid off almost immediately, as Leboe had a shot on goal. But the heat took a toll on both teams and there was no further scoring. Buress anchored the defense with massing, booming kicks downfield and the Greyhounds simply could not make headway. At the end of three periods, Torpedoes still led by a goal.
For the Fourth Quarter, Coach Steadman changed strategy adopting a defensive posture in an attempt to hold the one-goal lead. Sullivan stayed in goal, with Failor and Bodlak on defense, Failor and Flowers in midfield, and Steadman, Nikolai and Leboe up front. Torpedoes played extremely hard, and Sullivan made a brilliant save on a hard kick. But Greyhounds picked up the rebound and dribbled the ball into the net on a lucky kick, evening the score at one goal apiece. Torpedoes dug in, but shortly Flowers was forced to block another shot. Greyhounds then hammered the ball - hard - to the upper corner of the goal in an indefensible shot.
With four minutes remaining, Torpedoes ramped up the energy trying to score a tying goal. In a brilliant display of passing and footwork, Failor and Leboe passed back and forth five times on a breakaway upfield. Leboe's shot missed just wide right, bouncing off the pole. The match ended, Torpedoes down one, and they absorbed their first loss.
After the game, U8 League Commissioner, Lee Leibig, had big words for Go-San Steadman. "I played defense on a state championship team," he said, "So I know defense. Steadman was outstanding today."Steadman, for her part, took the loss personally. "It was all my fault," she said through teary eyes. "I'm still learning the forward position, and I just couldn't get a score." Coach Steadman thought otherwise. "You played great up there, Sarah. It wasn't your fault. The fact is, Greyounds were a terrific, fast team and they were just a little bit better than we were today. We'll get another chance at them in the Tournament, I'm sure."
One game note: Coach Steadman, also the team's official photographer, earned a rebuke from Sarah Go-San Steadman after the game. "I notice there are no photos of me this week," she said. "Try to do better next time, Dad."