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Oct. 6, 2008

Captains’ Blog

Every Monday during the 2008 women’s soccer season, one of the three team captains will visit to give an inside look into what it is like to be a South Carolina women’s soccer student-athlete. Bookmark the Captains’ Blog and check back frequently for the stories told by senior Danila Monteiro and juniors Blakely Mattern and Kim Miller.

2178897.jpegDanila Monteiro 2155939.jpegBlakely Mattern 2155944.jpegKim Miller

October 6, 2008 – Blakely Mattern

Our team started this week of practice coming off a really strong start to the SEC conference schedule. We beat Tennessee for the first time at home in program history on Friday night and then came back with a strong come-from-behind tie against Georgia on Sunday. It showed the great strength of our team to come back and tie the game. However, another difference for this year’s team is that we were disappointed with that result, feeling that we were the better team and wanted a win. I think that shows just how much we have grown to where we no longer accept a tie to a strong opponent in SEC; we want to win every game we play. I believe that is the attitude you need to have and I think our team has established that mentality now.

Tuesday afternoon we had a tough practice. We worked on a lot of important things, but especially defending. Defense is tough work and something that every player on the team must work on and be committed to. Thursday was departure day and our team was ready to get going. We as a team have said that we must take care of business at home and then compete and get results on the road. We have been a good team at home this year, but it is time to prove that we are also road warriors.

After a short practice on Thursday, we pulled out for Kentucky around 3:30. This would be the longest trip for us this year, about 7 hours or so up to Lexington. It was especially difficult though as we traveled through the mountains for a ways. We finally made it though and everybody crashed as soon as we checked in the hotel.

Then it was Friday!! Game-day! And our team was excited to get back on the field. The upperclassmen especially were looking for some serious revenge from freshman year when we came on this same weekend to Kentucky and Vanderbilt and lost both games. After a short practice in the morning, we saw the game field and got even more pumped. We then headed to get some lunch and then back to the hotel to rest for a couple hours.

The rest paid off as our team came out on fire from the start. We put the pressure on and scored a great goal about ten minutes into the game. Maria Petroni got onto the ball in the box and played a great pass to Kayla Grimsley who finished first time to the far post. It was a great goal and put our team in a good position early. Kentucky is a very good team though and never gave up. They continued to put pressure on until the end of the half. We came out hard again in the second half and Kayla scored another great goal, after she followed up a beautiful cross by Shannon. Kayla seems to always be in the right spot at the right time and has the ability to put the ball in the net from anywhere. She has been a huge contribution to our team already as a freshman.

Saturday we woke up early but in a good mood after the result from the night before. We headed out to Vanderbilt around ten in the morning after some of the players got some quick pick-me-up drinks from Starbucks. The drive was about four hours, a little longer than some of us expected, so when we arrived in Nashville we were ready to get off the bus. The drive into campus was slow and congested since ESPN College Game-day was in town for the Vanderbilt-Auburn football game later that night.

We had a practice at the stadium for around an hour, stretching our legs and getting on the ball a little bit. It was nice to finally get out and run around for a while. Then it was off to our hotel. We had a couple hours to relax after we checked in until we would leave for dinner.

Dinner tonight would be different than usual and a big, big THANK YOU, THANK YOU to the Aaron family for inviting all of us to their house. Nat is from Nashville, and we were going to her house to have dinner. Her parents had cooked and prepared a whole meal for the team, including tons of fruit, salad, pasta, bread, and all sorts of desserts, and everything was amazing. It all tasted so good, and all of us could not stop eating. Despite just stuffing my face, after dinner Miller, Kacie, and I challenged Shelley (our coach), Bonny, and Ellen to a three-on-three basketball game outside. It was a tough, physical game but my team came out on top even though Shelbel would argue that they won. Either way, it was a fun night and a good escape from the usual restaurant atmosphere we normally have team dinners at. It was cool to get to interact more with everyone in a more relaxed setting.

When we got back to the hotel, I think it is safe to say that everyone crashed right away. With all the travel, everybody was pretty exhausted. Sunday we woke up, had breakfast, and Mils and I took the team on a walk and stretch. During the stretch, we talked to the team about the importance of this game and made sure we were all focused and ready to go. Sundays in the SEC are extremely hard, especially on the road, and take everyone on the team working hard to get a result. It is going to be hot and both teams are tired, but the one with the most heart and will to win was going to come out on top. After the past two results to Vanderbilt my freshman and sophomore year, we definitely wanted to come out and get a victory this afternoon.

Unfortunately, we can out too slow to start the game and gave up an early, cheap goal. We played better towards the end of the second half but giving that first half away would come back to hurt us in the end. We played a hundred times better in the second half, putting them under a lot of pressure, especially toward the end of the game. We scored our goal late in the second half. We fought hard until the final whistle to get that second goal but it just would not fall for us. I was proud of our team though for not getting our heads down after going down by two pretty lucky goals by Vandy. We continued to battle and work to get back in the game, but the deficit would prove to be too big.

We learned a valuable lesson in this game though that hopefully we will carry forward throughout the remainder of the season, and that is that we must come out strong and play from the start of the game and not wait until the second half to start working. The teams in this conference are just too good to give halves away like we did in this game. It just comes back to kill you when you do. I know our team though and the strength we have and the determination we have to win. I know for a fact that we will learn from this loss and get better for next weekend.

We return home on Friday night, where we have done very well and are very comfortable. We will play Mississippi State on Friday and then Ole Miss on Sunday afternoon. This will be a crucial weekend for us, coming off the loss on Sunday. Points are extremely important in the conference standings, so we need to take care of business at home and get two wins.

It is so nice to know though that we are coming home this weekend after a very long road trip. You fans have been such an important part of our success at home, by making the atmosphere at “The Graveyard” so awesome to play in. I hope to see everyone this Friday night against the bulldogs, as out team tries to bounce back and claim another conference home win.