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Oct. 27, 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 27, 2008 – Blakely Mattern

This week would prove to be a huge turning point for us as a team. Coming off two heart-breaking losses last weekend, we would have to bounce back quickly with only three games remaining in the regular season. It was crucial that we didn’t drop off and turn two losses into more. When you lose two games in a weekend it is always hard to stay confident in our play and each other, but I know this team and our chemistry and strength in one another and I am sure we will turn around and be better in the remaining games.

I don’t think many of us slept very well those two nights after our Sunday game, including coaches. But when we got to practice on Tuesday afternoon, they had a bonding activity prepared that helped us forget everything that happened. I’ll just say that the past two games and everything about them went up in smoke and left our minds forever.

We all felt so much better after that and I thought coaches were awesome to think of something like that. Afterwards, practice went a lot better and we came out strong knowing that we had to find a way to get better and prepare ourselves mentally for our next game.

This week was a little different since we only had two days of practice to get ready for LSU, who we would play Thursday night instead Friday. We used those two days to the fullest though and were ready to go when game-day rolled around.

This game was a huge opportunity for our team to not only improve our spot in the conference but also beat a ranked opponent, helping us in regard to NCAA tournament implications. No matter which way you sliced it, this was a HUGE game and everyone on the team knew that and showed up with a focused attitude and ready to battle.

We came out strong from the beginning. We knew defensively we would have to be perfect, as LSU was one of the top offensive teams in the country and capable of scoring goals in buckets. It was a complete team effort defensively and we did the job, limiting them to under five shots total. We also created good scoring chances by putting the ball in dangerous areas and running hard to the goal.

Unfortunately after 90 minutes and two periods of overtime, we couldn’t find the back of the net and came out with a 0-0 tie. We were disappointed that we didn’t come out with a victory after having played so well. We fought hard and outplayed them all over the field. However, we did get our confidence back and played probably the best we have played since conference season started. Our team would take that momentum into our next game of the weekend against Arkansas.

On Friday we met for a short practice in the afternoon to run around for a little bit before we would meet later that evening to leave for Charlotte. Going on the road to play is always hard. The travel alone can wear you down without even playing a game. The trip to Arkansas is definitely the hardest one of the year. On Saturday morning we got a wake up call at 4:45 in the morning and left for the airport at 5:15 in order to catch our 7 a.m. flight. Personally, I believe no person should ever see that time of day, and I know all the girls would probably back me up on that one. It was definitely a quiet ride to the airport.

We arrived in Arkansas around noon and all of us were starving. After we got on the bus, lunch was the first thing on the list. We ate at Panera Bread, which is always good, then headed to the hotel for a long nap. Everyone slept the whole afternoon, trying to catch up on sleep. We had a practice around six that evening and ate dinner in the hotel, so we could all get to bed early.

The game on Sunday, if it’s possible, was even more important for our team than Thursday night. Coach had told us that if we won, we would be headed to Orange Beach for the SEC tournament. I think when we all heard that and knew what was at stake we got really excited. It was nice to know that it was in our control.

We came out hard from the beginning. Scoring first is always awesome and helps the team settle in and play more confidently, knowing that we have the lead. Mills scored the first two goals for us and they were both beautiful rockets into the side net on the back side. The first was off a free kick around the side of the 18 yard box and the second was curved in on a corner kick. It was awesome to see her score that way. She played amazing today in the middle for us and really pushed our team through that game.

We were all excited after the win knowing that we were going to Orange Beach. That being said, we also know that there is so much soccer left to be played. The goal all along for our team has been an SEC championship. As we look ahead, we believe that it is still absolutely possible. All of us know how good we are and what we are capable of if we continue to play to our potential. I know that we will work hard this week in preparation for Florida on Thursday night. That game is another opportunity for us to knock off a ranked opponent at home. We will also practice hard knowing that next week we have the conference tournament and a chance to win a championship.

I hope to see everyone Thursday night as we take on the gators in the Graveyard. If you can’t make it to the game, be sure to turn to the Fox Soccer Channel at 8 p.m. to watch us, as we play our last regular season game of the year.