Our third game was against a tough Liberty Flames team (SELC D2). This was our first home game so the team was pretty excited. The week leading up to it was a little difficult because it was tough to get a good day to practice outside. Our team really wanted to get some good practice time in because we knew we had a challenge coming up in Liberty. Although we fought hard we fell 15-2 in our home opener.
Our game started at 11:30 so our morning started at 9. It was a fairly early start to the day, but I was pumped when I woke up. First, I woke up some of the other players on my floor and hung out with the ones that were already up. I could tell a couple of the other guys were as intense about this game as I was. By the time we got outside it was pretty hazy out, but that just added to the eeriness of the day. When we got to our dining commons our team was focused on the task at hand.
After getting a light breakfast we went our separate ways for about 20 minutes to get our things and meet back at the field. When we first arrived at the field the haze started to die down and the sun came out for a little and things warmed up. From what I can remember either we started warming up early or Liberty arrived a little late because it felt like we were warming up for a fairly long time. Our line drills looked crisp and our attitude and focus was in the right place from the start. As we moved into our 4 v 3 drill things only looked better. We were making the right decisions and executing very well.
After about five minutes of 4 v 3, coach realized that we were ahead of schedule and there was still around 20 minutes until the game actually started. Coach stopped the drill and told us that we were looking good and our heads were in the right place, but since we were so ahead of schedule he told us to take a couple minutes for ourselves to do whatever we needed to get ready for the game. This is where things started to change for us, some kids played catch to keep their sticks warm while other went to take a couple minutes for some quiet time and prayer. When we got back together to start the drills again things just didn’t feel the same. Our intensity had completely gone away and it felt like we started to force plays. Coach Patrone told us before the game that the word potential is one of the worst words in sports because it means that a team is not playing as well as they could. He said we are not at our full potential, but this game is a chance to turn that around.
The game started and after only a minute and a half we were down 3 goals to 0. Liberty’s first goal seemed to deflate everyone on our team; everything we had said and done the previous week was nullified by a goal. After going down 5-0 we finally put our first goal on the board. After subbing in for Will Gemmel in the offensive 1/3 of the field I found Chris Baker who shot the ball off a Liberty defender’s helmet and into the goal. Throughout the first half we played harder and harder to match the pace and skill of the Flames, but we had dug ourselves a hole and were 10-1 at the half.
The halftime talk we got consisted of Coach West commending us for not giving up and playing hard, but also consisted of him telling us that we had a chore on our hands catching up. Typically we are known for being a come from behind team, a mold we are trying to break this year. We came back out fired up for a second half battle. Throughout the 3rd quarter our defense held Liberty to bad shots and great saves by our goalie Johnny Radcliff.
The 4th quarter started to look even better as we moved the ball around and got some possession time against Liberty’s defense. About six minutes into the 4th Chris Baker ripped a shot that hit Liberty’s goalie in the cup and forced Liberty to put in their backup goalie. After moving the ball around a few times Scott Collins dodged his defender and took a good bounce shot on goal that hit the inside of the post and at first looked like a goal, but the refs called it no goal saying it had not crossed the line. Our defense really stepped up in the 2nd half holding Liberty to only five goals and a number of forced turnovers, notably by Kyle Ditthardt. A save by John Radcliff turned into a fast break opportunity and freshman Parker O’ Leary found Sam Wright open on a cut across the crease to score our 2nd goal of the game.
The thing that really struck me was even after Liberty had beaten us 15-2 they were immediately heading to the center of the field after we shook hands. We have gotten into the habit of asking the other team’s coach or captain to meet in the center of the field for a post game prayer, but we didn’t even have to ask Liberty. Something like that helps a 15-2 loss sting a little less, both teams had been playing not for their own glory, but for the glory of God. After the prayer I talked to one of Liberty’s midfielders and he explained to me how even though they beaten us pretty badly, they were still surprised by the skill and intensity we had come with. After playing a lot of games in a short amount of time they were expecting this game to be a walk in the park, but we surprised them by not giving up although we were down and the fight we came to the game with.
Our next home game is April 4th against conference rivals Indiana Tech at 6 pm. Come out and support us as we look to start conference play with a win!