The Lions Girls played their first elimination game this morning at 8:00. After the first half of the week's weather being all about rain, the second half seems to be shaping up into an idyllic mild summer climate. Evidence:
This morning's game was on a turf field just one tram stop away from the school where the girls are staying, which was fortunate given the game's start time. The girls wore their blue jerseys again and stepped onto the pitch ready to play their game their way--and they did just that. They played Morön BK from Sweden, a team who finished second in its group with six points, two wins, one loss, 7 goals for and 10 against; in contrast, the Lions' record going into the game was nine points, three wins, 12 goals for and 3 against. Morön BK proved to be a formidable opponent, with speed, size, and skill. Our girls had not been challenged at this level since leaving Denmark last week, and they demonstrated handily that they deserved to be in a round of 32 final match at Gothia.
The game was another nail biter, the Lions defense getting quite a workout and the midfield relying heavily on its passing game. Morön BK took many shots on goal, about half on target. Once again we watched a strong, physical game whose ref declined to call two blatant fouls--one where Matani was clearly fouled in the goal and another where Julia M. (I think) was pushed to the ground from behind inside the box. Go figure. The Lions took several good shots on goal as well. Nevertheless, regulation time ended in a draw, 0-0. The tournament moves directly to PKs in this situation, so Julia Clopton-Foster suited up to goal keep, and the rest of the team strategized with Norman. The Lions started the PKs in goal, and traded successful shots with Morön BK until the third PK, which Julia blocked, so the Lions were up by one. But Morön followed up by successfully blocking the Lions' next shot: 2-2. Both teams scored in the next pair of shots: 3-3. In the fourth round, Morön BK scored, but the Lions' shot went a little high and missed the net. Final score, 3-4.
Here are some photos from the game:
Of course the girls were sad to have lost, especially having played with so much heart and spirit. After the game, Bella said, "I don't think we've ever played better as a team than we have in this tournament." I think all of us who have been watching them this week would concur. And Norman reported that in their huddle immediately after the game had ended, the first thing the girls said was that next year they're going to make it to the round of 16. I don't doubt it for a minute!
Norman and Michelle took the girls back to the school so they can rest and process their tournament experience together. We plan to meet up with them this evening.
I'm sure we'll have more reflective posts in the next days, but I'll just start by saying what a remarkable group of young women we have on this team. It has been a pleasure to watch them play and grow together over these two tournaments.
More later. Marco and Lars play at 3:10 this afternoon. Go Lions!