I'll do my best to set the scene. We were down in Georgetown, a neighborhood on the south end of Seattle. It's mostly light industry, but there's a crosshatch of around a dozen blocks of houses between Michigan St and the freeway. The houses are mostly small post-war boxes, with a few old Victorians mixed in. With the incredible rise in housing prices over the last ten years, Georgetown earned the reputation as one of the last affordable neighborhoods, a place you could buy at a semi-reasonable price. You could buy if you were adventurous and didn't mind that there wasn't a neighborhood school or a grocery store. People did buy, and most of the old houses have been fixed up. Now, except for the trucks and the traffic noise, the strip malls and office complexes, it looks ok.
The soccer field has also been fixed up recently. My Mom says that she and a friend once tried to go metal detecting on that field but left soon after starting because it was so filthy. "It's the only time that's happened," she said. "We're pretty hardy, but it was just gross." Now it has an artificial surface, tall lights, a clean bathroom, and two short sections of silver metal bleachers. The Catholics must have a contract for use of the field, because one of the coaches told me it used to be the practice field for the O'Day soccer team.
This was a second round play-off game for the CYO soccer 6th grade girls teams. Our team is made up of girls from St Catherine's and Our Lady of the Lake (OLL). St Catherine's is a small-to-medium-sized school. OLL is a little smaller. The team is about 2/3rds St C's players to 1/3 OLL. The St C's mascot is the tiger and the OLL mascot is the lion. The girls'll stand on the sidelines and yell, "Go Ligers!" during the game. Before the game they'll gather in a cluster, hold hands in the center, and yell, "Lions and tigers and goals, Oh My! Lions and tigers and goals, Oh My!" The dynamic the St C's/OLL team has is really cool.
We were playing the team from Holy Family in West Seattle. When we all got to the field, the Holy Family parents had already staked out the north end bleacher, so we took the south. The Holy Family girls were already on the field warming up. Their warm-ups seemed to involve a whole lot of cheering. They cheered during their drills. They ran around the field in a cluster, cheering the whole way, like a bunch of Marines in ponytails, skinny headbands and red white and blue uniforms. Our girls ran their drills without making nearly as much noise. At first I thought they might be intimidated. They weren't.
When we got to the field, it was raining. Not a normal Seattle drizzle, but a,"hey you might be somewhere tropical except it's 50 degrees" kind of downpour. The girls were completely soaked by about ten minutes into their warm up. My main concern was for the girls who wouldn't be starting the game, that they'd get cold standing on the sidelines. Turns out they were all so jacked up they didn't notice. I'd brought a 10x10' canopy and set it up a little past our bleachers, pulling the girl's backpacks and jackets underneath it to keep them out of the rain. The Holy Family parents set up two canopies, which I tried not to take as some kind of omen. Then, one of our coaches showed up with a second canopy, so I felt like we'd at least equaled their effort. A while later an OLL Dad showed up with another one, so we had three. We were able to cover most of our bleacher and had room to walk around. Point to St C's/OLL.
By the time the game actually started, the rain had let up. Adding to the complexity of the situation, last spring St C's hired as our new principal a woman who'd been principal at Holy Family for the last 20 years. She did the opening coin toss. I'm not sure which school won but I do know our girls got the ball right away and took it down the field. They were aggressive, passing the ball cleanly, moving quick. The first half was a draw, although St C's made three or four solid shots on goal. One went over top of the goal, one bounced off an upright, one was a bit wide. They were close but didn't get one over. In the meantime, our goalie only had to handle the ball once in the first half, and even that wasn't a serious shot. At halftime we were playing well, but the score was tied at zero.
The Holy Family girls didn't cheer for themselves during the half-time break. When the whistle blew, both teams came back onto the field. Play resumed. It felt a little more balanced, with Holy Family getting the ball down on the St C's/OLL end of the field a little more often. Still no score. The tension on the field was nothing compared with the tension on the sideline. It was interesting to watch the parents, most of whom I've known since Dear Daughter was in first grade. Some of the mothers stood in little clumps, heads together and almost holding hands. The men were more likely to stand alone, or maybe in pairs. Some of us walked. I kept telling myself that as long as I was moving and saying the Hail Mary, I wouldn't throw up. I didn't, so it must have worked. I passed the same people again and again as I went back and forth along the sideline. I was the only one mumbling to myself.
In Seattle in November, the sun sets by around 5 o'clock. Since the game started at 3:30, by the time the second half started it was dark enough that we needed the overhead lights. It felt surreal, standing in the cold and damp, the freeway running above us to the east, the long offramp from I5 into Georgetown wrapping along the south end of the field. Georgetown is just north of Boeing Field, which put us right under the flight path. The later it got, the more frequently small planes and jets flew right overhead, their silver bellies looking close enough to touch. A couple of times the planes were low enough that it held up the game, the ref standing on the sideline holding the ball and looking up instead of tossing it to a player for the in-bound play.
St C's/OLL got a couple more shots on goal, then FINALLY punched one through. I think it was actually one of the midfielders who got off a good kick from about a quarter of the way back up the field. The girls went crazy, and so did everyone on the south end of the sidelines. I was afraid the girls would be so excited they'd forget to play defense. They kept their focus, though, and held on. At one point I walked past my Dad, who was really impressed. He said he thought the girls were playing at a much higher level than he'd seen before. It didn't feel like we were watching eleven year olds out there. These girls can rock it.
The St C's/OLL score happened at probably the 10 minute mark of the 30 minute half, which meant we had to play for 20 more minutes without letting them score. That got harder and harder to do. The last three to five minutes, the Holy Family girls found another gear and really ratcheted things up. Out of the maybe six solid shots on goal they had all game, four came in the last two to three minutes. Our goalie made a couple of mind-blowing plays to hold them off. I've known this kid since before Darling Daughter actually started at St C's, because they took swimming lessons together when they were in kindergarten. It was just amazing to see her focus and composure when they were just hammering the ball at her. On one play, the Holy Family player got off a solid, high kick, point blank in front of the goal. Our goalie jumped straight up, arms fully extended, and got her fingertips on the underside of the ball just enough to flick it up and over top of the goal. No score. The sideline went crazy on that one. After another flurry of shots, it looked like they got one in, but apparently the ref had blown the whistle so it didn't count. There was less than a minute left at that point.
Finally, FINALLY, the whistle blew the long blasts that meant the game was over. The girls on our sideline all ran out on the field, and as a group they picked the goalie up and carried her back to the sideline. The parents faced each other in two rows, forming a tunnel with our arms that the girls ran through as they were coming off the field. It had started to rain again, but no one really paid much attention. Girls were laughing and crying and hugging and so were their parents. I've shared a lot with these people in the last 5 years. St C's is a tight community. There have been good times and there have been tough times. For me, this was right up there with the best.
Watching Dear Daughter's face after the game was an absolute joy. She's really having fun with this. She doesn't seem to have any ego about whether she starts or not or how much she plays. She's happy to be there, happy to be part of the team, and happy they're winning. The team is deep. After the coaches send in their starting players, they could field a pretty decent team with the girls left on the sideline. They've done a great job of balancing the playing time so that no one has been unhappy. The St C's players have played together since kindergarten, some of them, or first grade. All the girls in the 6th grade class, except for two, are on the soccer team. They've been a combined team with OLL since third grade. This is turning into a really cohesive group. They're a team. Lions and tigers and goals, Oh My!
They've got one game left. Tomorrow they play Assumption-St Bridgets (ASB) for the championship. ASB had a better regular season record, but the last time we played them we beat them 5 - 0. Ok, so that was in 5th grade. They probably hold a grudge against us because of it. The girls have all worked so hard, and they're having so much fun, that it's too bad someone has to lose tomorrow. Several times this week I've reminded Dear Daughter to enjoy this. Enjoy wearing your team jersey to school on Thursday, with your soccer shorts under your uniform khaki pants. Enjoy getting out of school an hour early to get to the game. Enjoy going back to school on Friday to hear the score of the game as part of the morning announcements, then listen to the cheers from all over the school. This kind of lightening doesn't strike every day. Get out there and rock the soccer field. Have fun.
Update: Despite an amazing effort, the St C's/OLL team lost 0-1 to ASB this afternoon. They can be proud of themselves, though, because they left it all on the field. Everyone gave 100%, but ASB snuck a goal in with less than 30 seconds left in the game. It's been a great season, and now that we know the way, we're going to want to be back in the Championship game next year. Lions and tigers and goals, OH MY!