10 March vs. Team Zia

It was the best of times.  It was the best of times....  This was one of those rare nights when it seemed like we couldn't do anything wrong. Good turnout for the men, and Marina and Erin saved the day (in more ways than one) for the women.  We started the game short one woman, but Marina arrived from work about midway through the first half to even the sides at 11 each.

If there were three critical plays in the game they would have been 1) our first goal (by Kristen) putting us up 2-0; 2) Marina's stunning save while one-on-one with Zia's best striker shortly afterward (denying their best chance to regain momentum); and 3) Erin's goal a short time later that effectively put the game out of reach (5-0).  The defense, led by Vincent at sweep and Mark in goal, deserves much of the credit for the win.  Vincent, Marina, Minsue, Dennis, Charlie, and Patti managed to shut down Zia's offense just short of the goal, not allowing their offense to even have a chance to finish most of the time despite numerous runs at the net. Through all the action in and around our penalty area, Zia only got off three or four decent shots, and Mark only had to make one really great save, getting his fingertips on the ball to push it just wide of the right post. 

All our goals were pretty and well earned.  Kristen's came at the 19-minute mark with a blast(!) from somewhere beyond 25 yards out.  Not only did she take the keeper by surprise, but she bent it around him to boot.  A most impressive first goal as a Penguin.  Only 3 minutes later, the always-enterprising Joe took the ball from one of their defenders, dribbled it into their penalty area and slid it past a charging keeper into the net to make the score 3-0.  This was followed by Marina's save in the 30th minute that kept Zia from getting back into the game.  Erin (in her first game in what seems like more than a year), added two more points shortly before the end of the half with a most excellent finish inside the goal box.  Her goal came off a perfect cross from Kristen, who put the ball right where it needed to be all the way from near the left corner.  Great ball from Kristen and great finish from Erin who was in perfect position while coming through from her wing halfback slot. About 12 minutes into the second half, Anthony scored on a semi-breakaway with three defenders boiling around him all the way from the midfield stripe culminating in a great finish inside the penalty area much like Joe's goal in the first half.  Steve, who claimed he wanted to go back in for a few minutes so he could get a goal of his own, wrapped up our scoring with a goal of his own (a nice chip over the keeper from about 18 yards out) with about 15 minutes left in the match.  Zia added one of their own about 5 minutes later off an unfortunate deflection that left the ball unattended for a second at the top of our goal box.

Kudos to those who helped make it possible.  Charlie probably ran 10 miles during the game -- and fast too.  His ability to support the offense and to come back to help out on defense was invaluable in helping build our lead in the first half. He did the same from the stopper position in the second half as well.  Dante, in his first game with us in a while, did his usual part in controlling the game from the midfield, lending some calm and stability while passing well, and taking at least one good shot on goal in the process.  Minsue had a great game at what I gather was a new position for her in the defense the first half, and also did well up front later in the game.  Dennis did well at stopper and midfield in his first game in a while.  I don't know how he does it on defense game after game, but Vincent always manages to get his foot in the right place at the right time while playing the entire game. He had another great night.  Patti played well in her injured state until coming out in the second half to mind the baby -- good work.

Spectacular effort and a great way to start the season.  Welcome to Minsue, Dennis, and Mark in their first game as Penguins.  Welcome back to Dante and Erin.  Final score: 7-1.
14 April vs. Marathon

It was the worst of times.  It was the worst of times....  This was one of those rare nights when it seemed like we couldn't do anything right. Anything. Good turnout for the men (four subs), and a full side for the women.

It's really a shame that everyone could play so hard in a game, with essentially the same people as last time, against a team that was pretty good, but not that much better than the last team, and do so poorly.  Did we use up all our good breaks last time?  Dunno, but it's clear that one game every month or two makes play unpredictable at best.  Hopefully, we'll settle into a better routine as we play more this season.  Control and passing seemed to suffer most, with the one bright spot being Charlie's goal about 15 minutes into the second half to make the score 1-5.  He took his initial shot just outside the penalty area and finished the rebound off their keeper nicely from the left corner of the goal box.  Kristen also had a long shot that was destined to reach the very upper right-hand corner of the net but for a great tip save by Mr. Chow, Marathon's keeper.  Minsue became an unwilling participant in a momentum experiment gone bad, but managed to finish out the game after receiving a severe trampling by someone twice her mass.

Rather than rehash what was doubtless a very frustrating experience for most everyone, I'll make this a very short summary: ick.  Better luck next time, eh?  Welcome back to Bill, Joyce, and Jason. Final score 1-7.
28 April vs. Team Thunder

Decent turnout for the men; one short on the women's side. Much improved play this time with fairly sustained periods of good passing, particularly in the transition from midfield to the attack. The boomers had a couple new play-making ringers at midfield that were giving our defense fits, but between Vincent, Bill, Minsue, Marina, Matt, and Dennis, together with some really great saves by Mark we managed to keep them out of the net for about 50 minutes. Despite being down by a player we rallied and Tony evened things up with a rocket from just inside the 18 about midway through the second half. We almost went up by two when their keeper mishandled a shot right in front of Kristen, but was able to recover to save her near-certain goal.  So close.  After that it looked like we were going to draw, but, unfortunately, a combination of being a player down and wearing out our women with no subs contributed to two very late goals by Thunder.  Great game by Mark in goal.  Final score: 1-3
5 May vs. Buffalo wild Wings

Your reporter was not present for this one, but I heard that we were a couple players light.  I also heard that we got robbed by the referee.  Rather than relate a second-hand account of the game, let me pass along a copy of referee evaluation that was sent to the league's referee assignor by our opponents after the game:

To:       twhitehurst@pdq.net
CC:       tsonnier@att.net
Date: Wed, 07 May 2003 05:00:05 (GMT)
Subject: HWSA REFEREE eval
Here's the data from your form:
date_time = May 5, 7PM
field = Alief L3
my_team = BW3
my_score = 1
other_team = Penguins
other_score = 0
referee =
Control = Poor
Manners = Poor
Knowledge = Fair
Whistle = Poor
Consistency = Poor
Overall_rating_1_5 = 1
Comments = It's criminal that we paid this man to ref our game. He makes little effort to cover the field. As a result he relies on the honor system and frequently reminds us. When informed that the system is being abused, he says he'll just trust us, but adds that if we're getting screwed, we can try a little payback. This man encouraged us to cheat!
He really ripped the Penguins.  He was the only one on the field to think their goalkeeper carried a caught ball into the goal, and I suppose he had a great look at it from 30 yards away. He also missed an obvious hand ball in the box by my team. I suppose that when we paid him his fee I thought it really was a bribe.
I'm not sure he had even seen a soccer game prior to last night.
name = J#### G####
email = ###############

Please don't interpret this as license to declare open season on referees; however, some are clearly better than others.  Most are decent and try hard to do a good job, but sometimes they don't.  Unfortunately, this time  it cost us the game.  Final score: 0-1.

11 May vs. JFC Juggernauts

Once again, a decent turnout for the guys (four subs) and one short on the women's side.  We got off to a decent start with the wind, fresh legs and a one player advantage.  We did a good job controlling the ball through the first half, but, unfortunately weren't able to translate that into a goal.  The midfield and defense did a good job picking up stray balls and moving the ball up the field.  Unfortunately, the wind, a one player disadvantage, and fatigue all conspired against us in the second half.  We were able to hold them off for a while due in large part to a scrappy defense and several pretty, heroic saves by Mark in goal, but eventually they ended up putting a couple balls in the net.  Near the end of the game, when we had pulled almost everyone up into the offense trying to score, the Jugheads had a two on keeper breakaway.  Mark almost got the ball away from their male striker, only to have him tap it over to a women standing at the top of the goal box.  In an amazing display of dematerialization and rematerialization Mark almost recovered quickly enough to stop her shot  too.  Unfortunately, that made the score 4-0.  Never ones to give up, we kept the pressure on and got a goal just before the end of the match on a free kick from just outside the penalty area when Tony blasted blasted the ball past their keeper following a good chip by (?).

I think everyone who was at the last two games agreed that play was much improved this time even though we lost.  Once again, we gave up critical late game goals probably due to fatigue.  Raymi Beltran did a great job controlling the ball in the midfield in his first game.  Final score: 1-4.
12 May vs. North Shore

Once again three or four guy subs and one short in the woman department. This time we were playing against a very young team with very skilled, quick men and women who rarely touched the ball.  Two minutes into the game your reporter suffered a debilitating , on-field neutering by an unnamed teammate who was trying to clear the ball out of the defense. North Shore's quickness is what doomed us early in the match when they flooded our defense with too many  men on well-timed runs, putting them one on one with poor Dennis in goal.  We were down 0-2 after 10 minutes.  We did manage to slow their rate of scoring down a bit through improved defense and more control of the ball at midfield and ended the half down by only four goals.  In a reversal of our performance in the last few games, we came out and played a much better second half.  Kristen notched her first PK of the season following an obvious hand ball in their penalty box.  That was followed shortly by her second PK of the season for something involving an altercation in their penalty box that not only injured their keeper, but took down our player as well.  That made the score 4-6 and gave us hope.  Hope was buoyed even more when late in the game a free kick chip from Tony to Raymi followed by a one touch shot made the score 5-6.  Unfortunately, time ran out before we could score again.  The defense did a good job to adapt and hold them to only two goals in the second half. 

Final score: 5-6.
18 May vs. Olympia V

Slim pickings at first, both on the people side (short one woman, and no guy subs), and in the scoring category (couldn't buy a goal for the first 20 minutes).  We controlled the ball well most of the game on the short GOALS field, but weren't able to finish for the longest time.  Oly's keeper was having a busy night, but was playing smart and stopped everything that was on target.  We played with a cobbed-together defense -- Vincent, Marina, Steve and Dennis were on the MIA list.  At the beginning, Mark looked uneasy in the goal.  However, on the other end of the field, and after seven shots on goal, Alex made a long run down the right side from the midfield, then cut into the middle as he neared the end line and squeezed a long, low ball past the keeper to open the scoring at the 27-minute mark.  The Olympians evened it up at one each shortly before the half following a melee in the goal mouth.  Shortly into the second period Tony put us in front to stay with a partially deflected shot from about 12 out on the right side of the penalty box.  Shortly afterward he got his second goal of the night (and fourth in three games) with a pretty half-lob, half-chip (a lip?) over the keeper from about 18 out, on the left side this time.  I'm not sure exactly how the next one could have gone in, but Raymi took the ball all the way down to the end line on the left side, then proceeded to dribble it up the line towards the goal, when, magically, the ball ended up in the net from an even more impossible angle than Alex' goal.  Olympia managed to squeeze another one in shortly afterwards to end a second brouhaha inside our goal box to make the score 4-2.  Scoring was finished for the night after Kristen took a long shot from the middle about 30 yards out that looked like it might go in, and Bill ran in to eliminate all doubt by finishing it from inside the six.

Everyone had a great night -- continuing a trend in better play through the previous couple of games.  The short field helped cover for being one player short and lack of subs.  The ad hoc defense (Joyce, Patti, Steve, Jason, Bill and Tom) really came through in holding a fast, young team to only two goals.  Jason and Steve really stepped up in the back this time.  Patti had one of her better games in recent memory by stealing, then distributing the ball forward several times.  Minsue really outdid herself in the midfield  -- she was literally everywhere, and quickly too.  She had several good scoring chances and probably ran 10 miles in the process.  Raymi took solid control of the midfield and was instrumental in distributing the ball forward and making runs of his own, while Kristen did a great job coming back to help on defense and then getting open to make clean transitions to offense.  Even though he was hurt, Mark did a great job in goal.  Fortunately, other than the two that got in, he was in position to field the ball cleanly without the need to go into combat most of the time. 

Final score: 5-2

19 May vs. Orange Crush

Started the game our ritual one woman down, and with no men subs.  Actually fielded a full team(!) for the first time in a while when the Foleys arrived about midway through the first half.  Finished with three extra guys.  This was a tougher team than Olympia, and much of the play was on our end of the field after their playmaker, Charles, showed up early in the first half. He was a pretty good match for Raymi in the midfield and filled the same role in being able to control the ball and either distribute to their forwards or bring it down himself with our defenders boiling around him.  Jason did a great job staying with him as the designated speedy person in our defense.  Regardless of the fact  that this was only the second game he's played back there he did an awesome job shutting the guy down (Charles scored four goals in his last game).  Without Vincent, Marina and Dennis in defense for a second game, the rest of the folks back there did yeoman work keeping the Orange-utans out of our net.  Joyce, Minsue, Patti, Jason, Steve, Bill, Matt and Tom took turns in defense.

The whole game could probably be characterized as a defensive struggle, with both teams making forays deep into the other's end of the field -- lots of back-and-forth with both keepers having opportunities to pick up the ball.  Raymi was usually leading the charge on our side and Charles serving as lead for Orange.  Then, about 25 minutes into the first half, Kristen brought the ball down the right side, past the top of the penalty box, about 25 yards out and unleashed a spinning high ball that bent itself over the keeper's fingertips and into the far upper corner of the goal for a two-pointer.  She later claimed that it was a cross that went awry. Who cares.  (It was extremely pretty, unpretentious little shot....)  Unfortunately, as we got worn down in the second half they got one on a hot shot that was deflected off Dennis' hands, and a second with about 15 minutes remaining to tie the score at two apiece.  Fortunately, defensive help from Kristen, Raymi and Bill managed to keep them from scoring again.  Once again, everyone played well considering that this was one of our tougher opponents and most of us were recovering from our game the previous night (Minsue and Kristen had played two games on Sunday).  Once again, Minsue seemed to be everywhere, and once again had several good scoring opportunities before moving back to defense, swapping Joyce up into the midfield.  Joyce also had a great game with a couple good shots on goal as well.  Tony made a big sacrifice, auguring himself into the ground to make a good pass to Kristen early in the game, then  played hurt the rest of the game.  Steve, back from a foot injury, continued his work as a utility player with quality time in the defense, midfield and front line.  Erin spent most of the time up in front and had several good runs in her first game with us in some time -- welcome back.

All things considered, a tie wasn't the worst of all possible outcomes.  Well played.  Final score: 2-2.