The games this weekend were both a great team effort and nothing short of amazing. Two must win games ignited an extra spark within all of us and everyone played with great intensity. There is something exciting about playing with our backs against the wall. Sure, it may have produced additional anxiety in our coaches, but as a team, we relish opportunities to succeed…and succeeding was our only option.
Our first success came Friday afternoon, a nail-biting game against Montana, one of our most despised rivals in the Big Sky conference. As forwards, it’s our job to score goals. We needed them quick and we needed two. Our coach wouldn’t accept anything less. Jenna Samora, with great intensity as always, put one away to tie up the match. With three minutes remaining in the first overtime, I saw an opening in the top right corner and fired a shot. Prayers raced through my mind faster than the ball was moving and in the back of the net it went. Sure, Andre would probably prefer our goals to be scored earlier, but hey, added angst and excitement is fun for everyone. It was a relentless performance by our defense, executed brilliantly by our midfields, and our offense was lethal when it counted.
Sunday’s game was Senior Day. Five of us, my self included, were recognized before the game for our contributions during the four years of playing soccer at NAU. It was a bittersweet afternoon to say the least. We started out with a class of eight and stood on the field with five. There is a special bond between the five of us, an understanding of dedication and mutual support, even when at times we didn’t think we could make it. But we did, and we all made it through the years together. The underclassman knew the importance of the game, a must win for our season and a must win for the seniors. This was evident in the performance of every single player who stepped on the field that day to give us a 4-2 win over Eastern Washington. Each person on the field that day played fearless soccer and did so with their hearts on their sleeve. And in case I didn’t mention it, I speak on behalf of all the seniors. Thank you- to the juniors, sophomores and freshman for playing with and for your seniors, and for never letting us forget that we can, in fact, win the Big Sky…again.
Even if we aren’t yet, our championship mentality will be carried over to the Northern Colorado game on Friday. Our team has worked too hard, for too long to let something so close slip out of our grasp. Our team was given a second chance, and we’re holding onto it tight. We’re a group of fighters, and the fights far from over. Go Jacks!