I think that in the world of sports there is this need to progress. You see it in every professional sport out there and with every team. There is this need to build towards something. Once a team in the NBA gets to a certain point they blow up the team, start young, and build again, much like my Portland Trail Blazers are doing currently. When you are talking about playoff level teams, sometimes I think you need to lose in order to learn how to win. Of course you prefer not to lose, but when you do, it’s up to you to learn from it. I believe that was the theme of the weekend for us.
It started last Friday. We traveled down in basically 3 main travel groups. I was in the later one. I worked most of the day and got off at 3PM and headed to the airport. I had Koroshes, Regan, Stephanie, and Rachel Woods on my flight. We stopped to eat at Mexican restaurant in the airport before we boarded our first flight. I always find it interesting to see people’s reactions to a team traveling. We all had Majestics gear on and were carrying pads and helmets around. Contrary to what we normally are aware of, people do pay attention. They watch and listen to us. It’s great exposure.
Our first flight was to Oakland and we got there fairly smoothly. We jumped off the plane and Regan and Koroshes grabbed some ice cream. Our flight was a little delayed but we didn’t think anything off it. We arrived at LAX around 11pm. The other flights were supposed to get in around the same time and we were going to take a van to our hotel. But apparently Comic Con was the same weekend so travel and lodging was a bit more difficult this weekend. One of the first groups that got in, went to the hotel and realized that they over booked us. Luckily, they were able to find a better one on short notice.
We went to baggage claim and it was this point we realized that our last teammate in, was still sitting on the tarmac in Seattle because her flight was delayed. Firstrider was supposed to land around the same time as us but ended up landing at around 1:30AM. Since she was the last person in our van, we had to wait for her. She’s our starting running back and kind of a big deal. Our small groups baggage claim was in Terminal 1 and the other half of us were at Terminal 6 so we decided to walk and take a tour of LAX. We met up with the 2nd group and waited at where Firstrider would come down for her bags.
I got the idea to make her a sign like people do for people arriving. I put her name on it and made it look pretty for her. We stood at the bottom of the escalators and waited. We saw the feet of people coming down first. We saw a few people that weren’t her and I felt the need to welcome them LAX and we clapped for them. People found this entertaining. Finally, she arrived and we greeted her like she was Justin Bieber. It was pretty funny.
We all piled into the van and our coach Butz, the trooper that she is, drove us the 2 hours to our hotel. We arrived around 3:30AM, groggy as hell, found our rooms, and passed out.
As I have gotten older, I have realized that I have a love/hate relationship with my body clock. When I can actually sleep in, it wakes me up at 6am, which is what happened here. Luckily, I was so tired that I was able to fall back asleep for a bit. We got up and got some breakfast at the hotel. I roomed with Britta, Firstrider, and Mike. Britta went to gym early to get her pre-game warm up in and Firstrider and Mike went to beach early for theirs. For me, the longer I play, the more I try to conserve my energy on game day. If it’s not necessary, I’m going to avoid it. I want all my energy for when I step out on the field. So I was content laying on my hotel bed and trying to sort through movies to watch as I packed all my gear up for the day.
We all gathered in lobby and piled in vans around 1 to pick up some lunch. We stopped at Jersey Mikes and I had a roast beef sandwich and chips. We then stopped at another location for other people to eat. We ate quickly, went back to hotel for a parking lot walk through. We jumped back into vans to drive to the field around 3pm. Luckily, the newer hotel we stayed at was closer to the field so the drive was only around 30 minutes. We arrived with plenty of time to get ready in the locker room.
Now when you are getting ready for any game there is going to be an excitement. People handle that in different ways. But for a playoff game, those feelings intensify. Suddenly it hits you that you need to win or you go home. And that your competition is better and it’s going to be a fight. You try to remember all the adjustments your coaching staff told you for the game. Try to remember all their formations and your responsibilities. Much like that feeling you get as a student before taking a big test, you ask yourself situational questions to make sure you are prepared. Really, it is a test. A physical test.
It is important to know that around half of our team are rookies and they are experiencing this increased energy for the first time. We had won our first round game against Tacoma but we had already played Tacoma and knew them. This was a team that people knew only on paper and through film. That increases pressure. I have noticed that every team I’ve played on has a collective personality. Ours has usually been pretty loose. We play better when we are loose and calm. We were very focused in warm ups but in a good way. We knew that no one really gave us a shot in this game and that we had something to prove. We knew that San Diego was a good team but that people had overlooked us most of the season.
We started the game kicking off to San Diego. We recovered an onside kick which instantly provided energy. Our offense stepped onto the field and started on fire. This was a great sign because most of the year the offense has started slowly before exploding in the 2nd half. This game we finally came out of the gate ready to attack. We knew we had an advantage with inside passing routes and picked our way down the field to a quick score. 7-0 Majestics.
We kicked the ball to San Diego and it was our first time on defense. We stopped them on a couple of short plays and on 3rd down they threw it down field but Jackie McCall was able to pick it off. I was very excited at this point. Our offense took the ball back down the field and scored again with a pass to Tessla. 13-0. On the extra point however, they blocked our kick and Jessica Springer returned it for a 2 point conversion to make it 13-2.
At this point, I’m feeling pretty good. I know San Diego will be coming back this is the exact start we needed.
But then San Diego came back. For a while it was back and forth. They got a pick 6 which really I think gave them the momentum back. Towards the end of the 1st half they were driving towards our goal line. We were able to stop them literally inches short of the goal line to keep them out of the end zone. We went into halftime down 30-20 but we were going to get the ball first in the 2nd half so felt pretty good about our positon.
We weren’t able to move the ball on that first drive however and returned to defense. It’s important to note that San Diego’s offensive line is strong and disciplined. They block well. And the front we were using did not do well against what they were doing. They were the first team we played all season that were able to disrupt our cohesion. They had a good game plan. They scored to go up 37-20. Then our offense traded punches with them for a while before they finally pulled away.
Throughout the season as a player you will encounter minor injuries here and there that you just play through. I had a few minor things before season started but have gone through most of the season pretty healthy until this game. I must have been backlogged for injuries because I got my season allotment in one game. In the 2nd quarter, I tackled their receiver hard with my shoulder which gave me a stinger. For those of you that don’t know what that is, it’s when you have a hard blow to the top of your shoulder while your neck is bent a certain way. It basically nails a nerve that makes your whole arm go numb for several minutes. It’s not usually a long lasting injury but you definitely feel it in that moment.
Later, on that play where we stopped them short of the goal line before halftime, I was in on the tackle and someone landed on my hip. Then in the 3rd quarter I got a cramp in my calf. Yes, I did drink water and Gatorade and pickle juice. Pickle juice actually doesn’t taste that bad once you get used to it but apparently I need to research to find out what works for me better. I made it the whole season without cramping until the last 2 games so I’m thinking it has to be the heat combined with how hard I work in a game. I don’t do anything below 110 percent.
And then in the 4th quarter I decided I had nothing to lose anymore and was chasing a receiver that caught the ball on the edge and full out went superman on a dive. I got her ankles enough to slow her down for help to come but paid the price when I landed full body weight on my stomach on the turf and knocked the wind out of myself. By this time there were just a couple of minutes left and my coach told me that I was done for today. Which is probably wise because knowing me I would have tried to come back in again.
After, people told me that they liked watching me not give up. Which is humbling of course but honestly I don’t know any other way to play. I know I’m not going to win every play and that I’ll make mistakes. I know sometimes I’m going to get knocked down. But I also know that I’m always going to get back up and keep on coming which is actually kind of comforting in a way. It’s a self-prophesizing event. I play hard because I know I can get back up. I get back up because I know I can play hard. It’s in the getting back up that you find the true beauty of football and find yourself. It’s why I have adopted Relentless as my motto.
While the game itself ended in a loss, I am still proud of how far we went with a lot of inexperienced players. I think a lot of them will be back next year and that we should be able to build on this.
After the game, I ran into my old teammate Liz Floto who is now with the Surge. We used to play together several years ago in Corvallis and it was great to see her. I also ran into Diana from West Coast Lightning who has become a friend as well. Later, as I was walking up to the locker room I ran into Mark Ring, the Surge line coach and told him he made my life hard this game and congrats. I love that in women’s football you play hard on the field and then talk as friends after. Someone people aren’t able to separate field from off the field but I think it’s more fun if you actually get to know people.
We left the game absolutely exhausted. My van stopped on the way home to get some red bull. We got back to the hotel and I went directly to the shower. Luckily, there was a taco stand right next to our hotel so I got a couple of really good tacos for dinner. We hung out at the hotel as a team and enjoyed bonding for the last time of the season.
Sunday, we also had 3 main groups flying out. Mine didn’t fly out until the evening and the rest of my roommates flew out early so I enjoyed a few hours to myself in the hotel room. I was very sore. We later spent a little a time at the pool and hot tub before we got our luggage together to check out. After check out, we climbed in the vans and drove to the beach for about a half an hour of walking the beach, splashing in the water, and taking thousands of selfies.
We jumped back in the vans to drive back to LAX for our flights. Then traffic hit and we were in a parking lot for about an hour. I was starting to fall asleep in the back of my van when I heard this knocking sound. Koroshes was in the passenger seat and at first I thought she knocked from the inside of the door and I was very confused. Then I saw Diana running from the side of our van back behind us. I looked up and remembered the other van was behind us and was further confused. It turns out that the other van had dared her to run up to ours and knock on it. Little did she know, when she returned to that van, they locked her out at first. Then let her back in which was hilarious.
We were able to make it to the airport just in time for us to all make our flights. On the first flight I sat next to a guy that for some reason thought I was in the Army. I then passed out for the duration of the flight. We literally had 15 minutes in Oakland before jumping back on a plane to Seattle. We arrived around 11pm and I was home in bed around midnight.
Stay tuned for my season wrap up post.