Saturday, October 28, 2006

Ave Maria

I don't blog about sports very often, but I think that it is safe to say that anyone who witnessed that game will never forget it. Decades from now, when a new era of degraded sporting competition causes us purists to yearn for the day when pride really mattered, contemporaries will look at each other and say: "Where were you when Shoe Carnival beat that team with the fluorescent lime jerseys?"

The Shoes had dominated their YMCA soccer competition, playing with a spunky determination that quickly won the hearts of their parents, grandparents, and the occasional passerby. But on this Saturday, the deck would be stacked against them.

A series of family commitments conspired into a perfect storm of player absences, leaving the depleted Shoes left to compete with the minimum of six players plus goalie. A good deal of the team's fire power would not take the field this day, as the Limeys were surely aware of. But little did they know that their bravado would soon be deflated, punctured by the right foot of a Shoe who was different than all the others.

Fast forward to the second half. With no substitutes to spell them, the Shoes stout seven – who history will remember as Quin, Neil, Felix, Noah, Billy, Patch, and Maria - were beginning to fade. The ferocious attack that so many times had sent the opposing goalie running into the corn fields was but a faint breeze that chilled no one. Trailing two goals to one, victory was escaping from their grasp with every passing second. Hope, it seemed, had left to go watch the SHG game.

That is, dear sports fan, until the daughter of a certain blogger decided that failure did not become the Shoes' proud tradition. Her AWOL teammates would not be made to taste defeat from afar, not if she, the only girl on their team, had anything to say about it.

Midway through the third quarter, Maria took an errant pass at midfield and made her way upfield. With a determination not seen since the allies stormed Normandy, Maria took the ball directly at the defenders. The crowd stood frozen. Despite the Limeys' three to one advantage, they could sense that something was afoot. Something was! The ball, which settled into the right corner of the net for the tying goal.

A renewed vigor raced through the Shoes and their fans. Defeat no longer seemed imminent. But dare they dream of victory? One did.

Just minutes later, in a scene that surely sent chills of deja vu down the spines of the Limeys, Maria again took possession at midfield. As she raced downfield, she eyed not the defenders who awaited her, but the big prize that she aimed to shoot down. The Limeys attacked, determined not to fall behind and miss the chance to avenge an earlier loss. Their resistance proved futile as Maria fired the ball towards the goal, this time coming to rest in the left side of the net. Shoes 3, Limeys 2.

The scoring was done for the day. Maria and Neil Brown had tallied the winning goals. The Limeys would mount several respectable attacks in the fourth quarter, but their fate had already been determined when they failed to account for the girl who was coming off of her second three-goal game of the season just the week before.

There are those who will say that Maria's performance would have been more impressive had it come in the game's waning minutes. But such last-second, depicted in slow-motion moments have become clich├ęd in the sporting world and she would never sacrifice true heroics for cheap dramatics. This was, in its essence, the spirit of athletic competition personified, and no Hollywood reinterpretation could ever render it more impressive.

Where was I when Shoe Carnival beat that team with the fluorescent lime jerseys? I was there, man, I was right there. And I couldn't have been prouder.

2 comments:

nancy said...

Way to go Maria!

Mick Shrimpton said...

They were talking about that in the stands at the SHG game. The fans all have Maria pegged as the second female kicker in SHG history, but this time more than a novelty item.

Let the recruiting begin!!!

Good job Maria!