Soccer Poet

Hero Hawk

Hero Hawk
SATURDAY
So the Texas game didn’t go exactly as planned. Or, to be more precise, it went exactly the opposite as planned. We knew the Horns were going to be big and athletic and that they would play straight ahead. We knew they would be excellent in the air and that would make them dangerous on set pieces. In our pregame meeting at the hotel on Friday morning we mentioned a couple of key points. One of them was that we had to win the set piece battle, and to do that, we’d have to do whatever we could to avoid giving up set pieces. The other tidbit we mentioned was that we needed the game to be played on the ground. If the game was played in the air, we would lose. Well…

The game was played in the air and Texas scored two goals from set pieces and we lost 2-0.

Sweet.

To be honest, our players, who’ve been loosey-goosey all preseason, suddenly seemed very uptight once we got on the field. Even during the warm-up we looked really tense. We’ve got a lot of very good soccer players, but when we were doing our possession exercise during warm-up, suddenly none of them could trap or pass a ball. After a few minutes I stopped the drill and called them all together just to tell them to relax and have fun. Yeah. Didn’t work. Didn’t work during the warm-up, and it didn’t work once the game kicked off. Somehow we’d left our technical ability back in Athens.

Texas was very good and athletic and I’d like to give them even more credit, but the bottom line is that we did very little to help our own cause. The amount of unforced errors we accumulated was absolutely staggering.

I didn’t think we played well, but I try to refrain from giving a post-game synopsis until after I watch the game again on video. A lot of times we were either better or worse than I thought whilst a game was being played in real-time. So when we got back to the hotel I watched it again and sure enough, we were just plain bad. It was agonizing to sit through it a second time. It did however give me one very good reason to be optimistic: I really don’t think we could be that bad again. It was like every player (or at least a whole lot of them) had her worst game on the same night. I don’t think these players can duplicate that phenomenon a second time.  At least I sure as heck hope not.

This morning we made the trek from Austin to Houston, stopping off at Meghan’s house for lunch. Meghan made the trip with us even though her season ended last spring with an ACL tear that occurred with about 15 minutes remaining in our final spring game. The Gibbons family put out a phenomenal spread for us, and it was comforting to kick back for an hour or so in something other than a bus, hotel or restaurant.  Speaking of hotels, the Gibbons’ abode has become one for tonight as plenty of the Bulldog parents will be lodging with them. I hope they get to spend some time in that beautiful swimming pool!

So a few blocks before our hotel we pull into a shopping center to pick up some cases of bottled water and Powerade. Once the beverages are loaded up, we are slowly lurching along the fire lane in front of the storefronts when Robin exclaims, “Hawk! There’s someone on the ground.”
Hawk is standing in as our trainer during  Emily’s maternity leave. Hawk is short for Chicken Hawk. Yes, people really call him that, but I just can’t bring myself to do it. So I just stick with ‘Hawk.’

Hawk is a UGA lifer. He's been on the training staff at Georgia for 35 years and the man knows his stuff. In a situation like this, he is uniquely qualified to lend a hand, so the bus comes to a quick stop and Hawk and the coaches pile out.

Just in front of the door to Marshall’s, a 67 year-old African American woman, Edna, is lying on the ground in a semi-coherent state. Edna is not a small woman. Three other women, her friends, are hovering above her with no real idea of what to do. The manager at Marshall’s has already called 9-1-1 when Hawk jumps off the bus and arrives at the scene.

I was right there and I gotta tell ya, Hawk’s management of the situation was purely professional. He got right to the ground and began asking questions. Me, I figured it was a case of dehydration as the temps in Houston were in the mid-90s. But Hawk knew to dig a little bit deeper. Within ten seconds he asks Edna if she is diabetic. Yes. He asks if anyone has a piece of gum and a bottle of water. Yes and Yes. He starts Edna drinking some water and chewing some gum.

Realizing that the temperatures inside the air-conditioned store are much more favorable, Hawk moves Edna to a chair inside of Marshall’s. As it turns out, the gum is sugarless – not much of a help to a diabetic – but Hawk has already gotten someone to produce a half-dozen of those little red and white mints and trades out the gum for one of the mints. Edna is sorta in and out, but Hawk keeps her engaged and we learn that Edna’s husband used to play in the NFL and her son played in the Canadian Football League and her grandson plays college football at Washington.

Minutes later the paramedics arrive and I think Hawks sorta surprised them when he started matter-of-factly listing the information he’s gathered:
  • Edna is 67
  • She’s a diabetic
  • She’s taken her meds
  • She skipped lunch
  • Etc.

I don’t think paramedics are accustomed to walking into a situation where there is qualified help already on the scene. It was pretty cool seeing how they deferred to Hawk before engaging the patient.

For her part, when we told Edna that the paramedics had pulled up, she asked us if any of them were young and good-looking. We took that as a positive sign.

With the paramedics ready to take over the scene, Citizen Hawk returned to the bus where he was greeted by a loud and well-deserved ovation and a rousing chant of Hawk – Hawk – Hawk! We were all very proud of our trainer!

We capped off our night with dinner at the Outback and a sing-along of American Pie on the bus ride back to the hotel, and now it’s time for me to get some sleep. Tomorrow we’ll square off with the Houston Cougars. Only two games in and already we’ve got ourselves a must-win.

SUNDAY
We spent all week worrying about how hot it would be on Sunday afternoon in Houston, and how much that would magnify our fatigue from Friday night. As it turns out, rain rolled in early Sunday morning and kept us under cool and cloudy skies for the entirety of the match.

Coach decided to swap out the three starting forwards from Friday night in favor of a new three-front. This is a tactic we’d actually been discussing for years… how nice it would be to have the type of depth up front to rotate lines to help cope with the Friday / Sunday grind. The plan really started taking shape last fall when we had a clearer picture of our 2013 rookie class, so this weekend Steve decided to pull the trigger and give it a whirl.  So Crowder, Garcia and Maddy made room for Andie, Bria and Tanner, and I gotta say, it worked out pretty well.

All in all it was a sound showing by the Dawgs and we put on a pretty convincing performance against a good Houston team. We played with much more composure and thankfully, our technical ability finally caught up to us. We did a nice job of keeping the ball and staying patient and that usually leads to good things.

Nikki Hill opened the scoring in the 24th minute with a free kick from 50 yards that skipped over the keeper’s head. As the ball came down in the Cougar penalty area, Garcia challenged for a header but couldn’t quite reach the ball. Thankfully, Garcia’s challenge was enough to freeze the goalkeeper and by the time the ball ricocheted off the grass, the keeper didn’t have much of a chance.

Garcia collected her first collegiate goal in the final minute of the first half as she was the recipient of a fortuitous deflection. Gaby Seiler played a dangerous ball over the Houston defense that drew the Cougar keeper off her line. As the keeper plowed out near the penalty spot and boxed away the entry pass, the ball flew straight to Garcia who casually side-footed her chance into the unguarded net from 18 yards.

That was all the scoring we would need as a lockdown defensive performance held Houston to a single shot on the day.

Overall, we looked a lot better than we did Friday night. We still haven’t hit our full stride, but we’re getting there day by day. Our technical execution was markedly better than it was on Friday, so that was nice to see. We’ve still got plenty to work on, but we’re moving in the right direction.

We got back to Athens at 11 P.M., and after four full days on the road, everyone was looking forward to sleeping in their own beds. Hopefully Edna was comfortably sleeping in hers.

Our home opener is this Friday night at 7 P.M. against Mercer.  Hope to see you there!

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updated: 3 years ago