This past Saturday the Rainbow Nerds from the DYSA won their first round playoff game against a San Anselmo team 2-0. Few of these girls have played on winning soccer teams before, making the first playoff victory special. Then the Rainbow Nerds came out for their second round game on Sunday and battled a Novato team through two scoreless, golden goal sudden death overtime periods and won the contest on a penalty kick shootout 3-1. The two teams had been ranked 3rd and 4th in the regular season.
In Saturday’s game the difference maker was Giovanna the Great, who stopped one penalty kick while playing goalie and scored a goal. Giovanna’s play has come up to another level, along with all the Nerds, as they’ve proven that they truly belong in the conversation with this year’s best teams. An 8-1-1 record, with a nine game unbeaten streak including two playoff victories speaks volumes.
Of course Elizabeth, la Máquina had a lot to do with this streak, including scoring a goal on Saturday and a penalty kick in the overtime shootout on Sunday.
In Sunday’s game everyone contributed greatly to the hard fought overtime victory. In the end it was the Nerds energy, enthusiasm and cheering that seemed to be the difference. While the Novato team was oddly silent as the overtime shootout was getting set to begin, perhaps letting the pressure set in, the Rainbow Nerds were cheering and gearing up. Four Novato players tried to score, and only one succeeded. Their first player shot wide left, their last player hit the crossbar in the corner and one another player kicked the ball right to Erin. In the meantime la Máquina, Tough as Nails Gabriella and Skylee’s BFF Katrina each put their shots into the net to win the game.
As the head coach of the Rainbow Nerds there are few things I can take credit for, but one of them was preparing my kickers for the shootout. Each one of them, the last thing they heard from me was, “Take it nice and easy. Just relax,” as the crowd and their teammates cheered them on. In the meantime the Novato kids seemed to be pressing too much, and as a result they couldn’t find the back of the net.
One other coaching move that paid huge dividends, we shut down their Novato’s best offensive player by design. Scouting out their game on Saturday over a brew, my assistant coach Stefan and I were able to identify Novato’s best offensive player. During the game we always had Nails Gabriella or my daughter Skylee on the girl, who had virtually no offensive opportunities.
The unsung hero of the game, Cerebral Sawyer who is an absolute pleasure to coach and a great student of the game, committed a handball foul in the goalie box that stopped Novato from scoring. Novato took a penalty kick on the play, and failed to get the ball past Flarin’ Erin. This story would be entirely different if Sawyer didn’t commit the foul. At the same time enough can’t be said about Erin, who stepped up big time in the goal to face and deny the Novato squad in the overtime shootout.
Throughout the weekend time and again Skylee’s BFF Katrina played her sweeper role to perfection, booting the ball away from the goal countless times and denying the other teams what otherwise would have been excellent scoring opportunities.
All for Fun Persia bought some shiny new cleats two weeks ago and has been a one girl wrecking crew ever since. Undersized Addie continually outraced her opponents to the ball in the open field, exhibiting speed we had not seen in the regular season. Myla overcame a bout of sickness to get on the field and anchor the defense. Tenacious Clare came up with her biggest kick of the season, sending a ball some 30 meters in the air towards midfield, leading me to scratch my head and wonder how the kick was physically possible from such a small player. Sophie didn’t score any goals, but she played her forward position well, embodied the spirit of the Rainbow Nerds and was ready to score if needed in the overtime shootout. Last but certainly not least, Laurel, the Fastest Fifth Grader on the Planet, was the consummate team player doing whatever was asked to help the team win, and overcoming a brutal kick to the shin in the process.
So next Saturday the Rainbow Nerds will take on another semi finalist team at a time and location to be determined later in the week. If all goes according to our plans, we might just find ourselves playing for the league championship on Sunday.