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Rush 05G Play in Game Feelings for Presidents Cup

by Sarah Travis

The field was remarkable. 

While it was flat, bumpy, with lines that were faded out in some areas, the entire team looked upon it as if it were gold. But even our combined joy to be back on the pitch, and the glee to see the other team warming up to battle us, the thick air held an unspoken tension. 

We were nervous. 

We hadn’t practiced on a full-sized field for months now, and our passing drills covered short distances, not long. 

To distract ourselves from the nerves, we begin the rhythmic warm-up. We know these movements, these stretches. And for a short while, we can pretend to be calm. 

“Hey guys, get a drink.” Someone says. I can’t quite remember who. Their voice blurs with the heat, and after only walking a few yards, my throat is already dry. We line up. 

The coin is tossed. 

The formation is set. 

And stepping out onto the dried grass, the cheers of parents echoing through our ears, it finally hits us in full force. 

This was a game we had to win. Losing was not an option. Not today. 

“On your toes, ladies!” It’s a command we know all too well. Its cry is hurdled across the half we occupy, and one by one, we begin to hop from foot to foot, jump up and down, do anything to get our legs prepared for the whistle. 

“From the whistle!” I know this voice to be mine, but still, it seems foreign. The game has taken complete control over me, and as I look around to my teammates, I know it has for them too. Smiles are gone. No one cracks any jokes.

The ref steps out into the center. I can feel my legs start to shake. He looks to both goalies, and as they send him a thumbs up and the sideline refs return a wave, he places the whistle in his mouth. 

My attention breaks from him to the scene before me. With the other team holding complete control over how the game begins, I imagine lines splitting from the players and marking their hypothetical runs. 

The ref blows, and the game begins. 

We start strong. Though the air is drying out our throats, and our muscles begin to ache, we see no point in stopping our ruthless attack. The sun pounds against our exposed skin, but what does it matter? We were in control of the ball. 

The other team makes a swift attack, taking the midfield by surprise. As one, the defense tries to find players to mark, but as their numbers multiply, desperation fills where bravery once resided. 

The opposing midfielder kicks the ball, and as we sprint back to try to step in front of players, we know she has put too much weight on it. Those by my side peel away with the forwards, but I continue to advance towards our goalie. 

She leaves the nets’ embrace and closes in on the ball rolling towards her. I know she will get it, but the pounding steps behind me tell me not to stop. 

Sure enough, she has the sphere cradled in her arms within seconds. From the flash in her eyes, and her small step forward, our entire team is immediately alerted even before she screams. 

“UP!”

The other team hastily tries to mark our already-running forwards, but by the time the ball has touched the ground, it is already too late for the opposing defense. Our forwards and midfield stand united as one, passing the ball and making runs. 

As I watch from afar, still marking my runner at the halfway line, I can not help but smile. 

Perhaps the touches were not the cleanest, and the technical skills were a little rusty, but we were together again. Playing as one.

With a quick wall pass expertly delivered, our forward is suddenly 1vs1 against the goalie. 

Hope swells in my gut. 

One-touch. Shoot. 

Cheers erupt from the sidelines, but they are mouse squeaks compared to the roar we unleash as a team. Our forward is a hero. 

We reset the line, now focused on keeping the other team away from our goal. We haven’t even hit halfway through the first half yet.

The ref blows his whistle, and the chaos starts once more. 

The sun slowly makes its way through the sky as we play; merciless in its intensity. Sweat drips down our brows, and after missed shots and dead sprints, there is no denying our weariness. Players switch positions. Fresh girls replace near-fainting ones. We take the few precious moments of throw-ins to breathe, but the other team does not share our same desire for rest. 

They were losing in a single-elimination game. 

Plays smear together, touches begin to become less tight, and I can tell each player on the field was slowly beginning to count the seconds. 

“Ball here,”

“RUN,”

“Man on!”

“Yeah, you got me.”

The other team is not so willing to fall prey to the heat or sleepiness. They outmaneuver us, out juke us, and finally, out sprint us within the final few minutes. 

My heart drops as the ball slips past our goalies' outstretched hands. Who was marking her? It doesn’t matter now. We have to get it back. 

“It’s okay, ladies, pick your heads up. We aren’t done here.”

I notice how no one hangs their head anymore. No, now we are hungry once again. We are tired but unwilling to lose. So the cycle continues. We create chances but do not score. 

But in the end, no one was upset at the lack of treasure we sow from our efforts. In between heavy breaths and loose, lopsided smiles, we are happy to be here. 

The whistle blows, and collectively our entire team slumps in exhaustion as we make our way to the bench for halftime. Sitting has never felt so good. Water never so delicious. 

Then our coach begins his sermon. In simple terms: we’re rusty, but that’s okay. Everyone on the pitch is rusty. It will come down to who wants the win more. 

We all look at each other. From the fire burning beneath the blue and brown of our eyes, it is clear no one is willing to accept defeat from Boulder.

Coach takes another breath. Our attention snaps back to him. “And if it goes to a PK shootout, who doesn’t want to shoot?”

An arm raises. 

“Okay, so I’ll just take you out before the game ends.”

She nods. 

I look down at my hands. The idea of having to do PKs both comforted me, and frightened me, as I assume it did for everyone else. PKs meant no one lost the game, but they also meant the game rested on the shoulders of one well-placed shot. 

We all stand up, take the last swig of cold water, and huddle together in a circle. 

“We can do this.”

“We’ve got this…”

“RUSH ON THREE. ONE, TWO, THREE--”

“RUSH!”

There is no denying there are more nerves in the air. 

The ref blows the whistle, and the second half begins. 

Already worn from the sun and heat, everything deteriorates on both teams. We turn to physicality rather than skill. And as the half wears on, both teams practically dying under the March heat, no one scores.

We miss opportunities, pass crooked balls, carry for too long, and remain in a draw until the final call blows. No added minutes. 

We take few precious moments to rush over to the sideline, instructing those awaiting us to hand us our water bottles. As if I could wash down my nerves, I drown my throat in the icy liquid. My mind sharpens; as if the water has awakened my entire being. 

Energy begins to course through the team once more; from sheer nervousness or excitement, there is no telling. Our coach gives us the order in which we will shoot, and then for a singular moment, everyone goes silent. 

This is it. This will define our future place in the tournament.  

Together, arms wrapped around each other, we slowly begin the walk to the halfway mark. Our goalie has already taken her place in front of the net, patiently waiting for her turn to face her opponent. But our team is allowed to go first, and so we whisper soft words of encouragement to our friend as she makes her way to the ball.  

We cheer and smile as the other team misses; mourn as our shots are too wide or saved. But, as the PK shootout closes to an end, the grand finale approaches. One goal for it all. 

No one is breathing. 

It has all come down to this shot. 

“She’s going to make it, she’s going to make it, she’s going to make it…”

I close my eyes as she hits the ball, only hearing her foot connect with its surface, and then...cheers. 

She scored. 

“OH MY--”

We all sprint to meet her, tackling her with our joy and hope. We did it. We did it. We won the game.

Click here to view Rush 05 Penalty Shootout - https://youtu.be/NZcUvE7UL7g


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