Thursday, July 24, 2014

España (Part 2): Guest Post By Gordy

When I last left off, the girls had just suffered their first defeat in the Donosti Cup in Spain and were anxious to get back on the field and prove themselves.

Day 6: Surfing Lessons, Laundry and Soccer Dramatics
Wednesday's game was again scheduled for the evening, so the girls took advantage of the free time and went to the beach for a surfing lesson.  I didn't go along, but Georgia said it was hard and even though she never fully stood up, she had a good time.

(photos by parents other than Gordy ... and Gordy)

My confidence in my Spanish was growing, so I took advantage of the opportunity to venture out and do our laundry.  I was pleased that I was able to successfully ask the front desk for directions to the nearest lavanderia, navigate my way there and ask the woman behind the counter how long I should put my clothes in the oven.  OK, not perfect, but I think my high school Spanish teacher, Mr. Schrump, wouldn't be too disgusted with my performance.

On Wednesday they played a local team from San Sebastian, who had beaten Aragon, the team that had beaten us badly.  This represented the last game in "group play" in the tournament and not only did we need to win, but because of cumulative goal differential, we had to win by at least 2 goals to avoid heading to the consolation bracket.

Although the San Sebastian team was more talented than the Aragon team that had defeated us the previous day, this was a better match-up since they played a more skill-focused game than a physical one.  We got off to a good start, getting the first goal 15 minutes in and continuing to create chances.

Our girls were playing great and controlling the game, but couldn't convert the much-needed second goal.  It was starting to look like it wasn't going to happen, when, with about 4 minutes left, Georgia's good friend, Ally, burst through an opening in the defense and put a shot past their goalie.  It caused a lot of excitement because all of the players and parents knew that without that goal we would be left playing weaker teams the rest of the way.  I love this picture of some girls mobbing Ally, while Georgia is running up from her position at fullback (arms outstretched) to join the party.

The girls from the English school, San Patricio, had played before our game and most of them stayed to cheer on the team, chanting, "USA, USA, USA."  It was pretty cool.  After the game, the girls from both teams hung out and socialized for 45 minutes, exchanging e-mail and Instagram addresses.  It was a lot of fun to watch and we all agreed that stuff like that was what we were hoping for when we signed our daughters up for the trip.  They all posed for a group photo before leaving.

Day 7: A Day Off
With the 2-0 win on Wednesday, they not only advanced, but won their division and got a bye in the first round of the play-offs, which were played on Thursday.  This left a day without a game.  Most families took a bus trip to Bilbao to see the Guggenheim Museum, but Georgia and I elected to stay in San Sebastian and have a day together.

We climbed to the top of a hill that overlooked the town and featured an old fort, Castillo de la Mota.  A very pretty view.  We went swimming (briefly, it was cold and a little rainy) and then went looking for souvenirs for Martha, Josie, Henry and for ourselves.  Oh, and of course we found a place to get some more gelato for Georgia.

Day 8: Semi-Finals and.....
Friday was another reasonably sunny day and the girls' semi-final game against Tolosa, Spain didn't start until 4:30pm, so they got in a bit more beach time before resting for the game.

We had watched Tolosa the previous evening in their quarterfinal win over a team from Madrid and they looked very strong, so we were a bit surprised when our girls came out and dominated the match, winning 3-1.  Everyone was excited to be heading to the finals, but also wary because they would now face a team called "Mindset." Mindset was made up of girls from four different club teams in Pennsylvania and New Jersey and had been tearing through their competition at the tournament, never winning by less than 4 goals.

In his many visits to the Donosti Cup, coach Tom said he had never seen a US team win a division.  With an all US final, that would definitely change and we hoped it would be us to break that streak. There wasn't too much time to think about it, as the finals began about 2 1/2 hours after the semi-finals ended.

On paper, this was a mismatch, as we draw from only club and the majority of our girls are only 11 years old.  The picture below shows what type of size disparity our girls (in white) faced.

The game started well, with our girls controlling the play for the first 10 minutes, but Mindset was just too strong and pulled ahead 1-0 at the half.  That trend continued in the 2nd half and we ultimately lost 2-0.  After the game, the girls were tired, but not too disappointed.  They had given their all, but were just outgunned this time.

They were cheered up further by the realization that the girls from San Patricio had come to the game to cheer for them again, as had players from the Aragon team who had defeated them earlier in the tournament.  It was really amazing to hear this whole group of girls chanting throughout the game, "New England!  New England!" (they figured out that "USA!" didn't really work for this match-up).  After the game, our girls showed their appreciation to their new friends by giving them some practice jerseys and in some cases game jerseys to remember them by.  Some who stuck around joined a photo with the runner-up trophy.

When it was all over and we were headed back to the hotel, Georgia got a little sad.  Partially because of exhaustion (she had played every minute of the semi-finals and the finals and had run a lot), but also because she realized our trip was nearing its end.  It had been a great experience.  She had seen new places, had a lot of fun with her old friends, met some new friends, played some very competitive soccer and eaten a ton of gelato.  

She also may have been sad because she remembered that this was the end of the line for her with coach Tom.  Georgia has been coached by Tom for the past 4 years and although he can be very tough on the girls, his style suits Georgia and we've seen her develop tremendously under his tutelage.  Unfortunately, he announced this spring that he has accepted a job to coach at a different club next year and he is moving to Virginia.  Georgia, Martha and I will all miss Tom and we hope that we are able to keep in touch with him.  He's had an amazing influence on these girls.

Day 9: Closing Time
The next morning most of the group flew back to Madrid, where we spent two days before flying back to the US.  The rest stayed behind and did some European family travel.  At some point, I will write Part 3 of this post, detailing what we did in Madrid, but it wasn't nearly as interesting or memorable as the amazing time we had in San Sebastian.

Now that we're back, there's already talk of the "next trip" in 2016 or 2017.  Look out Sweden!  I doubt it will be able to top this one, but I'm sure we'll try..... Adios!

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