November 12, 2013

My Championship Experience – Women’s Soccer Edition

My Championship Experience is a diary blog written by Summit League student-athletes detailing their experiences at each of the 19 Championships.

Denver senior Shannen Johnson writes about her experience at the 2013 Summit League Women's Soccer Championship:
Welcome to the 2013 Summit League Women’s Soccer Championships! My name is Shannen Johnson and I am honored to be recording my daily occurrences of the tournament. To give some background information on where my thoughts and opinions are coming from you should know that I am a senior midfielder playing for the University of Denver and have attended the conference tournament three out of the four times my team has gone due to a red-shirt sophomore year. Overall, this will be our third conference we have played in as a senior class.

This year at the tournament my team will be joined by North Dakota State, South Dakota State and host Fort Wayne, who my teammates and I would like to thank ahead of time for hosting us!
Rising bright and early, we all congregated in the locker room packing and chatting excitedly as we rushed to be on the bus by 7:15 a.m., otherwise we wouldn’t be traveling. The team was ready to go and hopefully bring home a tournament win, something that hasn’t been done in four years. Heading to the Denver International Airport (DIA) many girls devoured their Breugger Bagels and promptly headed back to sleep. After the usual checking in and getting through security we were on the plane. Landing before we knew it, we boarded the bus and began the one-movie long (or 2 hour) bus ride that stretched out ahead of us, no one seemed to mind the journey as the tunes of Footloose blared through the bus speakers. As the movie ended and we pulled up and it was time to change clothes and head to dinner. Dinner was at a fabulous steakhouse where we managed to rack up quite the bill and headed to the hotel. It was time for bed and we all tried to get some rest before our tournament training began.

With a good hotel breakfast in our stomachs, we headed to IPFW for the first practice of the tournament. We played the traditional game of “screw” and finished off with running plays, then we were off to eat again. With the choice of Chipotle, Panera or East Coast Subs we were satisfied and headed back to the hotel to sleep and for the ambitious few, to do homework. Tonight was the night of the banquet and what a good one it turned out to be. The team enjoyed the speeches given, especially the one concerning how much heart being a collegiate takes, both metaphorically and literally. After a great dinner and awards show, all teams headed to their respective hotels to get a good night sleep before the game. Congratulations to every player who received an award and to those who didn’t, they couldn’t have done it without you! Good luck to everyone!

 GAME DAY at IPFW!! This morning my team and I awoke with an anxious energy as we prepared for our first match against IPFW. Our preparations included a good lunch at Panera, a film session, rolling out and lots of naps and downtime. As we headed to the field, each player became lost in their music and pregame rituals before we entered the stadium. Upon entering the stadium, the team came alive and we were ready to play. Hanging out in the locker room as we get our gear on, we discussed how it was all or nothing at this point and we wanted the league championship that no one in this group had won yet. Receiving the lineup, we ran through our usual warm up and braced ourselves for the game ahead. We knew IPFW was not going to be easy to beat, especially on their home field and re-entered the locker room 1-0 at halftime. As the second half continued, we managed to battle against their unique formation and came out with a 4-0 win. We were on to the finals!!

IPFW was a tough competitor and really proved to us that every game was going to be a battle, we needed to bring 100 percent to if we wanted to win overall.
The game after us between North Dakota State and South Dakota State ended up with North Dakota State winning 2-1. I can only imagine the battle that ensued between the two teams as both were difficult competitors in regular season play. 

Waking up sore and tired from the game the night before, we enjoyed another delicious breakfast at the hotel and once again continued onto another practice over at IPFW. This practice was a bit more enjoyable seeing as we played small sided continuous versus running routes as we did on Thursday. After the goalies somehow managed to win the penalty kick competition, the seniors quickly redeemed themselves with a win in horseshoe.
With practice over, we were soon on our way to our three favorite lunch places again, (Chipotle, Panera and East Coast Subs) where we ended up eating with the opposition, North Dakota State, making for a crowded restaurant. 

After lunch, it was more downtime, which again included more naps then homework and ending with dinner at an Italian Restaurant and early bed for everyone. 


The team met for an early breakfast in the hotel and all morning the lounge was filled with people yelling, “We’re going to the ‘ship!” An excited feeling took over all of us as we rolled out and began to prepare for the game against North Dakota State later in the day.  Bags packed and the bus boarded, we head to IPFW for the last time of the weekend. 

Arriving at the fields, we ran through warm ups and began the final.

Within 11 minutes, we were up 2-1. By half it was 5-1 but North Dakota State was still coming at us with the force they started with. 

Talking at half, we knew that they were still creating chances and we could not let them back into the game.
As the whistle blew, it was an amazing feeling to have not only won the league championship but to end the game with every single senior playing on the field. After a quick but delightful ceremony, we were once again grabbing Chipotle (fan favorite!) and bussing to the airport. Heading home with the league win felt fantastic. We are all anxious to see what the NCAA Tournament selection show will bring us tomorrow afternoon, while sad to be back to the reality of school.

            Coming off of a successful weekend, we must thank IPFW for hosting such a wonderful tournament and graciously hosting us at their campus along with the other teams in the conference who challenged us every single step of the way! We hope to make The Summit League proud as we take on the NCAA’s!

Don’t forget to check out the next edition of My Championship Experience as it follows the Men’s Soccer Championship, Nov. 15/17 and throughout the 2013-14 season for coverage at each of The Summit League Championships.

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