November 11, 2014

My Championship Experience - 2014 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.

Hello and welcome to the 2014 Summit League Women’s Soccer Championships! My name is Samantha Harder and I have the pleasure of recording my experiences throughout the duration of this year’s tournament.  I am a senior defender and I have to honor of playing for the University of Denver.  This is my fourth conference tournament, my second Summit League Tournament.

This year at the tournament my team will be joined by South Dakota State, North Dakota State, and IUPUI.

Today was our last prep day before the tournament begins and we are all very excited.  This morning we trained at our normal time making some final preparations and working out some kinks before the tournament begins tomorrow.  Training was good and the energy was high, as the team is getting very excited for the chance to defend the title that we won last year.  In addition to training and classes, we had the conference banquet this evening in which they announced the awards for the year and we enjoyed each other’s company and a delicious dinner of pasta, salad, and chicken, the perfect pregame meal!  After the awards were announced and the speeches were given we all went our separate ways and began physically and mentally preparing for the games ahead, starting with getting a good night’s sleep.  Congratulations to South Dakota State on winning the regular season championship, as well as a big congrats to all the players and coaches who received awards.  Good night and good luck to all!

Waking up knowing it’s game day is quite possibly the best feeling in the world.  This morning we had team breakfast in the locker room and sat around and chatted for a while about the excitement of the game before people headed off to their first and only classes of the day.  Because we are at home our preparations are a little bit different than they would be on the road.  When classes were finished at noon we had a cardio spike, just a way for us to get our legs moving and our hearts pumping to help prepare our bodies for the big game.  Following the cardio spike, we enjoyed a wonderful team lunch at Mod Market just down the road from campus and then we all went on our way to get some pregame naps in.  Upon arriving to the locker room for pregame routines and prep, we all changed into our warm up gear and began listening to music to get us pumped up. We engaged in our traditional pregame dance party and before we knew it, it was ready to head out to the field and begin warming up.  Excited to play, we all were anxious to hear the starting lineups.  The game began and was a battle from the very first whistle; neither team was able to find the breakthrough and we went into the locker room 0-0 at halftime.  We heard from our coaches on what we needed to fix and headed back out excited to find a way to win the game.  The game continued and we ended up winning 1-0 off a goal from one of the sophomores on our team.  We were going to the championship!! 

Additionally today, North Dakota State and South Dakota State battled hard and South Dakota State ended up coming out on top with a 2-1 win.  I didn’t get to see the game but from what I heard it was a great game to watch! 

The day after a game is never easy to wake up on.  But feeling fatigued and sore didn’t bother us much because we were still very excited to be moving on to the championship game.  We all enjoyed some down time on our own and had to report to training at 1:45 p.m.  Training was light as it was focused on regeneration and just staying mentally sharp for the game tomorrow.  Following our afternoon practice we had a wonderful team dinner at the great restaurant called Steakhouse 10 in Denver.  It was delicious and great spending time with the team.  After dinner, it was time to head home and get some sleep.  After all, we have a rather big game to play tomorrow!

Championship Game Day!

The excitement on a day like this is incredible.  We all had breakfast on our own and spent some time getting our minds right and focused for the war ahead.  As we reported to the Ritchie Center at school to begin our pregame prep including rolling out and getting treatment the nerves began to set in, as we all knew what was at stake today.  We were playing for the right to play again.  The game began and our energy was flying.  Both teams came out strong but we were able to find the back of the net about halfway through the first half off a corner kick and header from the same teammate who scored in the first game of the weekend!  She was on fire and we were all excited!  We went into the locker room at half time and again heard from our coaches.  They were very pleased with how we were playing and we all agreed our focus needed to be on defense from this point on; if we didn’t give up a goal we would win the game.  We thought we were on our way to being crowned back-to-back Summit League Champions as the clock was winding down but with 31 seconds remaining South Dakota State tied it up and the game changed.  We went into overtime and double overtime and neither team could find the breakthrough, so the game would be decided by a penalty shootout.  Unfortunately for us, SDSU’s goalkeeper saved our first PK while they scored theirs.  We went back and forth until our goalie came up with a huge save in the third round and we were tied back up.  It went into sudden death; the first team to miss would lose.  Again SDSU’s goalie made a save on the sixth round and then they scored their 6th round shot.  That was it, the game was over and we had lost.  With our hearts broken and our season over we had to congratulate SDSU on a good game and battling until the very last whistle. 

Coming away from this bittersweet weekend it was a great experience and we are so thankful to have had to opportunity to get to play two more home games this year.  On behalf of my whole team and the University of Denver we would like to thank all of the teams for coming out and helping make this tournament so successful.  Best of luck to South Dakota State as they represent The Summit League in the NCAA Tournament. 

Don’t forget to check out the next edition of My Championship Experience as it follows the Men’s Soccer Championship, Nov. 13/15 and throughout the 2014-15 season for coverage at each of The Summit League Championships.

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