Saturday, February 02, 2008

Friday Night Under the Lights

Last night Carol and I went to Milander Stadium to watch the girls soccer team from Miami Springs Senior High play Lourdes in the Class 6A Regional Tournament. Last year Springs lost a heartbreaker to Lourdes in the same tournament when Lourdes tied them in the waning minutes of the game and then beat them on penalty kicks. But last night, Springs blasted Lourdes 3-0, two of the scores being made by Abby Carr, my friend Austin's younger daughter.

This is the first time I had seen Abby play, but through Austin, the community newspaper, the Miami Herald and word of mouth from others, I have been following her soccer career for several years. Only a sophomore and actually a year younger than her grade level, she has already achieved recognition county and state-wide as an outstanding soccer player. Last year she was All-Dade, first team - as a freshman. So last night I got a chance to see her.

Amazing. I wish I had the knowledge of soccer to be able to describe what I saw accurately, but I'll do the best I can.

The first thing I noticed about her is her field presence. She doesn't seem to spend any unnecessary energy. From her position as a forward, she seems to know just where to be on the field and moves there quietly and efficiently, watching the play intently. Then quickly she moves to the point where she thinks the ball will travel, and usually gets control of the ball and takes it or sends it where she wants it to go a good part of the time. And she moves with remarkable fluidity and grace, again with evident purpose, intelligently.

Her first score came off a foul committed against her as she was driving toward the goal. Her penalty kick sailed over the heads of the wall and then the goalie: a perfect arc into the net. The second kick was a free kick from the edge of the penalty box. As Abby again drove for a score, the goalie dove for the ball right at the edge of the penalty box, and as the goalie fell, taking Abby down with her, the goalie touched the ball with her hand just outside the box, so it was a hand ball.

It must have seemed to the Lourdes players that what followed would be a penalty kick, but it was a free kick. In other words, the refs would not stop the action until the defense got into position as the refs would do on a penalty kick. Maybe it looked like a penalty to the Lourdes players. But Abby astutely and immediately put the ball right down on the ground and kicked it into the goal. The Lourdes team was scattered all over the field and wasn't ready. Shame on them, but it reflected the sort of smart move that characterizes Abby's play.

That second goal broke the back of the other side - the third point scored by the daughter of the Miami Springs Mayor was very near the end of the game and icing on the cake. Abby had a number of other shots on goal that showed her quickness and phenomenal accuracy.

Carol and I sat with Austin in the stands. The first half of the game, we were on the Lourdes side, because it put us at the end of the field where Abby was playing. Behind us were several men, watching the game and commenting, Lourdes fans. They started talking about Abby's play not long after the game started - she was playing right in front of us there. And their remarks were full of respect and admiration. The three of us heard those remarks of course. What a joy the whole thing must be for Austin.

It was fun to be at Milander Stadium again. This is the field for Hialeah High School, my alma matter (Class of '64), and I saw a bunch of high school games there. This also the home field for Miami Springs Senior High, so we saw many more football games there, as our children moved through that school. (But never soccer games, curiously.) Milander looks much the same, except the field is now some sort of astroturf. Austin said that the ball rolls faster of that surface.

It didn't seem to bother Abby.

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