I’ve been part of an underdog team that’s defied the odds. In 2009, Sky Blue F.C. was the fourth and final team to make the playoffs in the first season of Women’s Professional Soccer. We went on to beat three teams that we had not beaten in the regular season and won the inaugural championship. For the majority of this season, the Western New York Flash has been at the top of the table. With our most recent win against the Atlanta Beat, we secured the regular-season title.
Two completely different feelings. Both equally thrilling.
It’s interesting to examine what makes up a winning team. I’ve been fortunate to be on many strong teams and have won various tournaments and championships over the years. Each time, the experience has been different, but there is always an intangible and exciting aura surrounding a team that wins.
Obviously, talent is essential. Every W.P.S. team is stacked with superstars, though. So what happened between the Western New York Flash establishing goals in preseason (win the league, outscore every team, concede fewer goals than any team) and actually going on to achieve those goals months later? Does it come down to the coach imposing a certain style of play? Team chemistry? A 9-year-old Flash fan asking her Magic 8 Ball if we would win the championship and it saying, Yes? I wish I knew.
The other night, as the final whistle blew, signifying our official first-place finish, the played hugged and congratulated one another. Most of us were thinking ahead to the championship game that we will now host. We have a roster of women who, although humble and hungry for victory, you may expect to be jaded by winning.
After all, two of our players have won all three regular-season W.P.S. championships (Marta and Brittany Cameron, playing for the L.A. Sol, F.C. Gold Pride and now W.N.Y. Flash). Eight players on our roster have previously been W.P.S. champions. Four of us have won N.C.A.A. championships. And we have World Cup and Olympic finalists.
As we walked off the field after the game against Atlanta, though, I noticed that one of my teammates was jumping higher and yelling more enthusiastically than the rest. Beverly Goebel was absolutely elated. She told us later, “This is the first thing I’ve ever won.”
In an instant, it was all put into perspective. This season is not just another win on a list. It is an amazing accomplishment, for so many reasons.
For Bev, it is the first of what will hopefully be a long career filled with many big wins. For many of us, it is our first regular-season W.P.S. title. And a record of 13-2-3 in a league with this type of parity is astonishing. Yes, I could examine in detail how and why it all turned out the way it did. But there is no one formula, and every time it is just as extraordinary. Bev’s celebration was a wonderful reminder to take nothing for granted. And our quest is not over yet: we have one more big game, on Aug. 27, when we will host the W.P.S. championship at Sahlen’s Stadium in Rochester.
And on that day, we all hope to be jumping just as high as Bev Goebel!
P.S.: I do appreciate the reaction I received via twitter (@yael_averbuch) when I asked for topic ideas for this blog. Not only is my writing aimed to organize and explore my own thoughts, but it is a way to let you in on what my life is all about. I’m eager to tell you what interests you have about me, my teammates, my views on being a professional player, and striving for success.