The Historic APAC Girls Soccer Team

The best performances on the field never actually start when a team steps on to the field. They start long before that moment. They start the instant that a team decides who it wants to become. For this year’s historic Varsity Girls Soccer team, that moment came two years ago. The  team was having a team meeting. They sat in a room strung with posters. Each poster had statements written on them such as, “We can compete for a championship” and “Other APAC teams take us seriously.” On each paper the players placed different colored sticky notes depending on how much they agreed with the statement. Red was for “disagree,” yellow was for “kind of disagree” and green was for “definitely agree.” The posters were full of yellow and red stickers.  Just two years earlier the team had finished playing in an APAC tournament where they not only didn’t win a game but they didn’t score a single goal. Other teams didn’t take UNIS Hanoi seriously. Why would they? UNIS Hanoi themselves didn’t think they could compete at APAC.

But in that moment, in that meeting the girls looked around the room and decided they wanted to change all that.  They no longer wanted to play in scoreless APAC tournaments where no one feared them. They wanted to compete. So they began the long hard process of reaching their goals. The girls committed to training all off season, improving their skills, mentoring younger players, watching game film, eating healthy and staying fit. During the season they continued their hard work and dedication giving up Saturdays for runs in Soc Son, evenings to study game tape, afternoons and spring break for extra practices. By April 11, when the girls arrived in Hong Kong for the APAC tournament, they were ready.

The first game was against Seoul Foreign School. UNIS Hanoi got off to a good start by playing to their strengths. They played possession style football looking for triangles and passing opportunities from the defense through the midfield. Then maintaining possession by putting relentless high pressure on the opposing defense to create scoring opportunities. UNIS Hanoi scored their first and second goals on such pressure. The first was off a cross from Natalie that Josefine raced to and struck into the goal. The second was after the strikers pressured a defender into desperately trying to clear the ball only to find Uyen racing in to head the ball into the back of the net.

The second game of the day against Hong Kong International School proved a difficult one for UNIS Hanoi.  Just before halftime, starting center back Phoebe broke her arm and Phuong the other starting center back injured her ankle. Without the heart of it’s defense UNIS Hanoi quickly found themselves down 3-0. But through pure team play and determination, they came back to score two goals one by Natalie and the other by a combined play from Irma and Ines. The game ended 3-2.

The next day UNIS Hanoi needed a win against Canadian Academy and Shanghai American School if they wanted to keep their chances of going to the championship alive. It wouldn’t be easy without their two starting center backs. Co May and Sian stepped up and took over as center backs for the day and they played magnificently. Through brilliant team defense, UNIS Hanoi held both teams scoreless and got two 1-0 wins off of scores from So Eun and Uyen.

On the final day of competition UNIS Hanoi found themselves in a position to make the final if they could get either a tie or a win in their game against Western Academy of Beijing (WAB). Phuong was now healthy enough to play. UNIS Hanoi was warned by other teams that they might get muscled off the ball.  But UNIS Hanoi would have none of that. They matched the physical toughness and speed of WAB by playing tough and fast on their own. The game got off to a scary start when WAB scored an early goal and went up 1-0. But UNIS Hanoi didn’t stop believing in themselves and just before the half, Irma found the ball on the edge of the box and shot it past the goalkeeper to tie the game at 1-1. UNIS Hanoi held strong for the next 35 minutes and pulled out the tie that they needed to guarantee their spot in the championship game.  As the final whistle blew the players swarmed the field hugging each other in recognition of what they had just accomplished. They had just become the first ever women’s team of any sport at UNIS Hanoi to make an APAC championship game.

The final pittited UNIS vs. the host school HKIS, who most teams had said was unbeatable.  But if there was one team at the tournament not afraid of HKIS, it was UNIS Hanoi. That was because UNIS Hanoi knew just how good their own team was.  The game was a hard fought, physical battle with neither team giving any balls away easily. HKIS scored off an impressive shot before halftime to go up 1-0. UNIS Hanoi played strong and physical and had their chances but ultimately was not able to score an equalizer. They lost 1-0.

In the end the UNIS Hanoi girls did not win the championship but they accomplished the goals that they set out for themselves that day two years ago. They became the team that everyone took seriously and the team proved to themselves just how much they are capable of.

Amazing job girls. You are legends.

A special congratulations to the seniors: Phoebe, Ines Vi, Irma, Phuong, Uyen and Thanh.  What a legacy you have created.

Coach Mindy and Coach Wiggins

MRISA Girls Soccer: A Journey to Victory

From the first day of the season until the end, MRISA Girls soccer team has worked extremely hard as one unit out on the field. The long lasting journey to our victory in the MRISA tournament was not an easy one; it was filled with sweat and tears that all came together in the end, resulting in a great achievement. The team traveled to Vientiane International School in Laos from the 20th of February to the 24th, and came back home with a gold medal of pride and dedication around each of our necks.

The season started off with our strong leaders; Misaki and Sophia as captains, and our coach, Coach Coleman, having our backs throughout our journey no matter what. Our team had 4 returners; the captains, Ngoc, and Caitlin, and 8 players who were new to MRISA Soccer – Abi, Beeke, Elione, Jada, Kim, Lily, Michelle, Ngoc, and Saki.

The first few practices didn’t quite meet our expectations, as we were all still new to playing in this team. As time went by and we started to improve, we grew not only as individual players but also came together as one team. With multiple repetitions of the same drills; passing and moving to space, shooting off a pass, and ball controlling footwork, our dedication towards the sport never stopped.

All those practices continued with countless numbers of sprints, burpees, lunges, and strength-agility training. The circuit workout that we included in a couple of our practices helped us immensely during games by emphasizing on endurance, flexibility, and speed. Even during school holidays, our team would encourage each other to stay in shape and exercise regularly.

On January 19th, our team participated in the Hanoi Athletic Conference (HAC) Tournament. Returning with a first place trophy, for both the girls and the boys’ team, we knew that we were ready for the challenge we were about to face; MRISA Junior Soccer tournament in Vientiane International School. We were all nervous. We were all anxious. But none of those feelings stopped the fire of determination burning inside us; because most of all, we were ready to win.

Arriving in Laos, our whole team was exhausted from the delayed flight and lack of sleep. However, we knew nothing could stop us, even the stifling atmosphere since this was part of what we had to fight against; and part of what we’ve been working towards.

Our first game started at 8:30 am, playing against the Saigon South International School (SSIS). With a very close game winning 1-0 and beautiful passing by midfielders Misaki, Sophia, Caitlin and Ngoc, we were now facing one of our biggest competition; Vientiane International School, the host school of the tournament. Seeing the signs and hearing the chants of supporters all rooting for VIS, this game might’ve been one of our toughest challenges. With our careful passes and communication that we’ve been establishing throughout the season, after two long 20 minute halves, we were able to beat the team by 1-0 after a top left corner shot by Caitlin. With a mixed emotion of relief and excitement, we were now against the International School of Phnom Penh (ISPP), one of our strongest opponents. Thanks to our teamwork, Abi and Lily’s speed in the midfield to keep the ball away from our goal, and coach’s guidance, we beat them by 3-1. After a long day of playing 3 games, we were ready for whatever the second day had to bring.

We were off to a great start for day 2, winning our first game against Hanoi International School (HIS) by 2-0. This is the game when our strong defenders Michelle, Saki, Beeke, and Elione really started to blend with the offense to not only keep the ball out of our goal area, but also set up attacks on goal. After beating the ISPP-B team by 4-0 and Ngoc adding her first goal to the mix, we were now first seed after the round robin. We went into the third and final day of the tournament, undefeated.

Our opponent for the semifinals game was SSIS. We were all dripping in sweat already in the first 10 minutes, with blinding sunlight directly in our eyes. Even after the third quarter, the scoreboard showed the point of 0-0, haunting us with nervousness. Both teams were eager to advance into the finals. We had to show that UNIS Ha Noi girls wanted it more. With 2 seconds remaining in the game, our last, fading hope was now shining towards us when we got a free kick due to the handball of the other team. Each one of us praying and waiting for our hope to be turned into a reality, after the sound of the referee’s whistle, Sophia took the shot. The strong shot went right into the goal, and the buzzer telling us that the game ended was also a sign that we were now in the finals.

Right before our finals, our coach called us all for our last huddle. “I’ve never coached a team this supportive, committed, intelligent, and bring the best out of each other. I love being your coach.” With the emotional words from our coach, as we all held back our tears we screamed, “Phoenix on 3! 1, 2, 3, Phoenix!”

We were now off in the field, playing our last ever game of the season. Everything we’ve worked on throughout this season was for this moment. We were all sprinting, calling for passes, defending our goal, and just giving our best out there. With Sophia’s early shot and our great midfield plays, we were leading the game with 1-0. Thanks to our great defenders always stealing the ball and our amazing goalie, Jada, blocking every single shot in the game including a late penalty that could have sent us into golden goal overtime, being the MRISA champion was now an attainable dream. After the second half when the buzzer went on telling us the game ended, we all ran up to each other hugging and screaming, “We won! We did it! We’re the champions!”

Thanks to each one of our hard work and commitment towards the team, and most importantly, our coach’s dedication to improving us as a team, we were able to get to where we are right now. Our victory was not only represented by the gold medal, but also as a sense of achievement and teamwork.

MRISA MS Boys Football Season Wrap-Up

With four returning players from last year’s team, and seven new players,  the team quickly got to know each other, on and off the field, and developed a strong and energetic team spirit.  This positive spirit was a real highlight of the season and the cornerstone of a fantastic season which saw us come first in the Hanoi Activities Conference (HAC) and second place at the MRISA tournament held in Vientiane Laos last weekend.

During the season, they qualified for the finals day of the HAC season, where they defeated BIS, BVIS and St Paul’s American School on the way to claiming the HAC title. Special mention for Segdae, Dafydd, Aoi and Nam for superb performances.

Our MIRSA tournament was very enjoyable, we were hosted by students at Vientiane International School and players were able to renew old friendships. The relationships and connections that are created between players of different schools is very special and a very valuable part of the experience for our students.

With temperatures between 35-38 degrees celcius in Vientiane, it was hot going and hydration and cooling down were crucial parts of our preparation.  We won all 5 of our round robin games with special mention to August, Harald and Tyson for outstanding performances that showed a lot of dedication and enormous improvement during the season. UNIS Ha Noi played quality passing football and scored 22 goals and conceded 0 leading into the finals day. Nico, Julius and Aoi contributed very well to the team and also had stand out performances.

After defeating ISPP in the semi final we prepared for the final against SSIS at 15.30 in the heat of the day. Unfortunately it wasn’t to be and after a scoreless game we went into Golden goal extra time. SSIS played really well and score a long range goal which ended the final immediately and we had to settle for 2nd place.  We learnt a lot from the tournament and experiences throughout the season and built a terrific camaraderie which the players should be very proud of.

Rory and Ruben were named in the tournament All Star team which was well deserved after and outstanding tournament where they showed they have a very high level of football skill and awareness.