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.