Yesterday afternoon was beautiful, shirtsleeve and shorts weather in El Paso. That is what many wore to the soccer match, last night. That was a mistake. Although the temperature was just below 70 degrees, the steady 25 mile per hour wind made it feel much, much colder. The wind played a big role in the final score of the game, a 6-3 win for the Miners. As Coach Cross said, there’s a reason they have that coin flip before the match.
The wind was blowing directly into the south goal, the Houston goal that first half. The Miners, along with the help of the wind, were able to keep most of the play in the Houston end of the pitch. Goal kicks from the Houston goalkeeper were rather comical. I joked that one would eventually come back and score on her, and one almost did. She would kick the ball, the wind would catch it, stop it, and bend it right back at her. One of them nearly bounced over her head, while she was standing three or four feet to the left of her own goal, just on line with her goal. Kicks with the wind were like cannon shots. Kicks across the field were almost impossible to control if they got up into the wind. Kicks directly into the wind behaved much like a Frisbee.
Everyone was miserably cold. Players and fans. The soccer players would spend ten minutes trying to warm up before being substituted into the game. Players coming off the field would get hooded warmups on and huddle together with other players for warmth.
Six minutes into the match Tess Hall made a high, arcing pass that Azia Nicholson headed back toward the left post to a waiting Brittany Kindzierski, who sent the ball into the net.
The Miners attacked constantly, keeping the pressure on the Houston defense. Tori Martyn blasted a shot the missed by inches, just to the left of the goal.
With just over twenty-four minutes left in the first half, Tess Hall sent a corner kick bending into the players in front of the goal, and the ball rolled to the back of the net past a diving Cougar goalkeeper.. The Miners celebrated, but those of us on the sidelines couldn’t say who had scored. I thought it had gone off of Lauren Katada, one official said he believed it was an own goal off of a Houston player, and another said he thought it was simply bent in by Hall, herself. Officially, that how it was scored.
Less than two minutes went by, and Tess Hall sent a cross to Katie Dorman, who drilled it past the Houston goalkeeper, and the Miners were up 3-0 on the Cougars.
Dorman just missed another shot to the right of the goal. With 13:32 left in the first half Dorman drew the defense to her and sent a pass to Kindzierski, who put the shot home.
The half came to a close with the Miners leading 4-0, and the Cougars looking for cover. No, seriously, the Cougars assistant coach was looking for shelter from the wind and the cold for his players. He asked if they could go into the equipment storage shed, and was given permission. The shed may have been a safe haven to allow his players to recover from their shell-shocked first half of the Miners pummeling attack, too.
He had to be telling them to hang in there, that the second half would be played with the wind at their backs. Down four to nil, it may have been been an easier sell, had his players been able to think about taking the field on a nice day. But, being down four goals, having to leave the shelter of the shed to go back out into the cold and wind, most likely took all of the courage the Houston girls could muster.
In the second half, the wind was to the Cougars advantage. But, it was the Miners who struck first, anyway. Ten minutes in, Lauren Katada took a pass from Tori Martyn at midfield, and streaking into Houston’s side, blowing past her defender blasted the ball past Houston’s goalkeeper.
The Miners weren’t done, yet. Brittany Kindzierski took the ball, and working her way past and through the Cougar’s defenders, rifled the ball into the net.
With a 6-0 lead, and the cold and wind in their faces, the Miners may have taken their foot off the pedal, mentally speaking. With 18:49 left in the match, Houston finally got onto the scoreboard, and in the final few minutes, the Cougars added two more but by then the game had already been decided. Both teams just wanted to get in doors, and warmed up.
The weather was a huge factor, but in the end, it was the Miners’ will to win that was the deciding factor. When the girls are on their own grass, they are practically unbeatable. Well, this season, they are unbeaten at home. They will have another chance to stretch their home win streak on Sunday, when they will take on the Rice Owls at 1:00 PM.