Football 1:50:00 
Sectional semifinal, away again Eau Claire Memorial. They beat us the first time 4-0. They beat us the second time 3-1. But this was a different time they were going to face to day, in mind and spirit. Our bus was a little late, and at practice yesterday we felt a little flat, but as we warmed up with was obvious that we were ready to play.
The stands were full. Granted, most of them were ECM fans and parents, but Hudson had stocked up a comparable squad of fans. The crowd was arguably the biggest crowd I've played for, it was great. Their parents were roos, but you just expect that at this point.
The first half was difficult. They had the better of the play, and they possessed it patiently before launching an attack. They weren't clicking, and the ball remained outside of our net. That's not to say they were dominant. For every two or three decent chances they had, we would have a phenomenal chance. I got a left foot volley off in the box, but the keeper was just ready for it. They were playing dirty and got a yellow card in the first half. The half just flew byz and we were suddenly at half time. The scores were level, but a single mistake would tip the scales. Our half time talk is pretty enthusiastic, we're playing well and they're getting visibly frustrated.
The second half begins. We have the best of it, by far. We launch attack after attack, pinning them mercilessly in their half. The ref is making all sorts of shenanigans. They're keeper makes a mistake and physically tries to stop Paul from getting to the ball by tackling him. For some reason no foul, no penalty. Later there was a dangerous play in the box, but instead of giving us a penalty, we get an indirect free kick in the box. Kolton gets taken down two feet into the box but the ref insisted it was just outside of it. I don't know what it was, but this guy really didn't want to give us the penalty. Maybe he didn't want to influence the game in a major way with a penalty call, but that doesn't come close to justifying it.
It's the 82nd minute. Eau Claire has the ball on the right wing, but they don't look very sure about what to do with it. The winger settled on a cross and launched one in. It was a poor cross, but it deflected off of Santi, who was trying to block the cross from about a foot away. The ball spins off him and starts curving towards the net. The defense isn't prepared for it, their forward runs in and nods it with his head, and it's in our bottom left corner.
Our heads dropped for a millisecond, but then we were roaring. Every play was in our favor. We sent in cross after through ball after cross, looking for an equaliser that would save our season. We get more and more free kicks as Eau Claire throws their bodies at us, but the elusive penalty continues to escape us at the hands of the hesitant ref.
85th minute. They come forward through our midfield, but we step in their way and take back the ball. We launch the ball down the left wing, where Santi is waiting without a defender on him. He takes a touch, cuts it back, and, I swear for the first time ever in his life, crossed it. He crossed when our game depended on it. Despite never crossing before all season, there it was, in all its rate glory. Paul runs in at a slant, tries to kick it, misses, it hits his knee, pops over the keeper, and...
The Hudson crowd erupts, just as loud as the Eau Claire dans were three minutes ago. They are not to be outdone.
The game is on. Eau Claire thought they were going to come out of this game just like they had come out of the last onesz but we were putting up a fight, a real fight. We continued to dominate, launching balls and free kicks for what seemed like ages, but the goal never came. 90 minutes came to an end, and we were on to extra time.
Extra time was two halves, ten minutes each, before penalties. We've been spending 10 minutes every day to practice penalties, and we were ready to pay back to Memorial what they deserved. We were going to take this game to the bloody end and put everything into it.
The first 10 minutes were nothing special, but one event stuck out. One play, while Kolton was attacking, their center back punched him in the throat to keep him from getting past. What a nice guy, right? He gets a yellow card...a second one. He's out of the game without a replacement, and this is a juicy chance to take the game by the horns.
Second half is full of spirit, we're all playing our hearts out. We get the majority of the chances, but they are possessing when they can and getting s fair share of crosses.
You must be wondering how this is gonna go. They have a red, but they've won the last two games against us. Our we, technically the underdogs but we've been anything but so far, going to take this goal, or are the villainous fiends of Eau Claire going to take this? It all came down to a single mistake.
A player has the ball. He just stole it and his heading backwards towards his right back, but he is under heavy pressure from the defending team. He looks across to his right for an escape pass, and he locates one.
That's what he thought.
It was a blunder, the ball flies at the player's defence and they scramble to react to the disaster of a ball. The attacking player snatches it out of the air, pokes it past a defender, sees the goalkeeper coming out, and hammers it right into the back of the net. Half the stands erupt, and the defending team is left with their mouths agape.
This is not how we are going to end the season. We did not fight tooth and nail for 110 minutes to go home, especially not against this team. We were playing better, and the slightest mistake had out us behind. The score did not reflect the play, and we were going to get one back.
We launch balls at them. Ball after ball. They're not even pressing anymore, not a single one of their players on 2/3 of the field. They don't care how ugly it looks, they are playing defense. They don't try to attack. If they get the ball, they kick it to our goal line and to the side. If they get free kicks or goal kicks, they are gonna spend 30 seconds pretending they're stupid to run down the time.
It works. We don't go to penalties. We lose 2-1. In the dumbest of all possible ways, our season is over. All it took was our player not making a dumb pass towards the center of our defense. It was a gift. It didn't help that we missed an indirect free kick, we didn't get any penalties, we couldn't convert free kicks...
It just didn't happen. It didn't work out. 110 minutes down the drain because of a silly mistake...
I hope you all enjoy this story. It was extremely intense in person, and I did my best to portray that intensity through writing. I'm on the bus back, just trying to keep my mind off the total devastation. Everyone is quiet. We're done. We're not playing together, at least not the seniors, ever again. At least not this group.
My focus is now on the running and orienteering season. It sucked. There are a few regrets. But things don't end with the soccer season. I need a fluid transition to prepare for upcoming orienteering events and general running routine. I'll probably take the next few days off to fully recover, I feel a little bit of wear and tear from the duration of the soccer season, I want that stuff to heal properly. Monday sounds like a good start day. Maybe short runs or biking this weekend to not be a total lazy idiot.
There's still like twenty minutes on this bus ride I can't write forever.