Monday, October 8, 2012

“It ain’t over till it’s over.”

Saturday we traveled to Jyvaskyla for our last away game of the season. We started the scoring off fast with a goal from Jenna with less than a minute played in the game.  Brooke found Jenna free just inside the box and she slotted the ball by the keeper for the 1-0 lead. Five minutes later we scored again, when Jennie threw the ball into Brooke, she turned beat two defenders and finished nicely. Fifteen minutes in we went up 3-0 after Jenna played Tess through on a breakaway. Brooke challenged in the box and was taken down. The ref gave us a penalty kick and Brooke finished it. We went into the halftime leading 4-0. Jypk still continued to fight and in the second half held us to only one goal in the 90th minute. Tiia subbed in and within a minute scored off a cross from Tess. We are still tied for first with Merilappi going into the final game of the season. They hold 3 goals on us and potentially it could come down to goal differential if we are both to win on Saturday. These are the kind of games you want to play in. With all the excitement building up, I am ready to play and know that the rest of the team is ready as well. We will leave everything on the field on Saturday and we know what we need to do.

Other things in Kokkola.. With the season wrapping up and only one week left I have started to pack up. It is bittersweet, after being here for six months I am so excited to get back home but I know I will miss things here as well. This past week Brooke and I visited with Katja’s class at the English immersion school here in Kokkola. The kids were so cute and it’s amazing how good their English is already. We got to take part in music class and sing along to a lot of the songs we sang in school as kids. The past two weekends I have spent a lot of time at the Astrom’s house. Ebba and I made and finished our own homemade one pieces. They came out great and Ebba and Katja were awesome coaches since my sewing skills were at a minimum. Sunday the family had Brooke, Monica and I over for a nice lunch and some quality time. Now it’s back to training for the week to prepare us for the game Saturday.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

“The past is behind, learn from it. The future is ahead, prepare for it. The present is here, live it.”

Two weekends ago Brooke I decided to take a last minute trip to Edinburgh, Scotland for our weekend off. The Astrom’s were nice enough to let us borrow the car and we were off. Since we booked a discount flight with Ryanair we had to drive 4 hours to the airport they fly out of. We managed to find our way there without any problems. Edinburgh is a beautiful city with a breathtaking landscape. We were only there 3 days but we were able to squeeze in as much as we could. When we first arrived we checked into our hostel. Brooke and I had never stayed in one so we were a bit unsure of what to expect. We stayed in an all girl’s room with ten other people and had no problems. I was impressed with my hostel experience and would definitely stay in one again.

We decided to waste no time and ventured out to see what was around. We quickly realized Edinburgh was a pretty small city and we were able to navigate around quite easily. We took a tour of Edinburgh Castle, walked the Royal Mile, climbed the 287 steps of the Scott Monument, visited St. Giles Cathedral, Museum of Scotland, Gallery of Scotland, Holyrood Palace, House of Parliament, the Royal Botanic garden and hiked Arthur’s seat. The hike was pretty neat and only took us about 35 minutes to the top. You had a panoramic view of the city and it was incredible. We were able to enjoy ourselves and get our minds off Kokkola for a few days, but come Monday we were focused and eager to continue our season.

Saturday we traveled to Vantaa by train to play against VJS. It’s a team we hadn’t seen yet this season but we were ready for the match. The field was in pretty bad condition as it had been raining quite a bit. We started the game out strong and scored already in the 2nd minute. Jonna played Tess through on a breakaway that she finished. Ten minutes later Jonna beat her player wide and lofted the ball far post over the keepers reach. Right before the half Tess was able to score her 2nd of the match to put us up 3-0 going into the locker rooms.
In the second half VJS got a little stronger but we were able to hold them off well. We created chances and finished the game 5-0 off two goals from Brooke. We now sit in first place but are trailed by Merilappi who are only 3 points behind and have 1 more game to play than us. We need to continue to take it one day at a time and we will become closer and closer to our goal. We have this weekend off due the Finnish cup Finals and we continue play on October 6th, when we travel to Jyvaskyla to play JYPK.  Everyone is focused and continues to work hard day in and day out. Our time here in Finland is coming quickly to an end and while I will miss the time here I am excited to get back to see all of my family and friends at home!

Sunday, September 9, 2012

It's about being better than you were the day before..

Yesterday we played a home game against Kuusysi. They finished in first place in the southern division and it was our first time playing them this season. We were well prepared for the game and knew the circumstances. There is only 3 games left of the series and we needed the 3 points in order to continue to be in control of our future. We came away with a 3-0 victory and are back at the top the table. 
The game started off with Kuusysi controlling the play for the first few minutes. Only about five minutes in we regained our composure and took control of the game. The turf was very slippery and some great balls ran a little further than they would have, but we were creating some good chances and making the runs. About 30 minutes in Tess headed home a corner kick from Olga. We went into halftime leading 1-0. We knew Kuusysi was going to come out hard and we needed to be ready to raise our level. In the second half we controlled most of the play. We created a few chances that we were unable to capitalize on. In the 65th minute we had another corner kick. Olga played it short to Linda who found Tess wide open on the back post. She tapped it in off the post for us to lead 2-0. Kuusysi put a bit more pressure forward and our defense did a good job to keep them from creating any real dangerous situations. 3-0 came in the 85th minute when Jenni played Brooke in free off a long throw in. Brooke beat the keeper and then a defender to slot home. We pressured well all over the field and defensively our communication improved. We now have 2 weeks off of games before traveling to Helsinki to play VJS. In training we will focus on our next game and continue to work towards reaching our goal. There are only three games remaining and we have just 36 days left in Kokkola (if anyone was counting). It’s crazy how fast the time has gone and I look forward to our last few games.

Monday, September 3, 2012

Taking it one day, one game at a time..

London was an amazing trip! Brooke, Monica, Krista and I were able to go to London for the Olympics. When we first got there we headed out to look for somewhere to watch the US Canada Women’s semifinals soccer game. We ended up at a pub in Camden Town. The game was crazy and we were freaking out, since we already had tickets to the finals and were hoping the US would be in it. They ended up winning the game in a dramatic fashion. The next day we got up and went to do some sightseeing around the city. We saw the normal touristy stuff.. Big Ben, London Eye, Tower Bridge, and Buckingham Palace, and I had my first taste of the infamous fish and chips. Wednesday we headed down to Oxford Circus and Piccadilly Circus to do some shopping and just walk around taking everything in. Wednesday night we went to one of the Olympic viewing parties to catch a few of the events on the big screens.

Thursday was game day. We got up early in hopes to go walk around the Olympic Park before the game started. Unfortunately we were unable to get in since our venue (Wembley) was not inside the Park. Instead we went and met up with Ruben, a friend of mine from college who was representing Cape Verde in Athletics at the Olympics. Since he hadn’t been able to explore London at all yet we took him to Camden Town. I would refer to Camden Town as a mini New York City, all little vendors and food stands. We settled for some pizza and just relaxed. It was starting to get late so we parted ways and Brooke Krista and I headed towards Wembley. We got there pretty early and were able to watch the warm ups from the first row behind the US. It was pretty neat to see what they did and how they prepared for the game. When the game started the crowd was indescribable, over 80,000 fans, an Olympic women’s soccer record, going crazy. Our seats were behind the corner flag about 20 rows up and we had a good view of the field. The game was back and forth and hats off to Japan who at times looked even better then the US. Both teams created chances and it was an exciting game to watch. Although I’m not a huge Hope Solo fan (like Krista) I think she showed that she is the best GK in the world. After the game we stuck around for a little while in hopes for Krista to get Solo’s autograph. We ended up waiting at the wrong gate. A security man was yelling to us saying the bus was waiting and he could take us. We just thought he was being nice and started running off with him. It wasn’t until we were almost there that he walkie talkied to the bus saying he had 3 of the players and we would be there in a minute for the bus to stay. Brooke and I got nervous and babied out before we actually got put on the bus. It would have been pretty funny to see people’s reactions as us three walked on the bus. We got to see a couple of the players get on the bus but we missed the chance for autographs. All in all it was an amazing experience and we had a great time.

Our first game of our seven game playoff was against F.C  Sport. We were familiar with the way they play as they came from our series and we faced them two times already. We were able to get the three points in a hard fought match which we were able to come from behind twice to win 3-2. The nerves were visible and it was something we talked about moving forward.

The second game we traveled to Turku to play against a new side TuWe. We took the train and it was about a 5 hour travel. The game started and we created many quality chances. TuWe was also able to put on some pressure but our defense did a great job containing them. In the first half we were able to convert a penalty kick to put us up 1-0. In the second half TuWe scored to tie it up and the game finished 1-1. We were unable to convert many chances but that sometimes that’s the game.

Yesterday we had a game against Merilappi. We knew it wouldn’t be an easy game as it was our third time playing against them this season. We are both in the same position in the table and are ultimately striving to reach the same goal. The game started off with both teams applying pressure. It was a physical game with many individual battles throughout. We got on the scoreboard first in the 15th minute. Linda played a perfect ball through to Tess and she was able to place the ball by the keeper. Going into the half we were leading 1-0. The second half started and we were able to put more pressure on their end. Merilappi tied the score at 1 off a missed clearance. I went to play a back pass and the forward deflected it towards goal. A runner came through and slotted it in to tie. Immediately we went ahead 2-1. Brooke and her infamous half field shot came in clutch. For the second time this season she scored off the kick off. Roomies always got my back! With about 15 minutes left to play Merilappi tied it again at 2 off a cross. Their midfielder slotted a ball across the box. We were caught watching with 2 unmarked players in the box. The game finished 2-2. The tie keeps us in a good position in the standings and we still are able to control our future. I felt that in yesterday’s game we played a little better then we have been and we can still continue to improve. Merilappi is a good side and playing a team three times is never easy. I look forward to the final 4 games and I think the team is ready to keep working hard for the remainder of the season. Check back next week for a new blog, I promise not to keep all you readers on edge like that again!

Monday, July 30, 2012

"Set your goals high, and dont stop till you get there."

Saturday we traveled to Kemi to face Merilappi United. In our first meeting against them we drew 2-2 in a game that we agreed wasn’t our best. After a long bus ride, a stop to buy not one, but two pairs of cleats we arrived to the field in time for a very quick warm up. The first half we couldn’t find our rhythm. We looked panicked and out of sync.  In the 25th minute Jenni broke through and was able to break the tie; she slid in the ball past the keeper for the 1-0 lead. Not long after Merilappi was lucky enough to even the score at 1, off a ball that ricochet off one of our defenders.  We went into halftime 1-1. Coming out of the locker rooms we knew we needed to pick it up and it showed in the second half. Brooke scored a bomb in the 60th minute. Linda played a great ball through to Jenni, whose attempt was saved by the goalkeeper. The rebound popped out and Brooke slammed it home. In the 70th minute, I played a goal kick over the defense, which I think Tess flicked on, that Jenni was able to run onto and placed perfectly for the 3rd goal of the match. The game finished 3-1. With the win we will finish first, despite that we have one more game we have enough points to guarantee us first place. This will give us 3 starting points going into the final leg of the season. As a team this solidifies our first goal and we are looking forward to starting the second part of our season.

Highlights from the game

Other stuff going on.. Last Wednesday we had a team sauna night. Although the weather wasn’t the best we managed to have a great time. Brooke, Wena, Lena and I even took a quick jump off the highdive before warming up in the sauna. Ulla and Linda’s mom made us plenty of food and Linda put together a great game of minute to win it. We had 5 different games to compete in and they got pretty intense. Hakki, our coach was even on one team.. a bit unfair because he practices these games on a daily basis! My team ended up coming in second but we are ready for a rematch at the next sauna night. Kokkola cup came to town and we worked quite a bit. Our job was to sell stuff from the tournament in the cup shop, a little trailer outside the field. I also worked one day in the kitchen. At tournaments in Finland it’s common for the teams to stay in local schools instead of hotels. In a few of the schools they served the kids their meals, where we were assigned to help out. We had our first beach day of the year and couldn’t seem to escape the paparazzi. We met at the beach with a few of our teammates for some beach volley and a little picnic. The weather was nice but a bit windy.  Brooke, Monica, Krista and I have booked a trip to London next Monday. We have tickets to the Women’s Soccer Final at Wembley and hopefully will get a chance to see another event.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

"If you train hard, you'll not only be hard, you'll be hard to beat"

Sorry I have left you hanging for a little while. The last two weeks we have put on a much better display of how we can play. Prior to our break we were winning the games but I felt we hadn’t played to our best ability. In trainings we collectively decided that we need to pick up the intensity if we want to reach our goal of finishing first in our league. Our first game back was against FC Sport, the team that was trailing us by 3 points. The weather was pretty bad but we were ready. In the first half we had a few chances that we were unable to finish. We knew we needed to come out strong in the second half and finish the chances we got. Ten minutes through the first half we were able to score three goals. Sport fought back and were able to finish a rebound before the game ended, 3-1.

Last Saturday we traveled to a neighboring city, Jacobstad, to face FC United. We knew going into the game they were going to have a couple league players with them but we didn’t let that interfere with our mindset.  We came out strong and scored two quick goals. The second goal came off a nice cross from Tiia that found Linda’s head just inside the box which she was able to chip over the keeper. We went into the break 4-0. I thought we moved the ball pretty well and created a lot of chances for each other. The final score was 7-0. I hope we will continue to improve as a team and keep working hard in practice. We have only 3 games left before the final part of the season begins. We have the weekend off and are back at it again on Monday for a week’s worth of training before our game next Saturday.

Other news in Kokkola.. the weather has been awful! We had one nice week that had a beach day or two but unfortunately we didn’t go due to soccer. Now we are in the low 60s with rain all week! Finnish summers are awesome I tell you! Monday our fitness coach really took jogging to the next level. After about 2 miles, 8 hill sprints up a MOUNTAIN, 2 miles to some pond, swam and jog back we finally made it out alive. Not to mention the 50 mosquito bites that were acquired. Looking back it was a good workout and a pretty cool place to run through.. but I wouldn’t suggest to do it again anytime soon!

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

We came, we saw, we conquered.. Italy!

Friday morning we left for the train station only to find out our train had been delayed one hour. That gave us time to run back to the apartment and get the few things we left behind. Our train took us about 3 hours until we got to Tampere where we would eventually catch our flight. Ryanair is a low cost flight and there airports definitely showed this, after she checked us in by crossing our name off a piece of paper. I have to say I was a huge fan, with the lines being so short and quick. Since nobody has assigned seats everyone just lines up, obviously we would get in the line last, but we managed to get seats close by to each other. 

When we arrived in Rome, Brooke’s cousin Ambrogio and his friend Christiano were there to pick us up. They took us on a quick tour of Rome and then we decided to check out a pub in the city. It is crazy how many people come up trying to sell you stuff. In the hour or so we were there, at least 6 different people came to harass us. On Saturday morning we got up and headed off to the beach. The beach was really nice and surrounded by ruins. We saw kids jumping off the ruins so we decided to give it a shot. The jump was about 7 meters and the water was only about 1.5 meters deep. After scaling the rock to get to the top, which I might add was a bit scary and difficult we started second guessing this decision. The kids jumping assured us we would be fine and just to pick up our feet. We all jumped and each of us hit the sand pretty hard, not our best idea of the day, but we were all ok after a couple minutes. Saturday night we decided to make dinner together. We had tomatoes with mozzarella and basil, pasta with pesto sauce, ice-cream with strawberries, wine and mojitos. It was really good and everyone helped although Ambrogio was the head chef! After dinner we got ready and headed into the city to go out for the night. There were small little roads with tons of different bars and the place was packed. Afterwards we left and went to the club. It was outside and they played American music, everyone was dancing and we had a lot of fun. Sunday afternoon we took off for the pool nearby. We got to spend the day with Ambrogio’s daughter Martina. She didn’t speak much English but we communicated just fine! After the pool we experienced our first gelato! I think the gelato may have been my favorite.

On Monday and Tuesday morning we got up and headed into Rome by train. When we got there we decided to do the on and off bus tour so we didn’t have to walk as much. The temperature was 100 degree f! First we went inside the Coliseum. It was built over 2000 years ago and took ten years to build. We took a tour of the Vatican and Sistine chapel. We decided to pay extra to do the tour and “skip the lines.” Boy did they fool us. The tour guy spoke for about 45 min outside and then gave a 30 min bathroom break before we could go inside. When we finally got in, he spoke for 45 minutes about the first picture. While it might have been interesting he lost my attention after the 2nd minute. Finally after about 2 hours we ditched the tour and saw the rest on our own. The details inside were immaculate, everything was so beautiful.   Afterwards we jumped on the metro and stopped at the Spanish steps.  There were so many different sites we visited and each of them was unique in their own way. I don’t even remember the names of everything we saw.

Wednesday we relaxed in the morning then headed off for the pool in Parma. We only lasted 2 hours or so because it was so hot and humid. Brooke’s cousin Kathy took us into Parma to see a castle. It is one of only two castles surrounded by water in Italy. We went back to the house and had a delicious dinner. We had pasta with a mushroom sauce, chicken, and some of Brooke’s aunts’ homemade wine. She has a small vineyard in her back yard where she makes her own.

Thursday we got up early and caught the train into Milan. First we went to the Duomo. This cathedral took over 500 years to build and is the largest in Italy. Around the Duomo there were many nice shops and restaurants. Next we went to San Siro, the stadium that hosts Inter and AC Milan’s home games. The field was under construction because they are testing out new grass/turf surface. The stadium is a UEFA four standard. The stadium holds about 80,000 spectators.  After the tour we took the metro to the canals and had a late lunch outside before catching the train back to Parma. The one thing Kathy told us for the train was to not forget to get it stamped; obviously we were running to catch the train and forgot. We thought we would be ok since on the way there they never checked, but one stop away from home we got in trouble! The ticket lady tried to charge us a 60 euro fee for not getting it stamped but we managed to settle on a 5 euro fee instead. We got pretty lucky and were so stupid for forgetting this.

Friday we woke up at 3 am to drive back to Parma. We went and had one last lasagna, pizza and gelato before Ambrogio and Christiano took us to the airport. We had a lot of fun and got to see so much on our trip. Brooke’s family was awesome and took care of us so well! I can’t say that I am mad to be back enjoying the 18 degree C weather and now it’s back to practice for the week before our next game on Saturday!