TopOfTheCircle.com

Serving the scholastic field hockey and lacrosse community since 1998

Archive for October 20, 2019

Oct. 20, 2019 — The beauty of competition

I didn’t do a Final Third today.

But thanks to the heroics of the Louisville Cardinals, I should have.

Louisville and Iowa played an ACC matchup yesterday with both sides in the nation’s Top 10, and they played a dilly of a game.

First off, there was the quality of what could have been the game-winning goal in the second half. On the play, Iowa’s Lokke Streibos pinged the ball off the backboard with a blast with a trajectory which was maybe 15 inches off the ground when it approached the goal cage, and when it hit the backboard, the ball bounced up. That’s how much spin and momentum was imparted to the ball.

In the final seconds of regulation, with Louisville needing a chance to tie the score, the Cardinals received a lifeline when Iowa was called for putting the ball over the endline deliberately, setting up an untimed corner at the end of regulation. Carter Ayars, crashing in from the wing, scored while on the ground to send the match to extra time.

In the final seconds of the first half of overtime, a lightning bolt pass from Alli Bitting to Madison Walsh was deflected past the Iowa goalkeeper to end the game with just four seconds remaining on the clock.

The beauty of competition is not just the product on the field. It’s how players have worked hard to get into the situations they are in, and how well the athletes execute in key situations.

Take, for example, last night in the denouement of the American League Championship Series. Houston manager A.J. Hinch, knowing he had a chance to end the series, planned out his pitching so that the guy he wanted, Alberto Osuna, was going to pitch the ninth inning with the Astros in a two-run advantage.

But an odd thing happened: Osuna blew the save, allowing New York to tie the game. (Mind you, Jose Altuve homered a few minutes later to send Houston to the World Series.)

My mind also hearkens back to Chris Wondolowski, who was, at one time, the leading scorer in the history of Major League Soccer. He worked hard throughout the 2010s to make the U.S. men’s World Cup team, and he even got a chance to be a hero in a 2014 elimination game against Belgium.

But when he got his chance, he missed the goal cage entirely, allowing Belgium to win in extra time. The United States has not played in a men’s World Cup game since.

It’s games like yesterday’s Iowa-Louisville game which can have ramifications for both teams in terms of conference tournament seeding, Ratings Percentage Index, and potential opponents for the NCAA Division I championship.