Girls' Soccer: Defense ruled the day

Defense wins championships. That's the old adage, right?

It seemed, though, that the Douglas girls' soccer team was going to do its best to turn the old philosophy on its ear this year.

This was a Tiger team, after all, that finished within three goals of the state 4A record for goals in a season (91).

This was a Tiger team, after all, that had proven its ability to take the opponent's best shot and keep right on ticking. They came from behind six times in 23 games, winning five of those and tying the other. They gave up more than two goals (an offensive outburst by soccer standards) four times and came away with wins.

This was a Tiger team, after all, that had scored more goals in two playoff games (eight) than the other seven playoff teams combined (seven) heading into Saturday's championship.

Not to say anything against the Tiger defense, which was a strong group throughout the season while posting seven shutouts and allowing an average of 1.09 goals per game, but the distinctive part of this team was its wide-ranging, quick-strike offense.

Watching them in action was often a thing of beauty.

The offense regularly generated out of the defense, progessed down the blazing wings and crossed in front of the net to a flood of Tiger attackers.

The shape and number of the attack would shift on the fly and the shots peppered the next by an average somewhere in the low 20s.

So potent and so varied was the offense that Douglas had two, not one, but two players giving honest chase to the state record for goals in a season. And still, even those two combined only accounted for a little over half of the team's goals. The remainder came from eight different players. The team came up with 62 assists on the year spread between 14 players with no one dishing out more than 10 individually.

Heading into the finals, the team had been held to one goal just five times.

Enter the Reed Raiders.

Getting an extra push from a strong north wind to their backs, the Reed defense held Douglas to five shots through the first half - still giving up a goal along the way (Converting 20 percent of your scoring chances is never something to frown at in soccer).

Had that been the entire story, the game probably would have been Douglas' for the taking.

Instead, though, Reed perfectly executed a pair of corner kicks (both finished, ironically, by one of the Raiders' central defenders) and picked up a goal on a Tiger miscommunication late in the half to carry a 3-1 into the second.

Douglas also suffered a couple of tough breaks, the biggest of which being an apparent goal called off because it was ruled that the rebound the goal would have come off of had bounced out of bounds prior to the shot.

Through the second half, it was defense that defined the day.

During the playoffs, Douglas' previous opponents (McQueen and Elko) had done their best to pack the defensive side of the ball with five, six or even seven players doing their best to slow down the Tiger attack.

The difference was that both of those teams still had to try to mount some sort of attack to get on the scoreboard at the same time, which spread them out as a unit and left them vulnerable to the Douglas offense.

Reed, though, was perfectly content to pull back with the lead and pack up to nine players deep within their own territory while Douglas took its best shot. This was a Raider defense that had allowed only 12 goals on the year while posting 10 shutouts. Prior to the first half against Douglas, the Raiders hadn't allowed a goal in the playoffs.

Reed marked off on the Tigers' top scoring threats and did their best to cover the remainder of the defensive end.

For a period of time, it didn't even matter. Douglas peppered the Reed net with 12 shots and set up for four corner kicks, including a stretch of three within about six minutes. A pair of shots sailed just high and a stellar fingertip save from the Reed keeper prevented another goal.

And then, with time dwindling and desperation beginning to win out, the momentum somehow swung back in Reed's favor.

The Raiders went for a 10-minute stretch toward the end where they didn't allow a single shot on net. Douglas brought eight and nine players forward at times, but still, no shots.

Over the final two minutes, the Raiders were able to begin to push the ball back downfield and as they did, they pushed Douglas' last hopes away with them.

At the end of the day it was, defense that won the championship.

But with the 11 players set to return for Douglas next season and a successful group ready to make the jump from junior varsity, one has to wonder if defense will be able to win out again.


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