In their tenth try, my soccer team had the best and most consistent performance they've ever had in a tournament. Playing against two rival teams, and a third they had not played before, they won three consecutive matches to make it to the championship. While they faltered, finally, in the last match, there was no question that they had done their very best.
Yes, they had been in championships before, but there was no mistaking their path this time. They didn't have to wait for the outcome of any of the other games to see where they stood--as they sometimes have in the past. This time they did it all on their own.
But, how do I explain what happened? There were just as many reasons why we shouldn't have done well as why we did. Five of our girls weren't available to play and were replaced by two younger players who were unfamiliar to our team. One of our keepers could catch and throw, but couldn't kick due to an injury. Really, they will always be competitive, but who would expect them to be winners this time?
I guess I do, always, and they do, too.
I don't think it ever occurred to a single Avalanche that they should do anything but go out and win. They played with passion, intensity, and consistency. They played together, and when the play got rough they were fiercely competitive. When they had chances to score they made them, and when they needed to make a great defensive play they did that, too. They accepted their guest players who then lived up to the expectations set by their temporary teammates.
Yes, they ran out of energy in the second half of the final, and lost to a deserving champion, but what a thrill to see these rapidly maturing, smart, intense, and beautiful athletes playing as a team game in and game out--each match better than the previous one. It's called "living up to your potential," and it was a gift to behold.