Madison’s U15/16 team won their division in the Yellowstone Cup in PKs Saturday after Ashlun Birch saved the game in the closing minutes when she arched in 45-yard shot over the goalie’s head to tie the game.
This girls’ soccer team hasn’t always been so impressive though..
“To be honest, they haven’t had much success in their or anywhere outside of the league for the last few years,” said U15/16 head coach Jason Hall.
Hall thought the girls might want to change to winning ways so he asked them a reflective question.
“At the beginning of the season, I asked these girls if they wanted to be a competitive team or if they just wanted to play soccer,” Hall said. “I was okay either way — they said they wanted to be competitive.”
To help them become competitive, Hall told his team some hard truths.
“I told them what they needed to work on and I told them that we’re not going to play fun games; we’re going to do the drills that it takes to become a competitive team,” Hall said. “They did these drills over and over and over. At times, would kind of look at (me) like , ‘coach, can we do something else,’ and I was like, ‘nope,’ because we haven’t got this down yet.
Madison’s hard work began to pay dividends when they went down to Utah for the Wasatch Tournament and took fourth in a tournament that they had struggled to win a game in in previous years.
“They turned into a pretty exciting team to watch, “Hall said. Not only did they go down to Utah and win games,but then to watch them go through this entire tournament and win every single game.”
In the Yellowstone tournament, they beat TETON FC U15 GIRLS MAROON 3-0 Friday morning then beat JYSA RIGBY GIRLS U16 (03-05) 3-0 that evening. Saturday morning they beat BLACKFOOT YOUTH BLACKFOOT GIRLS 05/06 2-1. With an undefeated record they secured their place in the championship game.
In the title game they faced BYSL FUSION ‘03-’04 FUSION GIRLS ORANGE 5-2 in penalty kicks.
“There were a lot of nerves going into that game,” Hall said. “We looked across the way and there was a team that was built with girls from different cities all put on one team. I looked at the girls and said,‘never have we looked across the field and said, look what we’re up against. We know what we can do. We’re going to go out there and do it and win lose or draw we’ve already won the season.”
In the first half Madison went up 1-0
’We went out that first half and we played great,” Hall said. “We were up 1-0 and so I told the girls, ‘they’re going to come out even harder in the second half. Regardless of what happens this is a winning season. I’m not really the coach to say, ‘let’s go out there and lose,’ but at the same time, I didn’t want to put the pressure on the girls to say we have to win this soccer game because the girls play the best when they’re having fun at soccer and they’re enjoying the game.”
In the second half Madison encountered adversity when BYSL Fusion scored a goal in the first five minutes.
“One of the problems we’ve had on our team is when they score getting our spirits back up,” Hall said. “The girls jumped right back on it.”
Tied turned to worse when a Madison girl scored an own goal to give BYSL the lead.
“That happens in soccer at every level,” Hall said. “She was devastated she came out and she had to gather herself back together. Then the person we subbed in for her was hurt later in the game and she had to go back in. She just picked up her head and played a beautiful soccer game.”
Madison kept getting shot on goal but couldn’t quite get them in the goal until Birch made her game saving free kick from 45- yards.
Birch may have made the most visible shot but Hall said it was an all-around team effort.
“When you look at the all-around win,” Hall said. “It wasn’t about one girl or another girl but it really was a team effort. I haven’t seen it in a long time where all the girls are getting along, working hard and anybody I’d sub in was going to be a great player. That was a great thing for our team.”