Blog: Last Time Out w/ Candace Rushing
Monday, September 12, 2011
Often I refer to soccer as a mental game.  As in any sport, the mentality of the player(s) is crucial to the success of the team.  This week presented itself as one of, if not the, most obvious mental task in my college soccer career.  The week began with a home game on Wednesday against the University of Louisiana at Monroe followed by a Saturday game at Northeastern Oklahoma State.  The week will end tonight when we play Louisiana State University at Shreveport on Mayo Field. 

The University of Louisiana at Monroe is a Division I school in the Sun Belt conference.  Since coming to Centenary in August of 2007, we have competed against the Warhawks each fall and spring.  Former head coach of the Ladies, Chase Wooten, and current head coach Glenn Evans have always had great relationships with the coaching staff at ULM and so therefore, contests have been scheduled season after season.  As a Division I institution competing against another Division I institution, throughout my seasons at Centenary, we have fallen way short in each regular season game against Monroe until our very last year in the Summit League just last year.  Up until last season, Monroe has beaten us convincingly by shutting us out.  Last season was different, however.  We took a good Monroe team into double over-time, something that had not been done in my time at Centenary.  We ended up dropping the contest 3-2, however we left a huge impression on the Warhawk's home turf.  Through all of the hardships of changing divisions, losing a coach, and dropping teammates, some how we pulled together and gave ourselves a fighting chance when it was least expected.  We wanted to do the same again this season.

Wednesday night started off weak.  Although we were confident during pre-game in the locker room, as soon as the whistle blew, our confidence flew out of the window.  Before we knew it, Monroe had us down three goals to none in just sixteen minutes.  Yet again, however, we pulled together and gave ourselves a fighting chance.  With twenty-five or so minutes left in the first half, we began to control the tempo of the game.  We had Monroe chasing us and playing our style.  Freshman Carly Slovensky netted our first goal of the night with just over a minute to go in the first half.  Halftime gave us a moment to compose ourselves and regain confidence.  The second half began with a great one-on-one finish by junior Holden Penney.  Almost immediately we were back within reach.  The entire second half we had Monroe on its heels.  For the last forty minutes, Monroe played defense.  Chance after chance passed but unfortunately, we could not tie the score up.  Again, we lost to ULM 3-2. 

Northeastern Oklahoma State is located in Tahlequah, Oklahoma, just outside of Tulsa.  Wooten, mentioned earlier, is the head coach at NEOSU.  When I was a junior in high school, I met Wooten.  He saw me play in Dallas, Texas and from then on, we developed a wonderful and lasting relationship.  Myself, along with many of my teammates, also developed relationships with Wooten.  We were recruited by, coached by, and cared for by Wooten for one for some, two for most, and three for me, years.  When the decision to move to Division III was announced, Wooten decided to make a career move.  He was hired by NEOSU and took along with him four of my former teammates and three commitments/signees to Centenary.  This is his second season at NEOSU.  For days leading up to the game and especially during the six-hour bus ride to Oklahoma, emotions were brewing in many of our hearts and minds.  Questions like,  "How are we supposed to act?" and "What are we supposed to do when we see them?" raced through our heads.  Thoughts like "I can't believe this game is really happening" continued to surface.   And then we drove up.

As we walked into the locker room, similarities began to appear and did not cease as we went through the motions.   Pictures of current players were hung on the sides of the walls just like at Centenary.   NEOSU's warm-up was exactly the same as ours.  Their pre-game music was even similar to ours at Centenary.  Emotions that seemed indescribable were evident throughout most of my team.  Like the Monroe game, during pre-game we were confident and ready, however when the whistle blew, our confidence flew out of the window.  Unlike against ULM, unfortunately, we were not able to get it back.  NEOSU, our former coach, and our former teammates, beat us.

Louisiana State University at Shreveport sits just a few miles down from Centenary on Youree Drive.  Throughout my years at Centenary, we have only played them one time.  We are excited to begin a local rivalry with the beginning of the Mayor's Cup.  Although there is no history between our programs, the match should be exciting, as each squad wants to be the first winner in Mayor Cup history.  We take on the Pilots of LSUS tonight at 5:00 P.M. followed by the men at 7:00 P.M.

As one can infer, this week has truly been a daunting mental task so far.  From the well-played ULM game, to the emotional NEOSU game, and now to the commencement of a cross-town rivalry, our plates have been full.  In all of my seasons at Centenary, however, there is no team other than the team that I am on today, that I would rather complete this mental task with.  I am blessed by being surrounded by nineteen of the best teammates a girl could ask for.  See for yourself.

Until next time...