Down and Distance • The agony and ecstasy of one icy soccer playoff game
Published 10:30 am Thursday, January 30, 2014
“The Agony and the Ecstasy” wasn’t just a first-rate film starring Charlton Heston about Michelangelo painting the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel.
The title could’ve described Monday’s first-round Class 5A playoff game between Vicksburg and New Hope as well.
The match was everything you could want in the postseason. There was stellar play, drama and emotion in massive doses. The swings of momentum went up and down like a sine wave. Everything was as it should be.
Except for that biting north wind that sucked the life out of spectators and players alike. It made me wish we could move soccer season to a more hospitable time. Spring or fall, maybe? One could wish.
Vicksburg took a 4-1 lead at the half. What was even more amazing that all of its goals were scored by one player, Mikayla Banks. As the Missy Gators gathered around Vicksburg coach Karen Carroll in the fieldhouse during halftime, she told her team to play solid defense in the second half and the victory would be theirs for the taking.
The winds of fate were about to change course.
In the first half, the wind was at their backs. But with an frigid, blistering gale in their faces sapping Vicksburg’s energy and resolve, New Hope’s Effie Morrison went to work, scoring all four goals for New Hope, including the game winner with less than two minutes remaining. Three of them were on one-on-one opportunities. After the winning goal found the back of Vicksburg’s net, the collective gasp from Vicksburg’s bench and the roar from New Hope’s told the story, even if your eyes were closed in vain hopes of a different outcome.
In the end, the stark dichotomy between the sidelines was miles apart.
On Vicksburg’s side, my heart went out to the team. Tears fell and many of the players, stunned by the reversal of losing a 4-1 halftime lead, walked off the field in shock. The Missy Gators had played their best half of soccer in the opening stanza, but ran out of gas in the second half. New Hope’s sideline was nothing but smiles and hugs. Erasing a three-goal deficit at the half is definitely something to celebrate.
The Missy Gators didn’t wilt in the postseason spotlight as much as New Hope put in a second-half effort for the ages. I know it’s a cliché and it’s little consolation for Vicksburg, but sometimes, it’s just not your day.
The agony of defeat hurts as much as the feeling of victory excites and warms the heart like a cup of fresh hot chocolate. New Hope continues its season. Vicksburg’s ended in a fashion that will likely serve as a motivation for next season. The human element is what makes games like this one such a gripping spectacle and a teacher of life lessons.
And all I can do is watch.
Steve Wilson is sports editor of The Vicksburg Post. You can follow him on Twitter at vpsportseditor. He can be reached at 601-636-4545, ext. 142 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.