It’s not luck if you’re always in the right place at the right time.
I angle my run up the field on the diagonal. With one eye on the last defender to keep from being caught offsides and the other on the ball, I bide my time, waiting to burst into full speed. I don’t really think about it as I’m doing it, almost like my brain and body are on autopilot. Years of training make it all happen naturally. I’m in the zone.
My teammate Haley dribbles the ball up the center of the field. She breezes past an opponent, but several more stand between her and the open field.
“Brooke!” she unnecessarily yells my name.
I’m ready and waiting. The ball zooms off her foot in a perfect arc over the last defender. In a full-out sprint, I beat everyone to the ball. Just me and the goalie now.
A shrill blast from the whistle brings me to a halt. Did something happen behind me, a foul off the ball maybe? Nope, the assistant referee is holding up her flag, signaling I’m offsides.
My arms fly up in indignation. “No way!”
The fans, mostly parents but a few students as well, shout their displeasure at the call. Megan, our team captain, runs from the back of the field right up to the main referee. Her face is bright red and her cheeks are puffed out, but she keeps her cool as she talks it over with the ref.
The rest of the team surrounds me because I’m about to “go into beast,” as my Italian grandmother would say of anyone who gets angry. I breathe in and store the anger deep inside to fuel my game instead of my temper. I’m the only freshman on the Central High varsity team, and it would be a very bad idea to get carded and kicked out of our first game of the season.
Megan jogs back to her position as sweeper and the other team takes their free kick. The first half ends a few minutes later, the score 0-0. My feet are almost literally itching to get another chance at scoring.
I pour water over my head and take sip of sports drink, the afternoon sun a scorcher in early September. Coach Walker—a male coach even though we’re a women’s team—gives us a pep talk and sends us back out on the field.
Megan pulls me aside. “Don’t worry about that call.”
“Coach didn’t mention it,” I say.
“Well I am mentioning it. It was total BS and everyone knows it.” She slaps me on the shoulder. “You’ll be ready when the next scoring chance comes. Prove those refs are idiots.”
I nod and internalize the words, more fuel to my fire. Seems the rest of the team is fueled up, too. We thunder down the field, passing seamlessly around our opponents. Haley receives the ball in striking range and lets a shot rip. The goalie knuckles it up and over the crossbar, earning us a corner kick.
Megan had us practice corner kicks last week. I position myself right next to the goalie as she instructed, doing my best to be an annoyance. Mac—as we all call Mackenzie when she’s on the field—sends a beauty of a corner kick right to the sweet spot, far enough out so the goalie doesn’t go for it but close enough for our players to have a good chance at scoring.
Megan, who as a defender probably doesn’t get many chances to score, barrels in and heads Mac’s kick. The goalie saves it but not cleanly. The ball rebounds right into my chest, which by anyone’s standards is pretty flat, and deflects into the back of the net. Goal by breasts! My breasts!
My teammates surround me, squealing with delight. I take off for the corner flag and dive headfirst toward it, my teammates following suit, a move Megan also had us practice. Gotta have a good celebration planned for the first goal of the season.
There’s no time to rest on my laurels—that’s an expression my non-Italian grandmother uses—as the other team is about to kick off. Despite our high from the goal, the rest of the second half passes without us scoring again, but neither does the other team. The game ends 1-0, my goal the one and only, the game winner.
We exchange handshakes with the other team, offering a less-than-heartfelt chant of “good game” down the line and rush back to our bench to celebrate.
Megan slaps me on the back. “See. I told you you’d get another chance and you’d be ready for it. And off my header, too.” I’ve hardly ever seen her smile, but her face is lit up brighter than a tinsel-doused Christmas tree.
Coach Walker calls us in for a huddle and reminds us about practice tomorrow morning. There are a few grumbles about having to get up early on a Saturday, but I’m too keyed up to care.
I’m about to find my parents in the stands when Coach calls for me. “Good team effort on that goal. Lucky you were in the right place at the right time.”
“Lucky?” I shrug. “I have a knack for being in the right place at the right time. Scored a lot of goals that way. I’ve developed a good feel for the game, know how to capitalize on chances like that. Luck’s got nothing to do with it.”
He stares at me, mouth slightly open. No one—not even my coach—is going to diminish this moment for me. I’ve earned it.
Want more from the young women on the Central High School varsity team? Check out these other Tales from the Field: "Captain Megan" and "Addison in Love?".
Katie L. Carroll is a mother, writer, editor, and soccer player. She began writing at a very sad time in her life after her 16-year-old sister, Kylene, unexpectedly passed away. Since then writing has taken her to many wonderful places, real and imagined. She wrote her YA fantasy ELIXIR BOUND so Kylene could live on in the pages of a book. Katie is also the author of the picture app THE BEDTIME KNIGHT and a contributor to THE GREAT CT CAPER, a serialized mystery for young readers. She lives not too far from the beach in a small Connecticut city with her husband and sons. For more about Katie, visit her website at www.katielcarroll.com.