Eastside G99 Reign Academy 2 ended a successful soccer journey last month taking home their second consecutive State Championship after an undefeated State Cup run and following a successful first place finish in their RCL League for the 2018-19 season.
It was a dream-like State Cup with a goal differential of 20: 26 goals for and only four against. While dream-like, nothing in soccer is ever completely smooth - the girls weathered injuries and perhaps, the most unsettling event of all, a coaching change mid-season. Still the girls persevered and overcame the obstacles to end their high school soccer career as No. 1 in the State.
The Championship game against PacNW came with high expectations, unseasonably high temperatures - and raw emotions for the girls – they were defending the Cup and win or lose, it would be their last game playing together.
According to Coach Mark Kovats, who took over as coach last winter, the game was incredibly hot.
“The new turf on the stadium field was unbearably hot, with temps in the 80s to start the game. The on-field temps had to have been in the 90s.”
Both Eastside FC and Pac had (relatively) light competition during preliminary rounds and were eager to hit the pitch and play hard when the opening whistle blew. The first half was full of effort by Eastside but ended scoreless for both teams.
“We were able to create several scoring chances in the first half and really took the game to PAC, but nothing to show for it at halftime. We changed tactics a little at halftime and corrected some first half defensive errors that were hurting us. Those changes led to us getting some good looks at goal and we finally broke through to go ahead 1-0, “ said Kovats.
The 1-0 lead did not last. PAC tied it on a goal mouth scramble. Then, one more goal for each and the final whistle blew with a score of 2-2. On to relegation.
“OT was all us, “ said Kovats. “ We were able to put them under pressure and played more direct in the process. That led to two goals in a few minutes of the first OT and we managed the rest of the game really well to get the trophy.”
For Kovats, it felt great to send the girls off with such a fantastic finish and for them to be rewarded for their months of hard work. Not to mention, for the past few years at Eastside, Kovats has coached boys teams, not girls.
“There are a thousand differences between coaching boys and girls,” he reflected. “But the one constant is simple: keep the other team from scoring on you and score goals on them instead.”
Kovats’ training methods didn’t need to change much while coaching this group of girls. He said his goals stayed the same as with any of his teams: keep it fun, keep it competitive and make sure the kids know they are loved, valued and are vital members of the team’s success.
“I have had the pleasure of coaching girls teams in the past, both at Eastside and a few local high schools. The emotion with which girls play is powerful and can be a great motivator during games. This group of standout kids understood what it took to win the big games and showed up with consistent effort and competitive spirit when it mattered most,” he said.
Aiding in the girls’ understanding of what it takes to win the big game is the deep bond they have that carried them through some tough times this season that led to a coaching change. “They are great friends off the field and work extremely hard for each other during games. Their training mentality is fantastic and I was able to help them achieve their goals during our 3x week training, with everyone committed to each other and the team.”
The 2018 US Youth Soccer Region IV Championships takes place June 18-24th in Honolulu. For this group of seniors, that is also when many on the team graduate from high school. Their extraordinary soccer journey ends with this State Championship and Eastside G99 Reign Academy 2 will be missed next season by the club and of course, Coach Kovats.