In preparing to photograph the G03 Red and G02 Red on their quests for the state championship, the excitement at Starfire was electric. A late spring day at the park hinted of the approaching summer, with temperatures approaching 75 degrees.
The first of two state finals, the G03 Red looked comfortable yet ready to defend their title. Unbeknownst to me at the time, the 03's were vying for their 3rd straight championship. It occurred to me after I asked why the girls were jubilantly flashing the "OK" sign everywhere.
Their game was a little tense as Eastside began to assert themselves early on. They had played WPFC earlier this season, easily beating them 4-0 in their last meeting. This was a different occasion, with higher stakes and with a state cup on the line, many surprises awaited. The first surprise came before the match even started as Premier activated three ECNL players for the final. Three players that hadn't played in their semifinal win the day before, and that didn't play Eastside in their last meeting.
The defining moment came in extra-time. One of the most precious moments we can capture in-camera is the celebration. Photographers live for moments like that. With the game looking to go to penalties, Eastside scored late in what eventually became the game-winner. But the celebration didn't come. The goalscorer was hurt. Badly. She lay on the ground in immense pain, and instead of celebrations, we had silence and worry. Her teammates gathered around her and gestured for help. It took several minutes for the game to resume, but the celebration was muted for their fallen hero. In the end, it was Eastside 1, WPFC 0. Three-time State Champions, the third given by a gesture of huge sacrifice.
The G02 Red started the game off very quickly and had a slew of chances. Great saves. Shots going wide. All of us thought that goal was coming. As time continued, the 02's continued to create chances as well as defend Rush's counter.
However, small shifts in momentum wore the girls down and Rush began to create chances of their own. Late in the game, we were down 0-1. The girls continued to press their case and the game opened up to a point where Rush was getting out on counter-attacks quickly and more often.
We needed a goal. And we almost equalized. But with time winding down, Rush broke through with another. Rush 2, EFC 0. In retrospect, we had many chances to win the game and for great stretches of it, we had control of the match.
Unfortunately, this wasn't our final. The emotions of victory and defeat and more importantly, the fighting spirit that our girls showed is why Eastside builds champions on the field and in life.
Enjoy the full galleries below: