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Brynn’s head was throbbing so hard she could hear it beat. She could feel the sun hitting her face making her cheeks burn and the beads of sweat emerging from her forehead and rolling down her face. When she diligently picked up the ball, her hands were clammy and shaking. Brynn carefully placed the ball on a the turf marked by a white dot. She walked a few steps backwards and a few steps to her left. Suddenly, she felt someone's warm breath against her neck and heard,
“Brynn, you got this, shoot low and aim for the corners,” one of her teammates said.
“Yeah,” she said, her voice shaking. Brynn tried to block out all the noisy cheering and yelling from the games around her. As she stepped up to the ball, she was completely focused. All the pressure was on her, her team depended on her.
It was the middle of August and the hottest day of the year with a temperature of 101 degrees fahrenheit. In the mile high city, the sun made the air feel 10 times hotter. Brynn Wilson, a 16 year old girl from Broomfield, Colorado, was in Denver for an important soccer game. Her team had made it into the state cup finals and was playing for first place to go to nationals. They were playing the champions of the State Cup and Nationals from the previous year, Real National.
Brynn was one of the last players to arrive to the field. She met up with the rest of her teammates who were socializing on the stairs in the shade the roof of the bathroom provided. All of the girls wore their home jerseys- red shirt and black pants and socks.
Their coach, Ben, wanted everyone to stay hydrated; the shelter provided nice cool shade for a heated day like the one they had.
After fifteen minutes, Coach announced that it was time to warm up.
“Let’s head over to the far end of the field to set up and warm up, ” Coach Ben said. They were playing on field three; their field was all the way on the other side of the complex, away from the bathrooms they were at. In unison, the girls got up and started walking towards their field.
As soon as Brynn stepped onto the field, she felt her light blue cleats heat up immediately. The black turf that covered all the fields in the complex absorbed a lot of heat. Brynn’s teammates also noticed and continued to complain about the heat.
“S***! It’s so hot!” she heard someone say. They were only on the turf for a few seconds but a lot of the girls already couldn't stand the heat. They walked past the other team, Real National, who were wearing white jerseys, they were already starting their warm ups.
Brynn and her co-captain Jules led their team through the same warmups every game and practice. Half way through, the ref checked in the players.
“Tap your shins please. Let me check the bottoms of your cleats. Make sure you don’t have any earring or jewelry out otherwise I will have to take you out of the game. When I call your name please tell me your number and stand behind me,” he explained.
Five minutes before the game started, the referees called captains.
Brynn and Jules, their other forward, jogged to the center where the ref stood. A middle age man awaited them. Hemade them shake hands and introduce themselves.
“Hi, I’m Brynn”
The ref pulled out a coin.
“When I flip the coin, white call heads or tails,” he said with an accent.
“Tails.” The coin flipped a couple times in the air and landed on the ref’s palm. He took his hand off of the coin and revealed the heads side. “Heads. Red, what side do you want to defend first?”
“This side,” answered Brynn. She strategically gave the other team the side facing the sun
“Ok, white, it’s your kick off. We start in five minutes,” the ref declared.
Brynn and Jules jogged back to their teammates who were all huddling around coach Ben, listening to the pre-game talk.
The whistle blew. Real National kicked off the first half of forty minutes. Both of the teams were evenly matched; however, Real National had won a free kick from 30 yards out and scored with a beautiful shot. With 10 minutes left of the game, Brynn started becoming impatient. Everyone was in pain; the turf was scorching hot. In addition, she had been on the field for the whole game and felt like passing out. Brynn was on the edge of giving up and she knew her teammates probably felt the same way. But she knew that they couldn’t give up now.
“I’m tired, I feel like i'm going to die. It’s so hot i feel like I’m going to faint. I need water,” Jules complains to Brynn.
“Keep your heads up! We still have plenty of time to get back in this game,” she yelled, trying to stay positive. She mustered up the little bit of strength she still had and sprinted to the ball. In one swift motion, Brynn intercepted the opposing defenders’ pass and dribbled towards the 18 yard box. As she sprinted towards the goal, she felt her legs become weak and noodle like.
“Do it for yourself, do it for your teammates. You can do it,” she said to herself. She had beaten all of the defenders on the other team and faced the goal. She planted her left foot and swung at the ball. The ball sailed through the air like a rocket. It went right above the goalie, through her outreached hands. Everyone heard the “swish” of the ball striking the net.
Parents stood up from their lawn chairs cheering and shouting. Brynn was attacked by her teammates piling themselves on top of her. Everyone’s spirit lifted and they seemed to forget about the pain of the scorching ground. As soon as Real National passed the ball from kick-off, the referee blew his whistle. The game had ended; however, they were not done yet. The score was tied one to one so they would have to go into two 15 minute halves of overtime.
The whistle blew. Overtime had began. Brynn played the entire game without getting subbed out; finally, she was getting a break. She sat on the bench anxiously chewing her nails.
After the additional 30 minutes, the game was still tied 1-1. Neither of the teams scored during overtime. The game had to go into penalty kicks. The team chose 5 of their best players to take the kicks. Brynn was one of their best players and was obviously chosen to take a kick.
Although Brynn has never missed a single penalty kick, she was uncertain now she would make it in. She had no more energy left and felt like she was going to pass out any second. She felt miserable. Her feet felt numb from the turf and she could feel the blisters forming.
She was the last one to take the kick. All four players on her team before her had made it in and only one player on the other team missed. If Brynn scored this goal, she would win the game and the tournament for her team. She was sweating bullets from all the pressure on her.
“You can do this, just like we practiced,” Brynn heard one of her teammates say, comforting her. She placed the ball on the mark, took a few steps away, took a deep breath and ran towards the ball.
“Boobs over ball” she mutters to herself. With her ankle tightly locked, Brynn strikes the ball with her laces. The ball soars through the air. It is a beautiful shot heading towards the upper right corner, the place that Brynn shoots the ball every single time. But this time, she heard a “ping” as the ball hit the post.
Brynn felt her heart stop for a second. Everything was in slow motion as she watched the ball skim the inside of the post and then continued to find itself wrapped in the net. The goalie dived the wrong direction and fell to the ground in disappointment.
Her teammates sprint towards her with their arms stretched out. They embrace Brynn and lift her up on their shoulders laughing and crying with joy. Everyone is so excited and so happy. With their arms around each other and grinning from ear to ear, they walk towards the shelter to receive their trophy and medals. Brynn knew that this would be a moment she and her teammates would never forget.