bleedCrimson.net: Your thoughts on the weekend, you had the 2-0 loss at Utah State on Friday but you were able to bounce back and get a good solid victory against Nevada in overtime on Sunday.
Blair Quinn: Yeah that was good. The Utah State game was challenging, that's a very good team. We're playing at their place and they were better than us on the day. I think we were as good as them in a lot of aspects or phases of the game, we just struggled in the final third. That was the third game in a row where we had struggled to get quality chances to goal. Unfortunately that was the difference in the game. It was a long travel day as well. We spent pretty much all of Saturday traveling but we did practice when we got home and specifically worked on some more attacking sequences and things that we're trying to improve on and it finally showed up on Sunday. It was nice to be back at home quite frankly. It was nice to have a home crowd, sleep in your own bed and that showed on Sunday I think.
bc.net: You've talked throughout the season about wanting to get a better Sunday performance from your team. Do you feel like that was your best Sunday performance of the season?
BQ: Yeah, absolutely. We told the team that as well after the game. Regardless of the score even, 2-1, I think might even be a bit generous and I mean no disrespect to Nevada because they are a good team but I just think we were much better than them on the day. We had a lot of the attack, I think we outshot them somewhere around 18-7 or something like. We just were really good yesterday. We played really well, we played hard, we played fast. We started so much faster and I think that's the biggest problem, other than just not scoring goals in the last three games I think part of that was affected due to how slowly we started. We started so much faster. We had a corner kick within the first couple of minutes, we had a couple of shots right out of the gate and that really set the tone for the day.
bc.net: Talk a little bit about the first goal that the team scored in the game against Nevada.
BQ: It was nice to get one finally. It's not a goal that we typically score. We pride ourselves on being a bit of a possession team and building up the attack but to be honest we hit a long ball and Yolie is absolutely the best player on our team in the air with her head and she was able to win that, it was a contested ball, she had a defender right on her back, she was able to win the header and flick it on and we've done a much better job as of late reading what we call first and second balls. Yolie winning the header is the first ball, the second ball is the ball that comes loose from that and Branch was already running in the correct direction and she had taken a good angle and ran on to the ball and there's just nobody on the field that's going to catch her once she's gone. Then she really just calmly, as easy as it might look, if you see it, that's a difficult finish. She's running right down the middle, the goal keeper is coming out and there's a lot of goal. People tend to panic this'll be easy. She just calmly slotted it by the goal keeper into the goal. It was a nice finish.
bc.net: You led for most of the match but Nevada gets a score in a somewhat similar manner with about two minutes left in regulation. What did you tell your team heading into overtime?
BQ: Yeah, it was similar. To be honest we made one mistake. We actually won the initial ball. They played a long ball, that was pretty much their mode of attack for the second attack. They can play but in the second half as it got later it was like anybody, just send long balls. Courtney Irwin actually won the header but unfortunately the girl was jumping in front of her and Courtney headed the ball and headed it off of her and so she kind of ran through the header and it just bounced in her direction going towards our goal and we got caught a little high and a little flat in our back line without really any cover there. She ran on and Erin [Wosick] came out and got big as quick as she could and the girl just finished it nicely.
It's a little bit deflating when that happens late in the game, especially when you've been leading for much of the game. You can kind of feel the deflation on the field and even in the stands but I give a lot of credit to our bench after that goal because they didn't deflate. They didn't sit down and go, "Oh great, now we're probably going to lose," or "Now we're not going to win." They stayed up and they stayed upbeat and they were very vocal and spirited and I think it kept the kids on the field going and we just finished out the two minutes, came in and talked overtime and again there was a lot of energy still there. I don't think anybody thought, "Now we're going to lose." They felt like, "Alright, we made a mistake but we can still win this game." It's great because I addressed that with them specifically as soon as we got on the bus on Friday after the Utah State game. In terms of us scoring goals, we should be able to give up a goal and still win a game. We make one mistake, that's okay. We've got to be able to cover our teammates for that mistake and we do that by scoring goals. They responded really well. We made one mistake but we were still able to come away with the win because we were able to cover our teammates for that one mistake.
bc.net: About two minutes into the overtime you get a really good save, soccer being sport where it's a game of inches and Erin gets her hand on the ball and it deflects off the post.
BQ: She was very good yesterday. There were a couple before that that people forget about. That one's obviously very important because it's overtime but she made a save in the second half, we're up 1-0 on a free kick they took. She was laid out, two hands and put the ball over the bar. Then that save in overtime literally keeps you in the game. If that goes in, game's over. She got three fingertips to it kind of thing, enough to push it another two inches where it hits the front of the post and goes out instead of hits the inside of the post and goes in. That was the save of the game, clearly that was the save of the game. We turn around and were able to build off the momentum. I don't think some people realize too, as much as scoring a goal kind of gets everybody jacked up and excited, you have goal keeper come up with a big-time save, it almost pumps you up even more because it's like, "She just saved us, kept us in the game, we can't let her down now. We've got to go get one." A few minutes later we did that.
bc.net: After the big save, really after that it was your attack pretty much the rest of the match. You got a really good chance right before the corner kick which led to the corner kick and then obviously you get the game winning goal.
BQ: Right, that's just it, we immediately bounced right from that save, I agree, we spent the next four or five minutes down in there end. We had a great opportunity that led to the corner and we've been preaching that for weeks now that we've got to take more shots. We've got to take more shots, deflected shots are okay. We'll take deflected goals or own goals or deflections for corner kicks because we're going to get something out of it. We took a shot, it got deflected, ball falls to Cassie De Leon's feet who is a right-footed player but winds up and hits the ball left-footed as well she could and forces the goal keeper into really a very good save. Down low to her right, she one-hands it out of bounds for the corner and that was it, we score. Amber [Harrington] plays a great ball into the six, it deflects off a player, lands at Yolie's feet and she hits an outside of the foot, right-footed shot into the far post but it was set up from the pressure we put on them to create the corner kick.
bc.net: What does a win like that do for your team's confidence going forward?
BQ: That's huge. Mentality-wise the kids feel a lot better about themselves right now. Again, I don't know that we were playing bad soccer before, we just weren't playing well enough in the final third. We weren't finishing chances that we were creating. By doing that yesterday I think they really understand. We've been harping on them a lot in practice that we've got to keep creating more and more chances. Essentially we scored on basically 10 percent. We had 18 shots, two goals, around ten percent. That's what you're going to be. We've got to keep creating chances to get two or three goals in a game. We've got to get 15, 16, 20 chances. But I think mentality-wise, confidence-wise, they know that now. They know that we can do this and we can do this every game and this is how we're going to be successful. It put us right back in the thick of things in the conference race. Instead of going into an 0-3 hole, we're now 1-2 and we're tied with half the conference right now.
bc.net: This Friday you host Idaho, one of the teams that you're tied with. Like Utah State, they also have a pretty potent goal-scorer in Chelsea Small.
BQ: That's a very good team, Chelsea Small is their primary goal scorer. She scores maybe all their records at this point. That's a kid that we're going to be very aware of and try to contain for the entire game. You can't lose sight of that kid for even one minute because that might be the difference in the game. But we also believe that we can attack them with our style and we have some kids that they have to be aware of. We can create some more scoring opportunities.
It's a huge game because a) it's our only game of the weekend, it's a home game and it gives us a chance to put that team behind us. Right now if it came down to head-to-head, Nevada is behind us. We need to be able to do the same thing with Idaho. At the end of the year if it comes down to head-to-head we need them behind us in the standings or at least behind us in head-to-head competitions. It's about putting teams behind you now and starting to try to create a gap to get up in that top six and stay up there.
bc.net: What will you be working on with your team this week in practice?
BQ: Still again, starting faster. Immediately establishing our rhythm and pace of play. Handling that one special player. I might even use my assistants to simulate that kid, both of them are very good players. Making sure we are constantly aware of where she is and not allowing her to beat us. If they're going to beat us then making them beat us with somebody else. Then, going to goal, going to goal, going to goal, taking shot after shot after shot. Even if you don't think it's a good shot, take it because we'll take whatever deflections and bounces that we get out of those.
bc.net: From a schedule standpoint this is going to be the midway point of the season and obviously with a little bit smaller conference, fewer conference games, there's always a little bit more of a sense of urgency. You mentioned heading into conference play that you felt that they were missing a little bit of that urgency.
BQ: Yeah, we were. I don't know if it's a midseason lull or you just kind of get comfortable for a little while or it becomes routine but we were kind of lacking that true intensity, that desire to go out and win no matter what. It's not that they weren't trying to win, I just think we were lacking that edge. We found that again on Sunday and the girls did a real good job of creating that all the way through the day from team breakfast in the morning through the rest of the day, through the game, we got that edge back and we need to keep that this week. There is a little bit of a sense of urgency. Urgency without panic. We still control our own destiny, we know that. That's important for us to have that. It's empowering to know that you control your own destiny, we don't need help from anybody. We still need a couple more wins for sure to get into the conference tournament but we don't need help, we can do it on our own. I think that goes a long way too towards having that edge and that mentality that says, "We can do that ourselves and we need to get it done right now."