Tuesday night's game against Roanoke College was like a golf shot I once had. Excited to reach the green from 180 yards out, I lined up my shot, gripped my club, licked my lips and grinded my teeth. I swung my club 100 miles per hour, but instead of hitting the ball I hit the soil beneath the ball causing a thick patch of grass to lift from the ground it was planted in.
The patch of grass went further than the ball. After yelling profanity, I looked down at where the ball had sat to find a divot in the rough.
Tuesday was a divot of a day.
I walked onto the bus at Guilford excited to be back with the team. I played three years of soccer at Guilford before graduating this past May. This year, I made the move from the field to the broadcasting booth. The best part of my week this fall has been broadcasting the Quakers games on the Guilford Quaker Network.
I was pleasantly surprised when I walked on the bus to see the smiling face of Henry Cordiel. Henry, a fellow graduate and alumni soccer player made the trip with the team. Henry was one of the team captains from a year ago and is one of the most energetic and emotional players I ever played by. I was lucky to have Henry agree to join me in the broadcasting booth to give expert analysis.
Emotion and determination filled the team's 32 faces before the game. This was a Quaker team that was seeking its sixth win of the season in the ODAC - the most since the 2004 team that finished with a 6-2-3 conference record. To earn their sixth win and a second place position in the ODAC standings, the Quakers needed to topple the number two team Roanoke.
The Quakers came out slow against the Maroons, but escaped the first half with a 0-0 score thanks to the Quaker Quick Defense, anchored by rookie goalkeeper Marko Mandalinic. Mandalinic blocked a breakaway shot, and handled the Maroon crossing attack by playing quick off his line.
In the first half the Quakers struggled to get the ball by the organized and fast Maroon defense that has allowed only 10 goals in their first 17 games this season. The dominant Maroon defense continued their surge in the second half.
Within the first five minutes of the second half the Maroons snuck their first goal past Mandalinic off a corner kick. Maroon defender Michael Stark buried a blast of a shot in the top shelf of the near post to give the Maroons a 1-0 lead.
Ten minutes following the first goal, the Maroons caught the Quaker defense off guard when defender Jason Ryan made a sneaky run to the corner of the Quaker 18-yard box. The senior received the cross, took a touch and ripped a shot far post, past the diving Mandalinic.
In the remaining 30 minutes, the Quakers matched the play of the Maroons and created chances that challenged the Roanoke defense. But the Maroon defense held strong and stopped late chances by the Untouchable Freddie Gomez, and Jordando - Jordan Alexander.
When the final whistle blew, the scoreboard read 2-0 in favor of the Maroons. The loss to Roanoke is a short hiccup in the 2010 season. The Quakers are never willing to lose, but they are willing to learn from their mistakes. I see this game as a learning experience for the Quakers as they approach the ODAC tournament.
As I said in the Hilton Garden Inn Pre-Game Show, all signs pointed to this game being a fall classic. The chilly fall breeze at Donald J. Kerr Stadium carried the soft smell of fall that pairs perfect with soccer. Everything about Tuesday night had a fall, October feel - even the bus ride home.
In a far-from-familiar town in the spooky mountains of Virginia, our grumpy, old bus driver took a wrong turn off the main road onto a narrow, dark, winding road. Half of the team was convinced that the hills had eyes when the driver drove the bus into a steep slant of the mountain, and wedged the bus into the pavement of the road. The bus was stuck.
Some players believed that we were all characters in a scary movie, others planned escape strategies in case of an encounter with a bear, and a few of us considered the idea of the entire team manually pushing the bus out the pavement.
In case we didn't come out of this incident alive, Freddie Gomez captured everybody's last words on Josh Berry's video camera in a goofy documentary-style film that captured Michael Robles weeping (typical freshman).
Good thing a tow-truck came and dragged us out of the wedge because the documentary would have showed some reputation-damaging sides of many of the players. Also, if the truck couldn't pull us out, we would have had to walk a mile through the haunted hills to a place where another bus could find us.
After the truck straightened the bus out, almost all 38 passengers checked out the large divot in the road that the muffler of the bus made. A chunk of pavement lied next to it.
There is no question that Tuesday was the day of the divot. Sometimes the excitement of succeeding serves as a distraction from ones strategy.
I see the Quakers taking what they learned from their loss to Roanoke and bouncing back strong in their next two games at home against Virginia Wesleyan and Lynchburg. This ODAC-title bound team are about to turn many heads in the ODAC.
Make sure you watch and listen to the Quakers on Saturday at 3 p.m. and next Tuesday at 7 p.m. on the Guilford Quaker Network.