Ohio soccer knows the importance of teamwork. It’s evident in their play on the field and attitude off of it. From their detailed formation to their common Twitter hash tags saying, “Teamwork makes the dream work,” the Bobcats have chemistry that every coach longs for.
In last Sunday afternoon’s game at Western Michigan, the Bobcats were beginning to get on the right track following two straight Mid-American Conference losses. They were controlling possession and were pressuring the Bronco defense.
It wasn’t until the beginning of the second half that Ohio scored its first goal of the game off a strike from Tonya Frasik and took the lead. It gave the Bobcats momentum, and Western Michigan was having a difficult time gaining any advantage.
Then, the Broncos received a blessing from Mother Nature.
At the 67th minute, light rain quickly turned into a storm, sending both teams to the shelter of their buses, and fans to their cars. A mere 10 minutes passed until the sun appeared along with blue skies. The heavy rain had already taken its toll, though.
The players, coaches and fans returned to the field – soaked from head-to-toe – only to see water pooled sporadically across the grass.
With the appearance of multiple tiny ponds on what previously was a manicured field, the referees declared the surface unplayable. They told the teams to go home.
The Bobcats were only three minutes short of the game being ruled official and thus being rewarded the victory. With the time requirement of 70 minutes unreached, a cancellation would not count as a win or loss for either club. When coupled with a delayed start time to the game, the Bobcats would have easily met the minimum time limit.
With that in mind, Coach Stacy Strauss argued they had until four o’clock to see if the field dried. Her argument prevailed. The Bobcats had about 40 minutes for the field to dry.
Ohio knew that Mother Nature needed some help, as the sun alone wasn’t going to do the trick. A team effort was required.
The Bobcats took every empty container they could find to haul off the excess water, which included trashcans, cups, and plastic bags. The task was too much for the players alone, sparking a remarkable occurrence.
Inspired by the team, the Ohio fans in attendance voluntarily risked their own comfort by chipping in and slopping around on the field to help. Heck, even the Ohio bus driver who was sporting dress shoes and media members hopped into the mix.
It was teamwork trying to make the dream work.
Western Michigan players were not as enthusiastic to get the game completed as they cleared their benches and packed up their gear. Their coaches told them to leave. Their administrators and coaches continued to argue with Strauss, stating Ohio was ruining the field. Bronco players were asking, “Do they really think they’ll clear the field?”
Refs stood off to the side, waiting for the clock to strike four, so they could receive their cue to depart. Before the refs called it, a lot of the Western Michigan players had already left.
For Ohio, this game was crucial to their standings in the MAC. A win against Western Michigan would have moved them up to seventh in the standings. Without the victory, they are currently tied for eighth.
Unfortunately for Ohio, the four o’clock bell tolled. The game was cancelled. They fought hard to take the lead in the game only to watch the heavy rain literally wash away their efforts.
As the clock inched past four o’clock, a proud, but disappointed Strauss informed her team to dismiss their efforts. But rather than sulking in the swamp, the team was not going to let their hard work pass without a little entertaining reward.
Mattie Liston, Cat Rogers and Natalie Bechtel all took part in a slip-and-slide on some open grass next to the soccer field, as fans and teammates cheered them on.
The team then took a net to the side and played a miniature version of their own competition. Liston and Strauss were the two goalies as the rest of the team battled in friendly competition. The game was close throughout. In the end, it was freshman Holly Harris who declared her team the victors to the good humored dismay of Liston, and the laughter of others.
For a team that had not had many things go their way, this adversity became another team-building experience. Strauss told them before the game that she believes great things come to those who work hard. It may not show in the record book, but Sunday was a victory for the Bobcats in every other way.
They played well for 67 minutes, proving to themselves they can get back on the winning track. In the end they showed their will to persevere in the face of difficult circumstances, as well as the will to win. Something any team can take pride in.
But it was the selfless action of the innocent bystanders inspired by a Bobcat team they love and respect that will forever remain a shining example of how teamwork is contagious.
The cancelled game will be forgotten, but a life long lesson will not. A lesson for not only a team willing to make every effort to bring home a victory, but also for the lucky fans who received their own dose of inspiration.
On that day, “Teamwork trying to make the dream work” meant just a little more.