Friday, October 05, 2007

The anatomy of the streak

There is a point in every sports fan's life that they realize that there are only so many different storylines in sports (well at least every journalist discovers this). You have your redemption story...underdog story...unlikely hero is bigger than sports story (but if sports is life does this mean that life is bigger than itself? I will save that one for another day).

One of my favorite storylines is that of the streak. Winning and losing streaks are some of the coolest intersections of sports and psychoanalysis. When teams get into these grooves of losing or winning, players, fans and coaches all start to cultivate some really weird habits and reactions related to the team's onfield successes or failures.

Right now, two of Davidson's fall teams are involved in incredible streaks. The women's soccer team has won six straight games including two over SEC powers and three over conference rivals. Two of those six wins came in overtime.

On the other side of the hallway, the men's soccer team has now dropped five straight games and are only 1-8 on the season. Out of those eight losses, three of them were decided on golden goals or last second scores.

The men's soccer team came into this season hoping to rebound from last year's disaster where the team suffered a few tough lossesand mailed in the season. After starting 0-3 this season, Davidson thought that they were back on track with the return of senior leader Aaron West in an overtime game against Dayton. While West scored a goal in that lone win, he was also given a red card and had to sit out against Charlotte a few days later. Charlotte demolished the Cats and the losing streak was on.

Precisely when the men's soccer team thought that they were turning the season around by winning at Dayton, the women's soccer team dropped to their third game of the season in a lethargic match in Colorado against Colorado College. After picking up a win against Mercer, Davidson seemed to be falling back into lethargy in the first half of its next game against Vanderbilt. The early season prognosis was not very bright. But then the Wildcats came out in the second half, got a quick goal, eked out a win in OT and a winning streak was born. The women's soccer team has not lost since that early September day in Colorado.

One of the most amazing things about streaks is all of the crazy ways that teams seem to continue them. With the losses piling on, men's soccer coach Matt Spear began to mix up his lineup to find a winning combination. Starting forward Robby Hoak was held back on the bench for a game and then was put in on the defensive side of the field. The team changed their coming out song to the UEFA Champions League theme. If they had the option, I'm sure they would probably try out new jersies. Yet, all of those small things still have not translated to victory.

Last Wednesday, the men's soccer team hosted nationally ranked South Carolina and held the Gamecocks to only three shots over the first 75 minutes of play. The Wildcats had double digit opportunities on goal and were clinging to a one goal lead. With under 15 minutes remaining, the Gamecocks struck off a free kick and tied the game at one. Minutes later, they put home the go-ahead and took a 2-1 victory. The Wildcats had put forth their best effort and it still didn't translate to success.

Back on the women's side, the confidence of the Vanderbilt and LSU victories upped the team's intensity and they went on to pull out a OT win over then-unbeaten conference rival Appalachian State. During that week, the team's coach had gone out to lunch with several athletic department employees at a local eatery. Davidson has since beaten The Citadel and Furman in conference play. The same group has gone back to the same place every week since then...the superstition of the winning streak.

The men's and women's soccer teams still have several more conference games before the end of season tournaments. The men will keep trying to mess with the karma and get themselves back in the W column, while the women don't intend on changing anything for a while.

No comments: