|Several memorial moments of the 2012 Summer Olympics in London will stick with us for a long time.
One of those was the women’s soccer tournament, which the U.S. squad won after playing two classic matches in the medal round, beating Canada and Japan to win its third consecutive gold.
The MTSU women’s soccer team was keeping its eye on the action, while preparing for the beginning of its 2012 season starting tomorrow at Jacksonville State University.
The range of people watching Team USA on the pitch last week went from viewers that hardly know the sport to others, like the two members of the Blue Raider team who have been in the sport for a long time.
However, all of them witnessed some of the best matches in the sport’s short Olympic history that stretches back to the 1996 Summer Games in Atlanta.
Since that first Olympic tournament 16 years ago, Team USA has dominated the sport winning four out of the five gold medals.
It had not been easy for the women of Team USA.
Several countries like China, Norway, Brazil, Japan and Canada have given the Americans their best shots, but only the Norwegians’ had defeated USA in the finals.
That loss came in the 2000 Games in Sydney, which Team USA was knocked off in extra time by its longtime rivals.
Other nations came close, including Brazil in the 2008 goal medal match.
Team USA scored the only goal in that game in extra time to win the gold in China.
One of the stars in that game was the Brazilian mastermind with the ball, and only goes by one name Marta.
She is one of the best in the world of finding a way in tight space to dribble past the defenders and put the ball in the back of the net.
MTSU senior forward Regina Thomas said Marta is a player that she tries to pattern her skills around.
Thomas is a Blue Raider striker to watch out for this season.
In the Aug. 8, 1-0 friendly win over Mercer at the Dean Hayes Track and Soccer Stadium, Thomas showed her speed and quickness while she possessed the ball against the Bear defenders.
In the 47th minute, Thomas dribbled inside the penalty area, and drew a penalty kick when she was taken down by a Mercer player.
In the penalty shot, her fellow senior teammate and Chattanooga native defender Charity Blair put the ball past the Bear keeper for the only goal of the match.
Blair said she watched the soccer action when she had a free moment from either practice or class work.
While most viewers were cheering on the action, Blair used this opportunity to learn a few tips from the best of the world.
“It was great to watch,” Blair said. “I love watching the USA. Being from the USA, it’s a real thrill to see them win, and get a few pointers from it too.”
With the Games now over, the nation turns its women’s soccer attention to the college game.
In its first friendly last weekend, the MTSU players and coaches agree, they were a little bit out of rhythm, but they were trying to see which players fit together on the pitch.
Head coach Aston Rhoden said he played everyone in the match, and was happy with the performance of the team.
The was the first chance for the huge crowd to see how the 11-year head coach would mix together a core group of six seniors including Thomas and Blair to go along the young but skilled players including Tennessee natives, goalkeeper Kelsey Brouwer, forward Tori Hawkins, midfielder Ashley Roth and defender Kristina Turner.
Now, MTSU turns its attention to the regular season and hopes to win its second Sun Belt title in three seasons.
Blair believes it will take a total team effort for MTSU to contend for the conference championship.
“I think it is going to take a lot of hard work, and everyone being on the same page, including communicating on the field and keeping possession of the ball,” Blair said.