I fucking hate losing.
Those are the words that kept popping up in my head as we were heading back home after losing 2-1 to Angers during the final of this year's France N2 field hockey championship.
We went through a tough though rewarding journey during the season, raising our objective from remaning in the same division to winning the champion's title. We finished first of our regional championship, only 1 point ahead of the runner-up. We beat Lyon's team in Lyon, with adverse supported shouting against us for the entire duration of the game. During the regular season, we regularly came back from being 1 or 2 goals down to winning during important games.
Last year we were playing in Nationale 3, a lower division. We finished 1st and thus gained accession to Nationale 2, where we played this year. Our initial aim wasn't too ambitious: all we wanted to do was to remain in the same division. We expected teams to play much better and provide stronger opposition. As things turned out, our team managed to pull off a couple great games after a rocky start (we lost our first game of the season 4-0). We ended the first half of the season 6 points ahead of the runner up, having already secured our spot in Nationale 2 for the next year.
The second half of the season was a continuous fight. We drew 2 tough games against opponent sides that were stronger than us on paper. Most of the games we won it wasn't thanks to our technical prowess but rather a constant willingness to keep fighting and keep trying whatever happened. We came back from behind so many times! We secured the top spot the second-to-last day of the championship.
Our fighting spirit was at its best during Saturday's semifinal, where Lyon's team played faster and harder than we did. We managed to contain their attacks and we scored during counter-attacks. A whopping 3 of our 4 goal opportunities ended up in the opposing net, whereas they had about 20 opportunities to score and netted only one. This sent us to the final and a game against Angers, a team we expected would offer weaker opposition than Lyon had.
We came so close... and ironically, we lost to a team that played the same way we played when we beat some of our fiercer opponents. Angers had a very solid defense that wore off our numerous goal opportunities. We came close to their posts many times yet failed to score more than 1 goal. We felt like had got beaten at our own game - how fitting!
On a personal level the week-end wasn't all that bad for me. I provided an assist for the first goal on Saturday and scored on Sunday. This came as a nice conclusion to a season where I feel I improved my gameplay significantly throughout the year. Field hockey however is a team sports and losing in the final overshadows whatever satisfaction I had. We went so far together... and failed together at the last spot. That's just not cool.
This last game should not make us forget that this was a great season that brought plenty of great times to all of the players. We played some very nice games and had some after-game parties that were a great embodiment of team spirit. All in all, it was a pretty awesome year.
Still... I fucking hate losing.