Editors Note: UNC Asheville head women's soccer coach Michelle Demko is assisting the U-23 National team in Spain for the next few weeks. She will be blogging about her experience as an assistant coach with the team. This is her final blog after playing England.
"We head home WINNERS...USA 2 England 1. Not only did we receive the tournament trophy but one of our forwards was named MVP. The game conditions were not ideal, but at the international level that is never even a thought. I did not hear one player mention the conditions, they just prepared like usual and focused on the game plan. The wind, rain and cold were not going to be a factor. They were determined to play through the elements and leave everything on the field...and they did.
Looking back on the tournament, set pieces were the difference for us. We scored a number of goals off corner kicks and free kicks. All the credit goes to the players and their will to implement new set pieces a day before the games began. The mentality to throw their body in front of any ball that got in the box is a reminder that it is the team who is willing to do whatever it takes to win, will generally emerge victorious. I saw players diving to keep the ball alive and give our team every opportunity to win, sacrificing their body for the good of their team. That kind of selfless behavior, and strong mentality, is why the US is among the best in the world for women's soccer.
Having time to reflect on the last 12 days, I am not sure what I would say was my favorite part. The entire staff was great, very professional and understanding we are all there to support the players and head coach. To do whatever we can to help the team win. No task was ever too small to not pay attention to detail. Working with these elite athletes was an absolute pleasure. Watching them take care of themselves on and off the field in an environment that is not always ideal...that was true professionalism at its best. I felt I was present for every moment of this opportunity. My goal was to be with the team and soak up as much as I could to become a better coach and apply that knowledge to our program at UNC Asheville. I would absolutely do it all again if given the opportunity. I look forward to following this team, and these players. Some of them will have an opportunity to be selected for the next world cup or Olympic team. Well done USA. I enjoyed every moment of La Manga, Spain. Now back to the team and city I love...see you soon Bulldogs!!!"