Willow realised that her heart was thumping in her chest as the UC Sunnydale team rotated the ball in an arc and walked towards the Columbus goal as one. She quickly looked over at Emily to see if the girl could hear how loud her heart was beating, and was relieved to see that the dark haired taller girl had her eyes fixed on the match. Looking back at the field, Willow realized that there was no longer a permanent defender on Tara. The thought left the red head feeling slightly better, although she did notice that even though the girl was now standing on the 6 to defend, it was still no. 9 marking Tara.
"Columbus probably thinks Tara is in no position to pose as much of a threat anymore" Willow thought, glaring at no.9. "That bitch is soooo gonna get it from me if I ever see her out on the street..." she thought, clenching her jaw with fury. Looking at Tara with the ball in her hand Willow softened, as she watched the blonde easily pass the ball to her left. Cordelia collected and quickly passed the ball to Cameron, who had managed to make her way to the 6.
Cameron went for a shot, but the ball was tapped out of her hands by Faith, who'd run upto her and was standing right behind her. Since Faith had touched the ball from behind Cameron, who was already as close to the goal as she could be, it was called a foul, and UC Sunnydale was awarded a penalty hot.
"It's mine" Willow saw Tara say, as she walked upto Cordelia, who had seemed to presume that she was gonna take the shot.
"Are you sure you can?" Willow read Cordelia's lips, and genuinely appreciated the concern she was showing for Tara' foot. "For that matter they've all been great" Willow thought, looking at Tara nod her head.
Cordelia passed the ball to Tara and walked out to stand at the 9. Tara took her position, her left foot forward, bent at the knee, all her pressure on it. Her right foor only had its toes touching the ground, and barely at that, Willow noted.
She saw Tara look at the referee and nod her head, her hand slightly raised to her right.
The whistle blew. Tara raised her right hand to her shoulder level, lifted her right leg, and shot...
"No, not shot, FIRED!" Willow thought, as the ball zoomed past the Columbus goalkeeper as if it had been fired from a canon.
The keeper didn't even have time to move, as it settled in the bottom left of the back of the net.
The referee's whistle blew.
UC Sunnydale had scored. They were on the board.
A second later the entire team was celebrating, as were the spectators in the bleachers.
Tara's smile as she walked slowly towards her own 6 again was contagious, and when she looked straight at Willow and flashed a grin, the red head found that her expression matched the blondes.
Columbus were now on the 9, and Willow watched as Tara pushed her own PP Cameron towards Faith. It took Willow a second to realize what Tara was doing, and then she realized that it was the same plan. Tara was putting Cameron on Faith as a permanent marker.
"Good idea" Willow said, nodding her head.
Cameron stood right in front of the brunette, and the confused look on Faith's face was there for anyone to see. Cameron stood before her, her legs slightly spread, ready to move any which way to stay in the brunette's way. Faith tried to cut in past the PP on the right, but Cameron was right there, cutting her off by taking a quick step to her left.
Faith was left on the 9, staring into Cameron's face, as the rest of the Columbus girls moved into a distance of 8 metres from the goal, which was being guarded by a very alert looking Anya.
Seconds later their centre attempted a lobbed pass to their outer, who on Tara's instructions had been left open. Watching from her seat courtside, Willow realized why the UC girls had left her unmarked. Samantha as a defender had leapt into the air and beautifully collected the lobbed pass, stealing possession.
UC Sunnydale had the ball again. Instead of rushing towards Columbus' end with the ball, UC Sunnydale held the ball and slowed down the game.
"It's for Tara!" Willow realized, as the team walked slowly towards the oppositions end, passing the ball along to one another. "This is good stuff" Willow realized, impressed by the way her team was thinking.
As if reading her thoughts Emily commented "This is smart play by UC..."
Willow said "Uh huh", still watching the game. UC Sunnydale was now on the 9, and were rotating the ball, all the Columbus defenders on the 6.
They were through with one rotation, and were now on the second. The ball got to Tara, and she quickly moved in on her left foot, before dribbling the ball, looking at her left, collecting the ball, and once again moving forward and elevating with her left leg.
"What's she doing????" Willow wondered, her heart beginning to beat at a breakneck speed again as she watched the defense rise in front of Tara.
Tara looked like she was raising her hand to shoot, and Willow watched in horror as the Columbus no.9 jumped right in front of her with her hands raised, and Faith, who was right next to imitated her action. There were two players on Tara, and Tara's arm came up to her shooting action, and then....
She dropped it to the player on her left!
Willow realized that two players had come to defend Tara's action, which left Cordelia, the player to Tara's left free. "That's exactly what Tara wanted!" Willow thought in amazement, as Cordelia took a clean catch, moved straight into the 6 and shot.
'Goal' the referee's whistle said.
UC Sunnydale had 2 on the board, and their fans were back up on their feet.
Tara turned around with a grin on her face. She found herself looking for Willow again, and smiled as their eyes met for a second, before she headed back to the defense line, to guard her domain.
"Anya is brilliant!" Willow found herself saying to Emily, as she watched the keeper split to her right to save an attempt made by a Columbus shooter. Willow looked at Faith, who was kept back at the 9 by Cameron, and saw the frustrated look on the players face.
"Oh yeah, she's great!" Emily said, clapping as the Sunnydale girls met up at a point on their own 6 line. Tara said something, and the rest of the girls all nodde their heads quickly, although Cameron's expression showed that she wasn't too sure about what Tara had said.
Anya passed the ball to Samantha. Moving slowly, the UC Sunnydale girls made it to the Columbus 9, and that's when it happened.
Without waiting for a whole rotation to be completed, Tara quicly took the ball as soon as it was passed to her and made her way in, dribbling after two steps.
"Don't tell me..." Willow heard Emily say, but the red head still didn't know what was happeing.
"Oh my God! She's gonna..." Emily said, as Tara walked upto her defender, put her left leg at the same place no. 9's was, turned her body so that her back was now facing her defenders, completed the turn and shot around no.9 right shoulder, "...FAKE!" she completed.
Willow watched as the ball shot past the keeper, who had no idea where Tara was going to shoot since no.9 had been covering Tara's movement. The ball made it into the top left of the goal, staying there.
The whistle blew, and Willow, for the first time in this match, felt real hope.
4 - 3, UC Sunnydale was down by one.
She stood on her feet, joined by Emily as the two cheered wildly. Willow once again found herself staring into shining blue eyes as Tara's eyes sought her own. She couldn't stop the smile that graced her features as Tara grinned at her, before high fiving Cameron and moving back for defense.
"YOU'RE FAKING!!!!!!!!!!" Anya said, embracing Tara at half time.
"Apparently" Tara said, smiling at her friend.
Coach Giles cleared his throat, getting the teams attention. "Ok girls, we're up 7-5. I know we're in the lead, but let's not take it too easy now ok?"
"Aww, don't worry Coach!" Samantha said. "Just give me some water!" she said, reaching for the bottle in Coach Giles' hands.
Tara felt a hand on her shoulder, and turned. "You thirsty?" Willow asked, handing the blonde a bottle of water.
"Thanks" Tara smiled, looking into the emerald colored eyes before her. Willow returned the smile, saying "You're doing great out there!"
Tara ducked her head, suddenly shy under Willow's steady gaze.
"What? It's true!" Buffy exclaimed, and Tara looked up again. She was about to say something, when someone from the crowd yelled "Go Tara!!!!"
Looking in the direction where the shout came from, Tara realized who it was, and grinned. Willow saw them too, and looking at Tara said "The kids are here?!?!"
"Yeah" Tara said, looking back at the red head after waving at the kids she helped study. "They asked if they could come watch, and I said it was ok with me, if it was ok with their parents. They've never seen a game of handball before, but they have seen me in the papers and stuff because of it, and they wanted to come..."
"That's sweet!" Willow said, grinning and waving at the kids too.
"Yeah, it's nice to have them here..." Tara said, and then, after a seconds pause said "And it's nice to have you here too Willow".
Willow looked at her and saw that she meant it. Grinning she said "Well, it's great to be able to say that I was here supporting the winning team!"
"But we haven't..." Tara started, but Willow cut her off.
"Oh, it's only a matter of time!!" Willow said cheerfully.
And she was right. The minute the referee's whistle had gone, the UC Sunnydale team were back on, this time in possession. The confidence showed, as they made their way to Columbus' 9. 2 minutes later they were walking back towards their end for defense, their heads held high, celebrating Cameron's goal.
And that's how the match went. With 10 seconds of the match left, the score read UC Sunnydale 15 - Columbus 7.
When the final whistle blew, Willow was watching Tara. The blonde just froze where she was for 2 seconds, before her head slowly rose, and Willow once again found herself looking into her eyes.
A grin crept onto Tara's face, as she held Willow's gaze. Moments later, the grin was a full blown smile, matching Willows.
They had won.
That was the expression Willow was looking at before Tara was enveloped by the entire UC Sunnydale team in a group hug, hidden from Willow's sight.