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I-H Qualifiers; Enoshima vs Yokohama

Saturday May 29th;

Keiko's training camp was over, and the Inter-High Qualifiers were set to begin on Monday, the 31st of May and would end on Friday, June 4th. Keiko arrived back in Kamakura with instructions to go straight home and rest for the first game on Monday.

"I'm home." Keiko called when she walked in the door of her house, though she sounded rather tired

"Welcome home!" said Ryo as she, Hiroki and Koichi ran to greet her with a hug "I know I said it yesterday but, you look tired."

"I am."

"Welcome home." said Nana as Ryo took Keiko's bag off her shoulders "I just finished making today's lunch."

"I'm too tired to eat." said Keiko "I'm gonna go sleep." and Keiko went off to her room without another word. After collapsing on her bed, she was joined be Ryo, with Shiro in her arms, less than five minutes later. "I told you I wanted to sleep. I only have a day and a half to rest before my first game on Monday."

"So I can't join you? This is my room too." said Ryo closing the door and sitting down on her bed

"Suit yourself."

"Who's your first opponent?" Ryo asked while scratching Shiro's ears

"That's going to be decided at the drawings tomorrow." Keiko told Ryo "The captain will text the team when it's been done." 

"Great! Want a massage?"

"I guess that would be welcome." said Keiko. She took off her track suit shirt and her bra, laid face-down on her bed, then Ryo got on top of her and started rubbing her neck and shoulders. While she did, Shiro went to sleep on Ryo's pillow.

"Hiroki got a girlfriend." said Ryo as she rubbed her sisters shoulders and neck

"I got your text yesterday." Keiko replied

"Just checking."

"What's her name?"

"Saki Takasugi, a first year in our class. She's on the swim team."

"I see. How exactly did it happen?"

"That's between Hiroki and Saki-chan. But enough about them; anything happen between you and Saito-kun?" Keiko didn't answer "Still not talking to him."

"After using him like that, I don't know how to talk to him." said Keiko, her face buried in her pillow

"'Using him'? What are you talking about?" Ryo asked

"A child could never understand."

"You call me a child?" Ryo mumbled to herself, still rubbing Keiko's shoulders "Have you looked in a mirror? That child-like face of yours."

"What was that?" Keiko asked in a dangerously sweet voice

"Nothing!" Ryo said hastily "Nothing at all! But really, if you leave things like this, you and Saito-kun will only get more distant. Hey, are you listening?" Keiko wasn't. She had fallen asleep. "Geez." Ryo kissed Keiko's cheek "Good luck." Ryo whispered to Keiko

Like Keiko said, the drawings to decide the order of the fist round was done the following day. By luck of the draw, Enoshima wasn't starting until the second round. Matches were to take place in the afternoon so that the tournament wouldn't clash with classes. The first and second rounds were being played at Enoshima High that day, and their first opponent was going to be the girls team of Yokohama High School, winners of the first round.

Monday May 31st;

"All right ladies." said Suzuka as the team changed in the school locker room. "After having to wait and watch the first round of the qualifiers, it's now our turn. Let's show those out-of-towner Yokohama Girls what Enoshima Girls are made of."

"You make it sound like we're an all-girls school." said Tsukasa

"You seem a little tense, Keiko-chan." said Sachiko

"Do I?" said Keiko

"Kei-chan's not the only one." said Yuki "I am too, and we have every reason to be. Half of Yokohama's regulars are girls we played against all through Middle School. They'll know Kei-chan and I play."

"I did notice more than a few new faces." said Nagisa "Their playing style seems to have changed as well."

"They also have a new coach." said Mai "This information means that any knowledge of when we played them in the past will be useless."

"Not necessarily." said Amuro "They still have two of last year's Forwards, but only one new face up front."

"Amuro's right!" said Yukari "I saw it too. It's their Midfielders we need to worry about."

"Let's not think on it too much." said Mai "Score if you can, but stay on defense for the first several minutes. Let's learn what they're real plans are. And one last thing; Do your best, play fair, and have fun."

"Yes, Coach!" the entire team chorused

"Before we go out there, I would like to recommend a small shift in normal strategy." said Keiko

On the field;

"And here come; the two teams for this second round match!" said Yukinari as the two teams came out onto the field "Even I must say it's a real honor for our school to host two Inter-High matches. I'm Yukinari Kojima."

"And I'm Kirie Sasaki, and we'll be following Enoshima High throughout the tournament." said Kirie "Due to a regrettable incident, the boys team has been barred from the Men's tournament, so we'll be giving you information on the Women's tournament as it unfolds."

"After Kawasaki High School received a thrashing 6-1 defeat by Yokohama High School in the first round, our very own Enoshima High School will now face Yokohama."

"Hey, Aizawa!" one of the Yokohama Forwards said to Keiko

"Atsuko Miyamoto?" Keiko replied

"After your performance all the way through Middle School, I'd have thought you'd quit. But you still managed to stay in the soccer world by use of your family name."

"That's not true!" Keiko retorted "I'm a great player. I even play for Nadeshiko Japan now."

"And I hear your coach was a former player for Nadeshiko, as well as a close friend of your dad's. That's why you were recommended. Face it, Aizawa, you're just a famous name. Prepare to lose your first match of the qualifiers." Miyamoto returned to her position after giving Keiko a sly smile that only made her angry

"Don't let Atsuko-chan get to you." said Yuki

"Were you two rivals?" Suzuka asked

"Her name's Atsuko Miyamoto. And we pretty much were." Keiko admitted ""Just a famous name'? Really?"

"Well, let's prove her wrong."

"Right." Keiko and Yuki said together

"It's almost time for the kickoff." said Yukinari as both teams got in place for the kickoff "Before that, I'd like to take a moment to announce Enoshima's starters for this game. The Keeper is the usual 2nd year Amuro Okiura. Our Defenders; we have 1st year Yuzuki Kirishima and 2nd year Moka Aono in a two-back formation, quite different from usual. Our Midfielders; on defense from the left, we have 2nd year Haruhi Suou, 1st year Aoi Hanabishi and 2nd year Kiyomi Yura. On offense from the left, we have 1st year Miho Kusakabe, 2nd year Yukari Kayakawa in below-top, and Akane Saotome. The Forwards, the usual, Ace Striker and star of Nadeshiko Japan, 1st year Keiko Aizawa, along with 3rd year Captain Suzuka Akitsuki in a two-top formation."

"A 2-6-2 formation, quite unusual for this team." said Kirie

"She's right." Suzuka whispered to Yukari as the pair prepared to kickoff "We don't usually do this."

"But it's essential." said Yukari "Especially with that 3-4-3 formation of theirs. You heard what Keiko said; you need to keep a low profile. You and Aizawa stay away from the ball and work you way into the Penalty Area. Leave the ball the us Midfielders until we get it into the box. After that, it's all you two."

"I'm gonna need to give orders, and Keiko's well known, so it's gonna be a bit hard for us to 'keep a low profile'."

"There's the ref's whistle, and it's the kickoff!" said Yukinari

Yukari and Suzuka kicked off, and Yukari passed the ball to Miho. Miho dodged the Forwards and a midfielder before passing it back to Yukari. Yukari then found herself blocked by the enemy number 10 and heel-passed to Akane. Akane, about to be blocked by a Defender, then passed to Suzuka, who then passed back to Yukari. Yukari then aimed a shot into the Goal, but the Keeper was ready for it. This was a feint; Yukari instead passed to Keiko. and Keiko put the shot past the Keeper easily. The score was now 1-0 for Enoshima.

"Nice one, Yukari!" said Keiko as she gave Yukari a high-five

"Oldest trick in the book, and they fell for it." Yukari replied

"Partly because of those three." said Keiko pointing to Yokohama's three Forwards. they were still at the half-point of the field

"Those three are still there?" Suzuka asked as they walked back to starting position for the next kickoff

"I'd thought you knew." said Keiko "Yokohama's Forwards aren't known for assisting in defending."

"Exactly." said Yukari "As long as we keep the ball away from them when we have possession, and take the ball from them quickly, we'll be fine."

"I just now noticed that no one you know has come to watch the game." Suzuka told Keiko

"Hiroki, Ryo and Koichi have tournaments coming up as well, so their teams are putting in a lot of practice this week." Keiko explained "Michiru's studying for midterms, Mama, through being a housewife and since we're not babies anymore, is out looking for a job today, and Papa has meetings with the JFA. In short: everyone's too busy to watch. It doesn't matter, I told them not to bother watching the qualifiers anyway."

"She's right." said Yukari as they prepared to kickoff again "The real excitement is the main tournament. Only once in our team's history have we failed to make it to the top 16. And that was years ago."

"Here we go again." said Suzuka as the ref blew his whistle to start the next kickoff

Much to everyone's surprise, Yokohama turned out to be a bit more of a pushover than anyone had expected. Though Yokohama had attacked many times, only once did the ball make it into Enoshima's Penalty Area. When the first half ended, Enoshima was leading at 4-0.

"I didn't think we would have such an easy first game." said Tsukasa as everyone sat down for the break

"'Easy'?" said Miho as Saito passed out water bottles. "I guess I must have been playing the wrong game."

"Something's not right." said Keiko "Tsukasa's right, it's been easy for us so far. Even Yokohama's current defense shouldn't be so permeable."

"You think maybe they were just learning our formation and movements during the first half?" Amuro asked

"That be the case, the second half won't be a cakewalk." said Suzuka

"And for another reason." said Mai "Look at Yokohama's current regulars. Even though they played a game earlier today, none of them are showing any sign of fatigue."

"While you girls are starting to get worn down." said Saito

"They're smiling too." said Yuki

"I have a bad feeling about this." said Aoi

With no substitutions on either side, the second half began. Yukari took the ball down the pitch and passed it to Keiko, but it was intercepted by Yokohama's number 10. Yukari tried to take the ball back, but the number 10 heel-passed to the number 8 behind her.

"What was that pass... Oh no!" Yukari looked behind her and saw that Yokohama's forwards were halfway to the Penalty Area. Three Offensive Midfielders were moving up as well "We've been had!" Yukari shouted

"Everybody back!" Suzuka ordered as Yokohama's number 8 sent the ball flying to the other side of the field.

Yokohama's number 7 received the ball and passed it to Miyamoto (number 9). Miyamoto, taking advantage of the confusion, entered the Area and sent the ball flying past Amuro. Just one minute in, and the score was now 4-1.

"I had no idea their number 8 had a kick like that." said Keiko "So they were going easy on us in the first half."

"We're still three goals up." said Suzuka "Let's play a bit more defensively for a while."

"Agreed." said Yukari

But playing more defensively didn't help much. Yokohama took advantage of the fact that Enoshima was more tired than they were and attacked hard. By the fifteen minute mark, the score was tied at 4-4.

On the bench;

"This isn't good." said Saito

"You right." said Mai "Our girls are tired. If this keeps up, we'll lose in the first round. Time for some subs. Yuki, Miki, Sachiko start warming up. At the next ball out, you three are going in."

"Yes, Coach." said the three of them

When the ball went out of bounds, Miki went in in place of Yuzuki, Yuki took Miho's place in the offense while Kiyomi joined the bench, and Sachiko joined Keiko and Suzuka up front. The formation was now 2-5-3.

"Was this really a good idea?" Kiyomi asked as she sat down on the bench and accepted a water bottle from Saito "You decreased the number of Midfielders and put in another Forward. If you're planning to go with the 'Booby-trap Formation,' I don't think it will work at this point."

"That is what I plan on using now." said Mai "I told those three to relay the message. I know most of the other girls are tired, but we have to score at least one more goal within the remaining time."

On the field;

Akane took the throw-in. Upon signal from Suzuka she performed a Handspring Throw-in and sent the ball into Yokohama's side for the field. Keiko, also following Suzuka's signal, chased after it, but it was taken by one of Yokohama's Midfielders. Keiko wasn't discouraged, as this had begun the "Booby-trap". All according to the new plan, Miki stole the ball easily and Enoshima got it's groove back.

"A rabbit caught in a trap can't do anything." Suzuka thought as she received the ball near Yokohama's Penalty Area

Working with Keiko and Sachiko, they managed to, with some difficulty, but the ball in the goal. Just five minutes remaining, and Enoshima had pulled ahead to 5-4.

"Yes!" Sachiko cheered

"Don't get cocky." said Suzuka "There's still five minutes. We need to either hold that, or score again."

"Right." said Keiko

Five minutes later, Enoshima had managed to hold their lead.

PEEP PEEP PEEEEEEEEEEEEP

"That's the game!" said Yukinari "Enoshima wins at 5-4."

"Hey, Aizawa!" Miyamoto said to Keiko

"What do you want?" Keiko replied

"We lost today. I won't deny, you're better than you were last year. But that doesn't mean you're better than me!"

"Maybe, but I have a much better team!" Keiko called after her then joined everyone at the bench

"What a game!" said Saito

"You said it." said Miki

"Our next match in on Wednesday. Then on Friday is the finals for the Qualifiers." said Mai

"Who do you think we're most likely to play?" Yuki asked

"Wednesday is hard to say, but, if we win, I know we'll be playing Kisaragi Girls High on Friday."

"Isn't that where four of your sisters go, Tsukasa?" Nagisa asked

"Yes. And two of them are on the team." Tsukasa replied "But Kisaragi itself is no pushover. It won't be easy."

"Agreed." said Mai "Everyone rest yourselves up tonight and prepare for early practice tomorrow."

"Yes, Coach." the team chorused

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