Instead of honoring goalie Eva Pearson with the traditional game ball after her heroic 10-save performance against No. 4 Bishop Ireton Tuesday afternoon in Alexandria, Good Counsel Coach Michael Haight awarded his sophomore a less typical memento.
On his way to the postgame huddle after his No. 3 Falcons’ 12-8 victory over their Washington Catholic Athletic Conference rivals, he scooped a white t-shirt off his bench, headed to the huddle, and read the slogan on the shirt:
“Honey badger don’t care,” he read, and tossed the shirt — which also featured a picture of a honey badger — toward Pearson.
The Falcons’ huddle roared, celebrating Pearson’s part in a win over Ireton that restored Good Counsel’s confidence after two tough losses last weekend — including a setback against No. 2 Georgetown Visitation.
“Those losses knocked the air out of our sails a bit. This is our motto after this weekend,” Haight said. “We just don’t care, we’re going to play loose.”
In a somewhat uncouth viral YouTube video, the narrator goofily lauds the honey badger’s approach to even more dangerous prey: “The honey badger don’t care,” he explains. “He just takes what he wants.”
That’s precisely what Pearson and the Falcons did against a talented Ireton team Tuesday, taking a lead and never giving in when the Cardinals charged back time and again. Bolstered by a tremendous performance from Pearson in net, the Falcons found responses to every Ireton challenge.
When the Cardinals turned a 3-0 deficit with six minutes to go in the first half into a 4-3 lead five minutes later, senior Madison Hoover tallied a goal to tie the score. When Ireton scored late to carry a lead to halftime, the Falcons fired back immediately, seizing a two-goal lead within five minutes of the intermission to restore control.
“The way we responded, that was just because of the way we came into the game today,” said Pearson, who wore the honey badger shirt over her jersey. “We had a tough weekend, but we were just on top of it. We were ready to go and we had fun.”
Hoover said the “don’t care” motto was partially inspired also by a video Haight showed his players in a pregame study hall, one of a North Carolina player who lost the ball, but charged down the field to get it back, undeterred by the mistake.
Good Counsel (6-2, 5-0 WCAC) showed similar composure Tuesday. Ireton, coming off a win over No. 2 Visitation and vying for early season WCAC supremacy, checked balls out of Good Counsel sticks on several occasions. The Cardinals’ offense capitalized on a few Falcon breakdowns, and for stretches like the four-goal outburst late in the first half, Ireton (7-1, 3-1) looked to be in control.
But every time a ball was knocked away, the Falcons seemed to get it back. Erin Bauman emerged from duress with ground ball after ground ball. Lexi Rieu found her way to several improbable draw controls. And when all else failed, Pearson — who Hoover said was “our momentum” — responded to Ireton scoring chances with big saves.
“It’s such an honor,” said Pearson jokingly and looking down at the honey badger on her shirt before adding seriously, “It’s actually a big deal, I’m pretty excited about it.”