Rhiannon lets go of her stick long enough to adjust her helmet slightly, lacing her fingers through the mouth guard and wrenching it into a more comfortable position. Her bandana is terribly positioned as well, but she can't fix that without taking her helmet entirely off, which, late in the second quarter, isn't an option.
Across the court, Mala checks one of the opposing team's backliners in a move that's barely legal-- and leans backwards as said backliner takes a swing at her. It's a small miracle that Mala doesn't swing back. Rhii glances to the closest referee - will they step in? There's little point in getting someone carded this late in the quarter, but it'd certainly piss the other team off.
Alessa surveyed the team with a wicked gleam in her eye, racquet slung loosely over one shoulder. Coach Castiglione hovered behind her, leaning heavily on his cane and glancing between her and his phone.
The locker room was dead silent.
Rhiannon was used to this - this kind of harsh approach. She'd wait until they were all collectively squirming to get onto the court, and then begin her speech. Most likely with hard words.
The Coach, on the other hand, had never seemed to really pick up on Alessa's strategy. He opened his mouth, and upon his intake of breath, the Captain shot him a burning glare.
Moments passed, her face volcanic rock and his mouth still open, and then he let that first breath out. Deflated.
This also didn't surprise Rhii - it was well known, at least among the rest of the team, that Alessa had pulled strings to get Arturo Castiglione as the team coach because her will was stronger than his - and she could hardly be Coach and Captain. Whether the Coach realized that that was the way the cards had fallen had yet to be seen.
The team was spread across the locker room, armor half on and the rest scattered around the open seats. The energy level was high - it was still early enough in the season that the excitement won out over anxiety.
"Alright." Alessa broke the silence, the single word accompanied by the thump of the butt of her racquet on the concrete floor. "We're up against Orochi, and while last season they were a miserable bunch of jackholes, they got a better coach over the summer so there's a sliver of a chance that they'll actually be competent. So we play hard - beat their sorry asses into the plexiglass."
She paused for effect, and then added, "Not actually, of course. Try to keep fighting to a minimum. Make them mad, but don't start the fights. If they want to get carded, well - all the better for us." She thrust an accusing finger at Mala without turning her head. "Mala, if you get red-carded, I will beat you with your own racquet in front the away crowd."
The striker snorted out a half-laugh, but after a moment under Alessa's intense glare, squared her shoulders and nodded.
The captain turned her attention back to the rest of the team. "Mach, Squiggie, you're our starting strikers tonight, and will trade off every other quarter with Mala and Maeve. Therese is dealing first. As for our backliners... Ali and Xie - you two will trade off with Rhii and Grace. You're starting. We're down a goalkeeper, which I'm fucking pissed about - even if seeing Mairin punt the ball directly into that striker's face was extremely satisfying."
It had been - in no small part due to the fact that the striker in question had been being particularly aggressive specifically to the women on their team.
"So Pixie is gonna have to go all four quarters." There was no question there - no second option.
Pixie had been near-vibrating in excitement for hours - all through the bus ride and pregame. "Yes, Captain!" She stood and shot Alessa a salute that could have been sarcastic if the manic grin on her face hadn't defused any ill intent in it.
Alessa crossed the distance between them and tangled her fingers in the grate of Pixie's helmet and yanked the goalkeeper to her. "Four shots."
Pixie squirmed, and then stilled abruptly.
"You give them four shots, and then you lock that shit down." The captain narrowed her eyes. "Can you do that?"
"Can I do that?" Pixie slammed the butt of her racquet on the concrete floor. "Who the fuck do you think I am?"
"Good." Alessa stepped back, and gestured toward the door. "Now get the fuck onto the court, all of you. I know this is early in the season, but if we lose I will literally kill all of you."
The flash of the ball down the court snaps Rhii's attention back to the actual game. One of the Orochi backliners has managed to ricochet the ball off one wall and up the court. Directly toward the striker jostling Grace for position.
Fuckers are stealing our moves, now. Rhii thinks with something between amusement and irritation - ricochet passes were something the Council team were known for, until, perhaps, now - and steels herself.
Predictably, Grace checks her striker, just hard enough for him to miss the ball, and it hurtles past both of them. Rhii sidesteps her own striker - some chump with 'King' across the back of his blazer - and stretches--
The ball thumps solidly into her net. No time to hold it - she takes three running steps, twirls, and bungs the ball back down the court at an angle.
There's seven seconds on the clock.
The ball ricochets off the wall, high, and far down the court there's a flash of yellow and black - a racquet thrusts high into the air and snatches the ball.
Four seconds on the clock.
There's a flurry of activity, and then the goal lights up brilliant red. And the halftime buzzer sounds.
The score is four to three in their favor.
Maeve lets out a whoop - the goal was theirs - and flings themself down the court at Rhii. She drops her racquet and charges the striker, and there's the crack of chestpiece on chestpiece as the two throw themselves into each other.
"Oi! Chucklefucks!" Alessa gestures with her racquet at the two of them - ostensibly angry, but the wide grin on her face belies the sentiment - and then gestures back to their locker room. "Get the fuck off the court!"
They leave the court for halftime amidst a flurry of activity. The team jostles against each other, Rafael pulling this quarter's players out of the swarm one by one to check for injuries. And as they file off, their cheer team files on - Alivion and Arlen fistbumping each other as they pass.
"Wanna know something great?" Maeve almost has to yell to be heard over the rest of the team, and Rhii shoots them a grin by way of answer. "Captain? Mouthed 'fuck you' at the opposing dealer right before she served."
Rhii's grin spreads, a mirror to Alessa's earlier expression, and she tucks her racquet under her arm to sign back.
"O Captain! My Captain!"