W.T. Woodson girls' soccer captain Danielle King needed something to motivate her team after a string of draws and a stunning 2-1 upset loss to South County on April 16.
At that point in the season, the Cavaliers had a 2-2-3 record, but King thought her team could be better than what the record showed.
"I decided we needed some team unity, something to pump us up," she said.
As a captain, it's her job to rally the girls, but instead of composing a rousing speech of her own, she turned to Al Pacino for help.
In the film "Any Given Sunday", Pacino plays Tony D'Amato, the fictional head coach of a struggling Miami-based football franchise.
During halftime of a game, Pacino explained to his ego-dominated team that "life is a game of inches," and those inches are "the difference between winning and losing, and living and dying."
While egos aren't a problem in the Cavs' locker room, the fight-or-die-trying message resonated with the junior. King took the initiative and decided to show her teammates the video during a team meeting called by the captains.
"I knew it was going to hit them hard — especially our seniors,” King said. “This is our last couple games of soccer together. It was worth showing to them to try and push for those inches."
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King, who has used the speech before to motivate her club teams, thought it was just what the Cavs needed to rile up some emotions on the team.
Pacino's speech did more than energize the Cavs' locker room, it's now the girls' rallying cry.
"It's our slogan," senior midfielder Courtney Owen said. "We listen to it before every game. It's all about fighting for each other and fighting for the inches in games."
On top of lifting the team's spirits, it also re-focused the girls -- allowing them to set new team goals together.
"It was great to get everyone together and set our eyes on one big goal," junior midfielder Marlee Stynchula said. "We lost some key personalities last year, so to get the spirit back in everyone was important."
Since the screening of the speech, the Cavs have been on a furious winning tear, holding their opponents off the score sheet in a 1-0 victory over Annandale and a 3-0 victory over Yorktown.
The battle for inches hasn't gone unnoticed by head coach Warren Williams.
Williams said he’s aware of the team's renewed spirit and desire to fight on the field, but noted a bit of irony in their speech selection.
"It' sort of funny they picked the inches speech because it's been inches all year that have hurt us," he said. "We have been hitting posts all season long, or just missing our shots. Just little things that held us back."
Those inches now are working for the Cavs, not against them. One example is in the team plays that the group had trouble executing earlier in the season. Now they convert on corners and set pieces with ease.
During the 3-0 victory over Yorktown on April 22, all three goals scored came from corner kick set pieces finished with headers, an aberration for a team that hasn't always relied on corners for offense this year.
"It was clicking," Warren said. "I wish we could have bottled them up for later. We've been focusing on [headers], but it's not something we do the best."
Owen, who is smaller than most girls on the pitch, embodied the inches speech when she scored two goals with her head in the Yorktown match.
"I'm only 5-foot 3-inches," Owen said. "But it's my third [header goal] this year. It's not expected that I [score with my head], but I've just been feeling it and fighting for it."
Only three games remain in the girls' soccer team's schedule, but with his team playing their best soccer of the season, Williams said the team meeting and Pacino speech could be the engine fueling a long playoff run.
"They wanted what's best for each other," he said. "They didn't want any regrets for this season."