Thursday, February 20, 2020. It's a date that Danika Matos will never forget.
Matos strode onto the Marconi Stadium field alongside her Western Sydney Wanderers teammates, ready to make her W-League debut.
Among that group was her good friend and fellow Illawarra Stingray Chloe Middleton, who had made her debut the week before.
"Chloe got to start first time with so walking onto the field, alongside your best friend, it was amazing. Obviously it's a big achievement to see both of you doing what you love," the Lake Illawarra resident, 20, said.
"I was shocked to make my debut starting and to play the full 90 [minutes]. To get called up into the starting eleven, there was adrenaline running through my body the whole week."
While the Wanderers lost that fixture to Melbourne City by 4-0, Matos held her position in defence for the remainder of the season.
Western Sydney bounced back to secure 3-2 win on the road against Perth Glory to book their spot in the finals.
"We made club history [reaching the W-League finals]. We had a week off before the semi-finals, it was very nervous and quiet compared to what it was usually like - we were just trying to get out heads around what had happened," Matos said.
"But in that week leading up to the semi, we trained unbelievably. We had the best training week of our lives. The buzz was insane."
However, standing in their way was an experienced City outfit, led by the likes of Matildas players Stephanie Catley and Kyah Simon.
City secured a 5-1 victory before going on to beat Sydney FC 1-0 in Saturday afternoon's grand final.
"It was an experience and a half to verse half of the Matildas team," Matos said.
"It was a massive learning curve. I was up against Steph Catley, who is one of their best players. Even though we lost, it boosted my confidence to play against someone of her capability and her strength."
Matos was set to return home to represent the Stingrays in the Women's National Premier League One comp. However, Football NSW has suspended all games and training sessions until at least April 14 due to concerns over the spread of COVID-19.
Matos said it was a "sticky situation" but she would continue to train in isolation.
"Every [Wanderers] session, I learned something new. I was excited to bring that back to the NPL, but unfortunately that's been postponed," she said.
"I will continue to do my program with running, sprints and stuff. Obviously I'll still be using the ball too so I don't lose my touch.
"Hopefully I've set myself up for next season. [Wanderers coach] Dean [Heffernan] was happy with my performances. I hope to start playing from the start of the next season and play as many games as I can."
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