Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Opening Weekend 2008

WOW! The amount of change in our team from 2007 to 2008 is more than I anticipated. From our 2007 roster, we had eight seniors graduate, two sophomores and one freshman quit, both assistant coaches leave, and one sophomore and one junior injured to start this season. This is the most turnover in a single year I have experienced in my career. It is a big challenge for me, personally, but I think by our results over the weekend, you can see the team is doing just fine.

It was a great experience for our team, and an honor for each player and coach to play the U-20 Mexico National Team. They are preparing for the U-20 World Cup in Chile in November. They have one of the best 16 year olds in the world on their team - Charlyn Corral. I would love to play them again with a little more training time together, but we made the most of it. That night, we had four returning starters in the starting line up, which consisted of two seniors, two juniors, four sophomores, and three freshmen.

We were like a deer caught in headlights in the 1st half of the Murray State game. After defending against Mexico's flare and skillful passing game, we found ourselves being out of position to defend Murray's long, aerial attack. We managed to survive the 1st half and only gave up a goal in the last five minutes of the half. We made some adjustments in the second half, got off to a good start, and won the game 2-1. Annie Musacchio scored both goals in the first 8 minutes of the 2nd half.

We played at Vanderbilt on Sunday in front of about 1,200 spectators. The community turn out was very good. The game was a fundraiser for the Monroe Carell Jr. Children's Hospital at Vanderbilt. With the help of the Belmont and Vanderbilt supporters, over $5,000 was raised for the Pediatric Hematology/Oncology Department.

Vanderbilt was a very strong team, and we managed to take them to overtime, but lost 1-0 with just over 5 minutes left in the match. For their weekend performances, Sari Lin and Annie Musacchio were named the Atlantic Sun Defensive and Offensive Players of the Week. Sari is a freshman goalkeeper, and Annie is a junior forward. I am happy for both players and the team, but I am especially proud of Annie Musacchio. She had a difficult year last year for several complex reasons. Annie was not chosen to dress for the A-Sun Conference Tournament last year. Many people in Annie's situation probably would have given up. Annie is taking advantage of the ever changing make up and needs of a women's soccer team, and she is currently a starter and our leading scorer and A-Sun Player of the Week.

We have a sophomore on our team with a similar story to Annie's. Marcela Sanchez came in as a freshman last year as the leading scorer in Tennessee High School soccer. Marcela also did not dress for the Atlantic Sun Tournament. She did not give up, and she reported in top shape in August. Marcela played every minute last weekend.

I am not even going to pretend to be the motivating factor or inspiration behind these young ladies' success. They didn't give up. They remained confident. They are working hard, and they are both taking advantage of new opportunities. They are embracing change, and I can learn a lesson from them and do the same thing.

The last thing I want to talk about is the crowd and support at Vanderbilt. We had our first ever residential camp in July. Sam Rogers, a Belmont women's soccer alum, coaches in Harpeth Futbol Club, and her teams attended our camp. They also came to the game on Sunday. They were wearing their Belmont soccer T-shirts and cheering for Belmont. They even did the Grrr cheer! It was a great feeling for me and for many players, especially the ones that worked camp - like Anna Holt and Anna Walsh. Those summer camps are so important for so many different reasons, but I really felt like our players had been good role models to those campers, and the younger players were showing their gratitude on Sunday. How many 13 year olds are going to wear the school colors and cheer for the underdog rather than the SEC school? I appreciate Sam and her players and their parents showing so much support on Sunday. I hope you guys will come back to another game soon!