Monday, October 27, 2008

Home Stretch

The players are so busy with schoolwork this week. To add to this, we have 6 unofficial visits on Friday and 7 official visits Saturday-Monday. Time management is so important for student-athletes.

We have at least 13 prospects visiting Belmont this weekend, and the soccer field is completely torn up. I am a little scared about that. The seven young ladies on their official visits are all verbally committed. I hope they don't see the condition of the field and change their minds. The 2010 recruits that are making their unofficial visits to Belmont are visiting other schools like Tennessee, North Carolina State, UNC-Greensboro, and Furman. We are not going to come close to competing with their facilities in this visit.

Belmont has built two dorms, two parking garages, a theater, and a nursing building and remodeled 3 dining establishments since I came here in 2008. Our freshmen live in a brand new dorm that just opened its doors in August. There was just a groundbreaking for a building to house the School of Pharmacy this week. We barely finish one building before we start constructing the next. I tell visitors the rate at which Belmont is building and show them our new buildings, so they understand that when Belmont constructs a new athletic complex, it is going to be first class.

Practices went well this past week, especially Thursday night, the night before the UNF game. I wanted to stop practice then and there, and tell the team to bottle up that level of play and save it for the next night. We were fortunate to save some of it for Friday night's 4-0 win over North Florida. We scored early in the 1st half on our first shot of the night. We scored 2 goals in the last 5 minutes of the first half. When you get goals like that, you usually get wins.

We usually practice on Saturday mornings, but our field is unavailable, Vanderbilt had a homecoming football game, and USN was hosting a high school region tournament, so we watched videotape and jogged and stretched in the parking lot.

A win against Jacksonville University on Sunday would put us in 2nd place. We were down 2-0 at halftime. We had some good chances to score, but our outside backs and midfielders were defending poorly in the midfield third. That affected our center backs, and one of our center backs was pretty badly injured from Friday night's game. At halftime, we changed to a 3-4-3, and we were able to keep the ball in our attacking half. After a beautiful entry pass from Alex Mindel, Erica got sandwiched between 2 defenders inside the penalty area. The ball trickled out to Annie Musacchio who roofed it.

The career of a collegiate athlete is so difficult. When watching television, it is so easy to think that every athletic career is like Tim Tebow, Tyler Hansbrough, or Vince Young. Those stories are the rarity rather than the norm. The norm is more like Anna Holt. Holt is a senior, and she is playing a new position for us her senior year - right back. She is having possibly her best season. She is top ten in minutes played and has been a very smart defender for us. As we progress through the season, we have changed the way our outside backs are playing, and we have some younger players who are more mobile and have been getting more playing time than Anna.

Since the Florida Gulf Coast game, I have been substituting Holt in at center midfield, because we only have 4 healthy center midfielders. On Sunday, against JU, I held Holt out as the only field player who did not go in the game in the 1st half. There is no reentry in the first half. If I had used all my substitutes and Marcela (or anyone) got injured, we would have to play with 10 players. I usually do not worry too much about it, and I joke with the goalkeepers and tell them they will have to play on the field if we run out of subs. However, with Marcela's ankle as tender as it was, I couldn't take any chances, and I had to save a sub.

We were down 2-1 in the 2nd half, I was resting some of the forwards, and I put Holt in at forward. I don't think she has played or trained there all year, but that was her position last year. Almost immediately, a cross skipped by her from left to right. Jamie Bullock had gotten forward on the weak side and she drove in a low cross from close distance just the way we had trained it on Thursday night. Holt finished Jamie's cross in her first touch to score the game tying goal.

After we won 3-2 in overtime, I thanked all of our players for being team players. Alex Mindel played the entry pass to Erica on our first goal, Holt scored the 2nd goal, and Charlotte Blake drew the penalty kick for the game winner. Because of plays like these and players like these, we are in 2nd place in the Atlantic Sun. We will find out tonight after Mercer and Kennesaw State play each other, if we finish 2nd or 3rd. If Mercer wins or ties, we will be the #2 seed in the conference tournament. If Kennesaw State wins, we will be the #3 seed in the tournament.

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