Sunday, November 2, 2008

Senior Night

Our last regular season game was October 31st against Austin Peay. We stuck to some of our traditional senior day activities, but I also decided to try some new things this year. Last season, I was a little disappointed with my usual post-game tribute to the seniors. We lost a conference game that we needed to win and some thought we should have won. It was not fair to the seniors to meet after the game in that state of mind. This season, playing at Vanderbilt did not allow us to have a place to go after the game to talk about the seniors, so I knew we would have to make some changes.

The underclassmen made sheets for the seniors, and we hung them behind the goal. Even the sheets were a little different than past years, because Charlotte bought fitted sheets. That was pretty funny. The team decorates the sheets with pictures and words that remind them of that senior.

Last year, I went to Vanderbilt's senior game. As we walked over to the stands, they had displayed picture collages for each senior. I thought this would be a good idea because I was not going to speak about the seniors outside of the team. Parents and fans could look at pictures of Anna Holt, Jamie Bullock, Anna Walsh, and Annie O'Steen from the last 4 years.

I also decided to borrow an idea from a somewhat successful college coach of whom you may not have heard - Anson Dorrance. Anson writes a letter to each senior and reads his letters in front of the team before their last game. I wrote one letter and dedicated a section of the letter to each senior. What I enjoyed about doing that was it was not only meaningful and appreciated by the seniors, but it was motivational to the entire team. Although we were late getting to the field for warm up, the girls were inspired to play well that night. It showed in the first 10 minutes when we got 6 corner kicks in a row and Bublis scored her 1st goal of the season on an assist from Marcela after an Annie Musacchio corner kick.

The final score was 2-1. We won. I had mixed emotions about the game. It was great to have senior night against a non-conference opponent. It was great to play everyone and give Renee Pilch some time in goal. It was great to win. However, I was worried the entire night about injuries, accumulating yellow cards, and losing. We started the game with a lot of passion and intensity, but it did not last the entire game. I really don't have to worry about whether or not to schedule this type of game in the future, because our conference tournament format is changing, and it will do away with that non-conference game at the end of the regular season.

Beginning next year, eight teams will qualify for the Atlantic Sun tournament. Seeds 1-4 will host seeds 5-8 on the first weekend. There will be a final four at one site the next weekend. Originally, I was opposed to this format. After having to play 3 games in 4 days at this year's A-Sun Tournament, I decided it wasn't such a bad format after all.

I know I have written endlessly about the strides of improvement in this program. On behalf of the seniors, I just want to remind you that the four years prior to Anna, Anna, and Jamie Belmont`s record was 13-60-1. Anna, Anna, and Jamie's career record is 37-31-12. Over the last 4 years, our RPI has gone from 279 to 99. Since I wrote this blog after the fact, we also know that in 4 short years, these seniors took Belmont from next to last in the conference to A-Sun Tournament Champions. Even if we did not accomplish this amazing feat, the leadership, character, and perseverance of Anna Holt, Jamie Bullock, and Anna Walsh would not go unnoticed by me, their teammates, or Belmont. As they have been saying, good things come in threes.

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