Monday, December 14, 2009

Christmas Party

We had our team Christmas party Tuesday night at Derek’s house. I was running around at the last minute picking up gifts. It was a busy day, because we had our Belmont Staff Christmas breakfast that morning. The breakfast is one of my favorite events at Belmont. Because of the daily grind, there are very few times when you feel appreciated or valuable. The Christmas breakfast is one of those times. Dr. Fisher and his staff put together a program and a menu that expresses gratitude and the spirit of the season.

Dr. Fisher gives service awards (bonuses) to employees who are celebrating 5 year anniversaries. I had run around the athletic department telling people that I was going to get my 5 year award at the breakfast. I was unhappy when he didn’t call my name. Then I was just plain embarrassed when I learned that even though it was my 5th fall soccer season and my 5th Christmas breakfast, I had not reached my 5 year anniversary because my start date was April 1, 2005. Oh well. Next year.

Later that day, I met a recruit and her parents for lunch. I spent more time with them than I had planned. That is par for the course with me and recruits. I forgot that I had not picked up part of the team Christmas gift, so I ended up having to go to a different store than I had planned. I think it all worked out in the end.

I had prepared most of the food the night before. It is traditional for me to make spinach dip and layered dip. This was the 2nd year in a row that I made meatballs, pizza dip, and cinnamon apple cider. I’m glad I can count on someone else to make desserts. This year, Michelle (our trainer) and Gail (Derek’s wife) made cookies and people puppy chow.

After we eat, the girls exchange gifts. They drew names in November and set a price limit. No big surprises this year. A few less scarves than last year. Dani’s gift was wrapped in Tim Tebow wrapping paper. Derek and Kyle got Tennessee and Notre Dame slippers. I guess I will allow that. They just won’t be able to wear them on the bus. The team gave me a Gore-Tex hat which I could have used the weekend prior when I was recruiting in the sleet and snow. They also followed tradition by making a calendar for my office. I love my soccer calendars. It is a 2010 calendar with pictures from 2009. I like the monthly reminders of previous teams, players, successes, and memories.

One thing we did this year for the first time was have a theme – Christmas sweaters. Some of the girls borrowed Christmas sweaters from their moms. Some of the freshmen made their own homemade Christmas sweatshirts. There were layers, crazy socks, hats, and some out of style fashions. As usual, the team ran with the idea and took the theme to the next level!

Just a few things left to do until Christmas break – senior ring presentation, exams, and graduation.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Community Service

Every semester the team participates in a community service event. We have done several free soccer clinics for young kids. The team has volunteered at the Country Music Marathon and the Strides Against Breast Cancer walk. Last weekend, we planted trees in east Nashville.

Working with the girls on projects like this gives me an opportunity to learn more about them. I learned that they had no idea how to plant a tree. I was not much more informed, but at least I know that you have to dig a hole deeper and wider than the roots of the tree. We split up into several small groups and planted 30 trees in less than 2 hours. The trees were planted on a street that I use often. I am so excited about driving past the trees almost on a daily basis and watching them grow. My family was in town for Thanksgiving, and I pointed out the exact 3 trees I planted (with Sari and Morgan) every time we drove by them.

Belmont is decorated for Christmas. They started decorating after Halloween. There will be a lighting ceremony on Monday. Belmont looks beautiful from Wedgewood with the white lights on Inman, Massey, Freeman, and Infinity. There is also a huge Christmas tree with colorful lights outside the Curb Event Center on Belmont Blvd. It is very pretty.

The Belmont campus has grown and improved so much in a short amount of time. During the fall season, we had 5 cranes on campus at one time. We are down to 3 cranes right now. I have watched Belmont build 3 new dorms, a nursing building, and a pharmacy building in 5 years. I have also witnessed the student population increase from 4000 to 5000 students.

I don't think Belmont has been able to add the same amount of parking spaces. In fact, spaces have been lost due to new buildings and construction. Most of the freshmen used to be able to park next to their dorms but now have to park in the Curb Event Center Parking Deck. I used to be able to drive once around the deck and find a spot pretty easily. Now, I spend much more time in the morning driving around the parking deck and walking to the building. I am not complaining. I am just explaining the growth of Belmont and the changes in our everyday lives.

Belmont just started a School of Pharmacy and is starting a law school in 2011. I am proud to work in a place that is so progressive. During this time of thanksgiving, I am grateful to work with such quality young women at a prestigious university in a wonderful city. I am thankful for all the success we have had these last few years.

The team has been gone for Thanksgiving. Other than planting trees, Preview Day, and the Raleigh Shootout, it has been a slow time. I got a good parking spot this morning!

Monday, November 16, 2009

Championship Game

I was dizzy when I woke up Saturday morning. This day felt so different than 1 year ago. Last year, our goal was to get in the championship game. I was not nervous about the team playing in that game. I had such a sense of accomplishment after beating Kennesaw State on their home field in the semifinals. I did not feel pressure to win the final.

This year, I feel pressure to win the tournament. I’m not complaining. I can get used to this. I plan to be in this situation year in and year out. The expectations are far different than years prior. I’m happy about that.

I felt fine before the game. My anxiety was gone after speaking with people. I get nervous if I spend too much time alone. We have our pre-game talk in the hotel in the billiard room. We didn’t get to use the pool balls this year for our chalk talk. I like to joke that when Derek comes in the room that Mr. Greene is in the billiard room with the… (weapon of your choice). Ha ha.

Rarely do I talk about the big picture in the pre-game speech. I don’t say things like, “If we win the game, we will be in 1st place in the league.” Winning back to back tournament championships was so significant that I had to talk about it. The last team to do so in the Atlantic Sun was Central Florida. UCF was feared and respected by all the A-Sun teams during those years. They beat my team 4-0 in the semifinals in 2002. For us to be put in the same category or mentioned in the same sentence as UCF would be a huge accomplishment and compliment. I want to beat all current A-Sun teams, especially Kennesaw State, to this feat.

The weather was beautiful. Before the game, I made sure to talk to the team about narrowing their focus and not worry about the magnitude of the game. All they needed to concentrate on were all the things that got us to that game – team defending, winning 50/50 balls, winning tackles, possession, changing the point of attack, beating defenders, getting to the endline, etc.

I was happy with the way we played in the 1st half and with being up 1-0. We had not lost a game in which we scored first all year. The 2nd half was more difficult to enjoy. Kennesaw State raised their level and they got great play out of players who had not played that well against us in previous games. Their first goal was quality. Their 2nd goal was unjust. It was an unintentional handball about 17.5 yards from goal that the official saw and gave the “play on” signal. While play continued, the assistant referee would not stop waving his flag, the referee blew his whistle, and gave a penalty kick. All of this happened while we played with 10 players, because Morgan, our defensive center midfielder was down on the field with an injury in front of our bench. Disappointedly, we will live with it. As much as all sports are a game of skill, a game of tactics, a game of teamwork and effort. It is also a game of inches, a game of breaks, and a game of luck.

The best thing that could have happened for us is if we had scored a goal immediately after they scored their first goal. Jayme Trocino ran down a long ball, got to the endline, and beat a player enough to push the ball to the near post. Erica was in the box, and tried to finish the ball in the far post. There was not enough pace on the cross, and Erica couldn’t get enough on it to beat the keeper. It was within a minute of KSU’s goal, and it would have been the difference in the game.

It was difficult to talk to the team after losing that way. My main message was do not let this game detract from your great season. Do not let this goal detract from your experience of playing in the conference tournament. We will be back!

Right after the game, a person from the A-Sun handed me an All-Tournament ballot. I had thought about the All-Tournament Team a little bit in the middle of the night one night. It was a difficult time for me to recall any of the players I considered. I’m not sure if I even voted for anyone that made it. I know I voted for Annie, the Stetson goalkeeper, and the KSU player that scored the first goal. The person for whom I was most happy making All-Tournament was Elizabeth Bublis. As a forward, Bublis did not have great statistics. She did have 6 assists this year, but what she lacked in goals and assists, she made up for in corner kicks, fouls, hard work, great defending, high pressure, dedication, and leadership. Those qualities are irreplaceable.

On the way home, I made my rounds on the bus. I did not know exactly what to say to some of the players. Mostly, I listened and patted people on the back. Everyone was frustrated, and they needed to vent. Although disappointed, I remained even keeled after the game, on the bus, and at home that night. I cried most of the day on Sunday, at least until the Cowboys beat the Eagles, then, I felt better.

Keep checking on the blog. I will update it with post-season happenings, Christmas party, grades, Signing Day, spring season, etc.

Thank you for your interest in Belmont women’s soccer. It was a great season. I am very proud of our program. We will work hard to repeat as champions and win the tournament in the same year. That is where we are headed.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

The Day Off

We do not do much on our day off, especially during the tournament. We had beautiful weather. Our practice time on Friday morning was 10:00. At the field, the defenders practiced their footwork for defending Kennesaw State’s good dribblers while the midfielders and forwards played a possession game and the goalkeepers got some catches. Then, we lined up the non-starters to look like Kennesaw State and show our players what certain situations might look like in the game.

We did not require ice baths Thursday night, so we were planning on getting ice and making them take ice baths that morning. Kyle suggested the swimming pool. I assumed the pool was heated or it would be covered. When we got back to the hotel, Kyle checked it and said it would be perfect for an ice bath. And it was. However, it was colder than the ice baths the girls are accustomed to in the Rubbermaid tubs at Belmont. I am not sure whose faces were more amusing to watch – the girls as they sat in the pool or the hotel desk clerk when I asked her for towels for the pool. The players were giving Kyle such a hard time about how cold it was that Kyle jumped in the pool, I guess to prove anything they could do he could do better. He made a big splash, and Sari and Morgan would not talk to him the rest of the day.

The swimming pool made me think about my job. If you asked 20 people to get in a 50 degree pool for 10 minutes, would they do it? I have a lot of power over a group of people. It requires respect and trust. I admired those girls for getting in that cold water. The pool was just a small reminder of the mutual trust, respect, and admiration required to be a good team.

We had lunch at Boston Market. I try to eat there as much as possible during the season, but this was the first time we had Boston Market all season. In Jacksonville, I took the team to eat at a Boston Market where we had eaten the last time we were there, 2 years ago. It had turned into a McDonalds. It was pretty funny.

After spending the afternoon at the hotel, we went to Maddie Porter’s house for dinner. There was horseshoes and a bonfire. After dinner, the team played the animal game. (It’s similar to thumper.) Jamie Loftis was the champion. We watched the highlight video with the parents and the players who had not seen it yet. It was great to have the whole team together. Only 22 were in the official travel party, but the other 5 came to Kennesaw on their own. After the video, I thanked all the players for coming, thanked the Porter’s for having us, and thanked my staff. It was a great evening not spent at a long table for 30 in a chain restaurant!

We had a team meeting back at the hotel, and I was exhausted. You would think I would have a hard time falling asleep the night before a championship game, but I couldn’t keep my eyes open. I was up in the middle of the night going over a list of penalty kickers, so I never fully catch up on my sleep.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Atlantic Sun Semifinals

With 10 days between games, we finally had the opportunity to train consistently, if our field would cooperate. The field was unplayable 2 of the 10 days and soft all the others. However, we had our best training sessions of the season heading into the conference tournament. That’s the kind of stuff that makes coaches confident.

We got to Kennesaw State on Wednesday at 3:00 for practice. After practice, we checked into our favorite hotel – Homewood Suites. Then, we went to dinner at Ippolito’s – the same Italian restaurant where we ate before the championship game last year. After dinner, we had a team meeting in my hotel room. We handed out t-shirts, player passes, AND the championship trophy. It was a little anti-climatic presenting the trophy to the team in that environment, but it was nonetheless a symbol of achieving one of our top two season goals. Then, we watched a motivational highlight video that Derek made for the team.

I do prefer the 4:00 game time. The afternoon weather is usually better this time of year. There is less time to kill before your game. There is more rest time before your second game. Before we went to lunch, we jogged and stretched in the hotel parking lot. I had written a note to each player on homemade stationary and passed them out at this time.

We had a very scary moment at lunch. One of the girls told me that Gado was sick to her stomach. I started looking for her and couldn’t find her. I walked outside and was startled to see her lying on the sidewalk, curled up, and sweating. Of course, I automatically assume Swine Flu. I start thinking about Gado and what are we going to do to make sure she is ok and getting her back to the hotel immediately. I also start thinking about her roommates and what are we going to do with them. If I split them up in rooms with other players, is it likely to spread through the whole team? There was a lot going through my mind.

When we got back to the hotel after lunch, Gado did not have a fever. A heating pad and some Aleve was all she needed to start feeling better. Thank goodness!

The game against Stetson started like I hoped it would. We had numerous opportunities to score. We were taking high percentage shots and keeping them under a decent amount of pressure. We weren’t completely dominating. Stetson was getting forward and getting shots and corner kicks. I liked our chances.

I sent Annie Musacchio to the table to check in. I did not think she had actually checked in, because we pulled her back very quickly to talk to her. When the ball went out of bounds, the person at the table did not blow the horn, and we did not make the substitution. When Annie tried to enter the game on the next opportunity to substitute, the 4th official would not allow her to go on the field. He said she had already checked into the game, and she could only check in once in the 1st half. She missed her opportunity for the half.

While I argued the call, we almost scored. I had to get another forward or two ready to go in. I knew I wasn’t going to win this argument, so I decided to grovel a little. In the end, a senior would miss the first half of the semifinals.

At halftime, we encouraged the team to keep up more of the same. I thought having Annie fresh would also be a big help. Stetson started winning those 50/50 balls in the midfield that we had been winning in the first half. That is all it took for the momentum to change. It was a competitive 2nd half and looked to be headed to overtime with less than 10 minutes remaining.
We sent a ball over the top of the Stetson defense. I’m not sure if the Stetson defender threw her hands in the air because she was off balance or she was intentionally knocking the ball down, but she committed a blatant handball about 30 yards from the goal with 7 minutes to go in the game.

During the regular season, Annie scored the tying goal against Stetson on the same free kick she shot to score against Alabama A&M and set up the winning goal against Campbell. We knew Stetson would know how to defend this free kick, so we put in some alternatives during the last week of practice. In the first half, Jess got her free kick blocked because Stetson had definitely put in a plan to defend it. Annie looked a little frantic when she huddled with Gretchen and Jess to decide what to do. She wanted that shot. It was a little further out than the one she hit during the regular season, but it was at a better angle.

Because our first free kick was blocked, I thought Annie should shoot directly and not have her teammates touch it. It was direct, but we play all kicks as if they are indirect. We had practiced a decoy runner, and I was disappointed not to see one involved in the play. Another option that we had not practiced but addressed at halftime was to dribble by rushing defenders and shoot off the dribble. I feel like I can read the defenders and give good advice as to what to do. However, it is important for players to decide for themselves. They are the ones playing. They are the ones in the moment, and they, hopefully, know what they are capable of doing under the circumstances. Earlier in the season, the players had set up a free kick against Mercer, and the coaches changed it from the bench. I still regret not allowing them to go on their first instinct. Especially the older players who have practiced it over a period of time, I have a lot of trust in to make good decisions and think they have earned that.

As the Kennesaw State assistant coach said that it was out of her range on, Annie ripped it under the crossbar, ironically, in the same top corner she scored in 3 weeks before. Stetson was stunned, and they did not throw as many players forward as I expected. The team did a great job of finishing off the game.

We went back to the hotel for dinner, showers, chocolate milk, and warm clothes. We went back out to the field to watch the 2nd half of the Kennesaw State vs. Jacksonville game. I told my team that they were not allowed to cheer for either team, and they were not allowed to talk to any KSU or JU students that they did not know. Not that I need to tell them, but I remind them.

After last weekend, I have taken a new sense of pride in my team and their sportsmanship, professionalism, humility, and character. We were not impressed by any of these traits in the hosts of the tournament. The complaints started immediately after the game by parents, alumni, and Belmont fans who watched the game on and the complaints continue today by people who walk by my office and send me e-mails. I imagine the same thing is going on at Stetson. They have a right to be unhappy about their treatment. It is hard to tell exactly when it will happen, but most often we all get what we deserve.

Finally, I want to let you in on a little secret of our success this season… chocolate milk. In September, Derek read or heard that chocolate milk was an effective recovery drink, more effective than Gatorade. He confirmed this theory with the cross country coaches, and the team has been drinking chocolate milk after the Friday night game since we played Tennessee Tech. Our conference record after drinking chocolate milk was 5-1-1. Hopefully, it will work for the championship game.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Halloween Practice

We had the best Halloween practice ever last week! It is tradition for us to dress up one practice near Halloween. It is also tradition for the girls to have group costumes by class. This Halloween, we had the weekend off. We trained hard on Friday and Sunday to simulate a regular season weekend. Saturday was our light day, so we dressed up and had a scavenger hunt. The scavenger hunt probably ended up being more fitness than a Saturday practice.

The freshmen dressed as Noah’s Ark. With all the rain we have had this season, it was very appropriate. Kailee was Noah complete with a beard, robe, boat, and dove. The roommates dressed as pairs of animals. Rock and Trappey were rabbits. Vanessa and Laura were turtles. LP and Brandi were lions. Jane Owen and Spencer were peacocks. There was no guessing who they were or what they were. Their costumes were elaborate and detailed.

The juniors were Sesame Street characters. Patience was Burt. JayTro – Ernie, Marcela – Elmo, Maddie – cookie monster, Erica – the count (with fangs and a cape). Jess was, appropriately, Big Bird. I loved her hair, whatever it was. Unfortunately, they were missing Oscar the Grouch because Lydia had H1N1.

The seniors were characters from Saturday Night Live. Alex looked exactly like Mary Catherine Gallagher. Annie was a good Sarah Palin or Tina Fey doing Sarah Palin with the flute for the talent portion of the interview. I don’t know the name of Renee’s character, but she “Needed more cowbell.” Funny. Bublis was Justin Timberlake. If you are not sure what Justin Timberlake character she was, here is a hint. She was wearing a box around her waist. It was hilarious!

The sophomores not only had an eerie costume, but they had a choreographed dance to go with it. I think they were called the Jabberwockis. Unfortunately, due to a generation gap, I am not certain of who this dance group is, but I think they are on a dance show on MTV. They were in black sweats with hoods and baseball hats, bandanas, and white masks. They looked like a good bank robber movie. The sophomores did not show up to our meeting place in the loading dock. They called me to meet them in the dance studio. When the team got up there, they did a dance that they had gotten some moves from a movie we watched on one of the first road trips. I think it was Step Up 2 or something. The dance was awesome!

After the dance, the girls had to run around Belmont getting pictures of Athletes House – drinking water, Bongo Java – bussing a table, Circle K – pumping gas, etc. It was Preview Day, so they even had to involve some visiting families in their quest. The sophomores got bonus point for getting Dr. Fisher in one of their pictures.

After the scavenger hunt, there was one more thing to do. The freshmen had to sing their song. Every year, we have a freshman song. We usually do it at the beginning of the year, but I forgot during pre-season, so they got to wait and do it at the end of season. Their song was to the tune of Andy Sandberg’s, “I’m on a Boat.” It was a great way to end the greatest Halloween practice of all time!

Monday, November 2, 2009


I am sure you are tired of me talking about all the “firsts” that I have been experiencing over the last two years. This is another entry with more record breaking, history making accomplishments.

For the first time, Belmont had more than one person make First Team All-Conference. Two would have set a record, but we blew that out of the water by getting four players on the first team. They are Sari Lin, Gretchen Sutch, Jayme Trocino, and Erica Carter. All four are very deserving.

Sari has the lowest goals against average in the conference (.51). Only 2 conference teams scored on her during the regular season. Gretchen is one of the most athletic outside backs and best individual defenders in the conference. Jayme Trocino is our leading scorer and tied for first in the conference in goals with 10. Erica Carter is one of the most feared forwards in the conference. Her speed and strength makes her one of the most difficult players to defend.

Laura Harris was the only unanimous selection on the All-Freshman Team. Laura has added a physical presence in the midfield for us. She is great in the tackle and fearless in the air.

I am grateful for the votes and the respect of the other coaches, but I think some of our players missed out on some recognition. I think Sari should have been Defensive Player of the Year. She shut out 8 of 10 conference opponents. I think Laura Harris should have been Freshman of the Year. How is she the only unanimous pick and not be the Freshman of the Year? More of our defenders should have been recognized on the second team or freshman team. Jessica Rix, Marcela Sanchez, and Brandi Phillips are starters for the team with the lowest goals against average in the conference (.65). We are tied for first in shutouts (6) and goals allowed (7). Morgan McBride also helped us with these league leading statistics.

Offensively, Annie Musacchio is in the top 10 in points and top 4 in assists in the conference. Elizabeth Bublis is also in the top 4 in assists. I am sure the other coaches feel like some of their players were also slighted. It’s just part of the process.

After practice on Wednesday, I received a text from Kenisha, our media relations director. It said. 1st Team – Sari, Erica, Gretchen, Jayme
Fresh Team – Laura
Coach of the Year – YOU!

It was actually a fun way to find out about Coach of the Year. I started shaking. It was fun to tell the team after practice. I think Gretchen got the biggest cheer of the 5 players. Not because she deserved it more or less than any of the others. Her position of left back could easily be overlooked and underrated. It is nice when a person in that kind of position gets recognized for her hard work and ability.

Definitely, the biggest cheer was for Coach of the Year. The team has been nothing but supportive of me in one of the most difficult seasons in my career. All the rain has compounded our field issues which caused many more problems than practices and games. I lost my grandfather the first week of the season. I lost my cat the last week of the regular season. One of the more difficult parts has been managing a team of 27. The girls don’t make it difficult. I think they have handled it quite well.

There are not enough hours in a day, not enough practices in a week, and not enough games in a season to completely involve, fully develop, and thoroughly communicate with all 27 players. Can it be done over a period of 4 years? Absolutely. Can it be done in 3 months? I don’t think so.

I certainly do not dislike having 27 players. I do find it to be a challenge, but I think the numbers of players increase our potential. That is why I want to manage them as best as I can.

Hopefully, I will have time to tell you about our (best ever) Halloween practice before we leave for the tournament. If not, I’ll see you in Kennesaw.

Monday, October 26, 2009

We are the CO-Champions!

It was the most exciting final weekend of the Atlantic Sun regular season in my 13 years in the league. There were 3 teams playing for first, 3 teams fighting for the final playoff spot, and 2 teams playing for the highest seed possible. It was even more exciting, at the end of the weekend, when we finished the regular season in first place. We are tied for 1st place with Kennesaw State. Sharing the championship is a bit of a bummer, especially since we lost to Kennesaw, but I do feel like we deserve it since we only lost one conference game.

We waited until the last 7 minutes of the regular season to claim our crown by scoring 2 goals in the 83rd and 85th minutes of the game against UNF. Jamie Loftis had a huge impact on the game when we changed her position in the 2nd half. She, deservedly, scored the game winning goal. Ironically, the person she traded positions with at halftime, Jayme Trocino, scored the insurance goal 2 minutes later. Is that great coaching to swap their positions at halftime and it have such a profound effect, or is that bad coaching for playing them in the wrong positions the other 18 ½ games?

We are the #2 seed in the conference tournament. We earned the much sought after bye into the semi-finals. However, this is the first year for the tournament to be split into two weekends, so the quarterfinals are played on October 31st, and the semifinals are played on November 5th. Of course, after playing back-to-back quarters and semis in my first 6 A-Sun Tournament appearances, there are 4 days of rest between the two games the year I coach a team that gets the bye. Before Belmont, I have coached teams that have fallen hard in the semifinals. They just could not overcome the physical and emotional fatigue of playing the day or night before. Tying Mercer in the 2007 semifinals was the best result I had ever had in the semifinals, even though we lost in penalty kicks.

My A-Sun Tournament record with JSU is 1-4-1 (I'm pretty sure). With Belmont, my A-Sun Tournament record is 2-0-3. The championship game last year was my first time to coach in a tournament championship game. Last weekend was my first time to coach with the regular season championship on the line. We talk a lot about taking advantage of these opportunities and being in these positions, because a player may not have the same opportunity the following year. It's so true. I coached 16 years before I was in a position to win the league in the last game. I think JSU had a chance to win the OVC with 2 or 3 games left in the season. That is about as close as I had gotten.

Certainly, I have to thank my assistant coaches and players for this accomplishment. Other than a Gatorade shower and some ice cream, we have not done anything to celebrate our co-championship. There is work left to do. Winning the tournament is what gets you respect and publicity and an even bigger opportunity to participate in the NCAA Tournament. The statistics are bad for #2 seeds, defending champions, and even regular season champions. I am going to look all of them up and make sure the team knows how difficult the tournament is going to be and that the odds are stacked against us.

I am not afraid to motivate the team this way. There are some teams that would not respond to negative news. This is not one of those teams. These girls love a challenge! They have for 2 years now. We deal with more than our fair share of obstacles. So many in fact that it makes me wonder... Wouldn't we be better without all the distractions, or are we good because of the obstacles we must overcome?

The team was eating dinner on Saturday night, and Renee informed me that she is making a movie about her life. It will be similar to Rudy. She will play the role of herself because "no one else can capture this essence." We spent the entire dinner deciding which actors would play all the players, coaches, managers, and trainers. This will be a star studded film with Cameron Diaz, Julia Roberts, and Angelina Jolie, to name a few. I am excited to announce that I will be played by Meryl Streep. It definitely made the time pass quickly.

What is coming up for Belmont soccer? The All-Conference Team will be named this week. Who thinks Sari Lin should be Defensive Player of the Year? Our annual Halloween costume practice will be on Saturday. The coaches are working on a couple of motivational tools for the conference tournament. We planned our trip to Kennesaw. We will play the winner of Campbell/Stetson. They play on Saturday night. We will have general practices this week and begin preparing for our opponent on Sunday.

Hopefully, I will have good news about All-Conference awards in my next post.

Monday, October 19, 2009

A Win, A Tie and a Loss

We still control our own destiny. Those are words that every coach wants to be able to say this time of year, especially when your destiny could be first place. Ideally, we would have liked to have won both games last weekend against Florida Gulf Coast. Instead, we were able to accomplish 2 things that we have not done in my era at Belmont – beat Florida Gulf Coast and not lose to Stetson at home. The best news of Sunday probably came when we found out that ETSU beat Kennesaw State.

KSU is in 1st place with 18 points and one game left. We are in 2nd place with 17 points and 2 games left. Jacksonville is in 3rd place with 15 points and 2 games left. We have a difficult road trip to Jacksonville, FL to play Jacksonville and North Florida. When we play JU on Friday night, both teams will be fighting to give themselves the opportunity to win the regular season championship on Sunday. If UNF beats Lipscomb on Friday night, they will be fighting to win the final playoff spot when they play us on Sunday.

The stakes are high. I am excited, and so is the team. I plan for the team to be properly prepared and make sure the players properly channel their excitement. The weather forecast is good for the early part of the week, so we should be able to get 2 good practices in before we leave on Thursday.

The weather was not good last week for our preparation. We only practiced on our field on Tuesday (in the rain) to get ready for Florida Gulf Coast and Stetson. The field was saturated for Friday’s games. The men’s soccer team played after our game on Friday. The field was in bad shape for Sunday’s games. The ball would stick in the mud and slow down our players.

Sunday was Senior Day. I stayed with the tradition that I started last year. In the locker room, before the game, I read a letter that I wrote to the seniors. Before the game, the seniors walked out on the field with their parents to be recognized. The team made them scrapbooks. I was impressed with the effort and creativity of the players. Thank goodness for fall break. As usual, each senior had a sheet hanging on the fence.

All the seniors started, and I was happy with their effort and their performances.

We were on fall break last week, so the cafeteria was closed. Lydia Wright’s parents had the team over to their house for dinner on Thursday night, so the girls would eat right to be ready for Friday’s game. I am so grateful to all the parents who take such good care of these student-athletes. In Georgia, we got to break up the monotony of eating in restaurants by eating lunch at Laura Harris’ house before the Mercer game and eating dinner at Alex Mindel’s house the night before the Kennesaw State game.

I watched the Jacksonville vs. North Florida game tonight on JU scored in the first minute of the game and held on to win 1-0. I got a good look at both teams. Now I’m nervous. I am so happy to have our team in this situation. I told our team on our bonding trip that if we were going to win a championship, we were going to have to do it on the road. Here we are, 10 weeks later, ready to jump on that bus!

Sari Lin got defensive player of the week for her 155 shutout minutes last weekend. She made some crucial saves against Florida Gulf Coast. Sari had great help from her defenders as well. Sari has only allowed 5 goals in conference play. Four of those goals were to the same team – Kennesaw State. Two of the 5 goals were penalty kicks – one for KSU and one for Campbell. Those are the statistics it takes to win a championship.

See you when we get back from Florida.

Monday, October 12, 2009

No Need to Panic

Our trip to Mercer and Kennesaw State resulted in 1 point. Even though Kennesaw State passed us in the standings, and they have an easier road than we do, we still have the potential to finish with more points than them. They have 2 losses, and we have 1 loss. If we both win the rest of our games, we will finish ahead of them. I don’t know if it is realistic for me to think we will win out, but I know it is possible.

I don’t worry about that stuff with the team. We will prepare for one game at a time, and concentrate on correcting our mistakes that were obvious last weekend.

It is hard to believe that it is the middle of October. It is hard to believe we have 4 regular season games left. It is hard to believe that Sunday is Senior Day. It is especially hard to believe the amount of rain we have had this fall.

Of course, we have anywhere from 60%-80% chance of rain on Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday this week – the days we practice and improve as a team. Because of rain, we have barely practiced since September 15th. The only week we got to train on consecutive days was the week of September 28th. We are too young, and we do not have enough experience together to not practice on a daily basis. We have no choice. There is standing water on the field, so we run in the gym or on the road, workout in the weight room, analyze video, or have chalk talks. The team is not fit. The team should be so much better than we are. It is very frustrating. So far, we have overcome this obstacle, but I don’t know if we can keep winning without training when the games get more competitive and the stakes are higher.

Also, the weather has been much cooler than normal. We are expecting highs in the 50’s when we host Florida Gulf Coast and Stetson this weekend. Maybe that will work to our advantage. Then, we will have to hope for a cold front in Jacksonville, Florida the next weekend when we go there to play JU and UNF. Otherwise, their low temperature could be higher than our high temperature.

Yes, our road to the tournament is difficult and full of turns and speed bumps. I will do my best to make sure we are competitive enough, prepared enough, and mentally tough enough to be successful no matter the circumstances.

By the way, the Kennesaw State coaches were telling me how their field is suffering from all the rain and some flooding in their area. Their field was beautiful.

I hope to see you at the games this weekend - rain or shine.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Taking Care of Business

We are 4-0 in conference – in 1st place and the only undefeated team. However, only one of the 4 teams we beat was in the A-Sun Tournament last year. This year, it is possible that more than one of the four makes it but not likely. I do think it is an accomplishment to start 4-0, and not lose a game that we “should win.” Winning the games you “should win” is one of the many challenges of a competitive conference season.

The other achievement during the latest stretch is the fact that we played and won 5 games in 11 days. Our next 6 games will be played in 17 days. That is a huge difference.

When we set our team goals, we stated that we wanted to be 4-0 heading into the game against Mercer. In my personal goals for the team, I stated that I wanted Mercer to be 4-0 as well. I thought it was time for our program to be in that kind of game with that kind of pressure. Well, unexpectedly, Mercer is 1-4. I am not sure how I feel about this. As if Mercer does not have enough motivation to beat us already, now they are one loss away from being in a must win situation to qualify for the conference tournament.

The two games this weekend at Mercer and at Kennesaw State could be the most pressure filled regular season games of my career. I doubt many teams have been as motivated to beat one of my teams as Mercer and Kennesaw will be this weekend. By upsetting both teams in the tournament last year, I am pretty sure they put a big mark by our name on their schedules.

We are expecting it, and we will be ready. I am excited to see how we respond and how we play this weekend.

Sari just got A-Sun Defensive Player of the Week. She has not given up a goal since the penalty kick to Campbell. Her goals against average is .71. She picked up her first assist in Sunday’s game on the first goal by Erica Carter. Sari’s distribution has been awesome since conference started. I also credit our entire team but especially our backs for our league leading defensive statistics.

A couple of our players picked up a stomach bug last weekend. Hopefully, we can keep it from spreading throughout the team. We don’t have the Tim Tebow transportation for sick players.

I hope to return next week with happy stories to tell.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Battle of the Boulevard

There is nothing fun about playing Lipscomb. If Lipscomb played that well and that hard against all of their opponents, they would have a winning record. We were somewhat lucky that we did not give up a goal in the 1st half. We were outshot 11-3 in the first half. Sari did a great job to keep it 0-0 at halftime.

As in the last 2 games, we were ready to play in the 2nd half. Even though we had a lot of pressure on Lipscomb in front of their goal, the Lipscomb players were willing to do whatever it took to keep the ball out of the net. They slid, dove, and threw their bodies in front of shots. In the end, it was our 2nd win over Lipscomb by more than one goal in 5 years.

As I prepared our team for Lipscomb, I told them about the one goal games, the comebacks, overtime, the great saves, and the effort. If I wanted to motivate my team by using fear, I would tell them that Belmont has NEVER lost to Lipscomb. It definitely scares me. I don’t want to be the coach of the first team that loses to Lipscomb. I am safe for one more year.

I am not sure why the conference scheduled the game at Lipscomb again this year after we played there last year, but it was a good atmosphere, and many of our players knew what to expect. There is a wall that runs behind one of the endlines from the sideline to the goal. Last year, Lipscomb students sat on that wall and yelled mean things at our players during the entire game. Lipscomb scored 2 goals in that goal while their fans harassed our players. This year, we had some smart players that made sure only Belmont fans were going to sit on the wall.

Unfortunately, the conference rules only allow us to travel with 22 players, even to Lipscomb. We have 27 players on the roster, so I had 5 players that could not dress or sit on the bench for the game. They came early during the warm up and sat on the wall. As their friends arrived, the wall kept filling up with Belmont students. Coincidentally, we scored both of our goals in the goal in front of the wall. It was a smart move by players who could have copped an attitude because they were not allowed to be on the bench with the team.

It makes me very happy when our players support each other in such a positive manner.

We only lost 3 regular season conference games last year, and one of those losses was to ETSU. We are getting ready for them on Friday. I hope you can come to the game.

North Carolina

We played on two very nice soccer fields last weekend at High Point and Campbell. We had not trained on a dry field or as a team since Tuesday, Sept. 15th. We did not know exactly what to expect in our game against High Point on Thursday, Sept. 24th. During the majority of the first half, we looked like we had taken a lot of time off. We made a lot of bad decisions, and we were a step slow for a team who is trying to high pressure. There was a lot of hesitation, and that led to my frustration.

The second half was better for us, and we were quicker to get in good positions. Another big factor was the play of Patience Whitten. I put her in at center midfield in the beginning of the 2nd half, and she made a big difference for us. Jessica Rix was an impact on the game. All the forwards were better. Morgan and Gretchen changed the way we were playing the outside backs. In a 5 minute span, between the 70th and 75th minutes, we scored 3 goals. The goals and the build up leading to the goals were all quality.

I hope we can continue scoring goals in bunches. Last year, if we scored 3 goals in a game, we usually spread them out over the course of the game and overtime (Lipscomb & Jacksonville).

It rained most of the day of the Campbell game and rained hard immediately before the game. Although the field was soft and a little slippery in some places, the field had very little effect on the way the game was played. We were still able to pass the ball on the ground. Driven balls would skip fast along the wet grass, and that was a challenge for Sari, but she did well with it. Campbell has some excellent outside shooters.

Campbell outshot us and outplayed us in the first half, but the 2nd half was all Belmont. It was a great combination of intensity and composure. Other than giving up the penalty kick within 3 minutes of our first goal, I thought we had one of our best halves of soccer. I was proud of all of our players. I was happy for Bublis to get the game winning goal in overtime. I was impressed with the execution of the set piece that led to the winning goal.

After that trip, you would say we are a 2nd half team, but we have had good 1st halves - UAB, Samford. We lack some consistency, but we are getting there.

It is hard to believe I have another first to tell you about. I don't think I have ever been sick on an entire road trip like I was on this one. This was a longer road trip than usual. Because the 2nd game of the trip was played at night, we stayed one extra night in the hotel and drove back the day after the game. We usually leave immediately following a game. It is 9 ½ hours from Campbell to Belmont, and I did not want our team or the bus driver spending 10pm-6am on the bus. I thought that would set back our recovery for our game on Tuesday against Lipscomb.

I started feeling sick after a Sunday practice in the rain. The day before we left, I did not go into work, and I missed our practice. (That's a first.) We actually didn't train on the field. We did a strength circuit workout and intervals on the track. I didn't miss much. Not only was I trying to get well for the trip, I was avoiding our players. I didn't want to get them sick. In North Carolina, when I wasn't on the soccer field, I was in my room in bed. As much as possible I tried to avoid going into players' rooms, meetings in my room, sitting with them at meals. I didn't even go to all the meals. Now you know how sick I was.

Maybe I have been that sick during season, but I was in my 20's, so it didn't slow me down as much.

It was hard work to get our first win in conference. I can't imagine how hard it will be to get a result at Mercer and/or Kennesaw State in a couple of weeks. Luckily, we have time to improve and prepare.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

An Usual Week

We were supposed to play on Wednesday and Friday this week, which was a good schedule leading up to next week's games on Thursday and Saturday. Due to rain, we had to cancel Wednesday's game against Evansville. With standing water on the field and a 70% chance of rain, it looked like we might not be able to play on Friday either.

Before coming to Belmont, I had coached collegiate soccer for 11 years. In 11 years, I had 1 game cancelled due to rain (at Centenary, 1998) and 1 lightning delay (at Stetson, 2002). In the last 2 weeks I have had a game cancelled due to rain and a lightning delay. That makes 2 games cancelled and 1 game suspended due to field conditions in less than 5 years at Belmont. That is not a very good statistic, and one that can easily be avoided.

On Friday, I found myself in another unfamiliar situation when we were leading Alabama A&M 9-0 at halftime. In 1995, we scored 8 or 9 goals against Jacksonville and Birmingham Southern. In 1996, we scored 11 goals against UAH. It took the entire 90 minutes to score that many goals. We scored 5 or 6 in the 1st half and 4 or 5 in the 2nd half. In the 2nd half, the subs got a chance to get good playing time and good goals. I would only allow our team to score on crosses or score with their head.

On Friday, at halftime, I had to tell our team that they could not score at all. That was a first for me. With 10 minutes remaining in the game, we got a direct kick outside the penalty area. I told our team if they played it like it was an indirect kick, they could shoot. They executed it properly and scored on the only shot we took in the 2nd half. Although some players were disappointed, it was still a good opportunity to work on beating defenders on the end line, changing the point of attack in the attacking third, set plays, establishing a rhythm, final passes, etc.

It is also unusual for us to train on Sundays, but that is what we will do. We plan to put together 3 good training sessions in a row (weather permitting) before we leave on Wednesday to take on High Point on Thursday and Campbell, our first conference game on Saturday.

I hope the players who scored multiple goals and got multiple assists on Friday night have built up their confidence in and around the goal. They were JayTro, Annie, and Bublis. Also, LP scored 3 goals in 12 minutes. I wonder if that is an NCAA record?! I hope those players who did not get a chance to score because I wouldn't let them are mad and motivated to score the next time they get an opportunity. A goal or an assist against Campbell would be nice!

Monday, September 14, 2009


We can't buy a goal. We have not scored a goal in 400 minutes (over 4 games). The quality of play in those 400 minutes has been all over the place. At times during that span, the quality of soccer has been the best it has been in 5 years. The most consistent thing over the first 6 games has been our team defense. Our defensive shape and overall decision making has been solid. The players do not have to think that much on defense. They are instinctively pretty good.

However, we are thinking a lot (too much) when we have the ball. Possession shape and attacking tactics are not as instinctual to the players. There is more confidence, leadership, and communication when we are defending. There is less confidence, little leadership, and no communication when we are possessing.

The starting line up in the last game was 4 freshmen, 4 sophomores, 2 juniors, and 1 senior. We just need more time - more experience, more time working together, more communication, more comfortable with each other, more possession, more practice, more games, and obviously more goals.

This entire team, every player, top to bottom, is the best Belmont team in the last 5 years. However, a team is judged by wins and losses. No one will think we are good, including us, until we start winning.

All of us are frustrated right now. Our next challenge is to not allow this frustration to affect the way we play, the way we feel about each other, and the confidence we have in ourselves. It will take leadership. It will take maturity. It will take cohesiveness. It will take mental toughness. Finally, it will take a goal.

We had our official visits on campus last weekend. We have 5 verbal commitments for 2010. They are from Alabama, Tennessee, Indiana, and New Jersey. All of them and their parents were here for Saturday's volleyball game, Sunday's game against Samford, dinner Sunday night, and academic meetings Monday morning. I think they all fit in very well at Belmont and extremely well with our team. I enjoy the group and look forward to working with them next year.

If we are going to improve this week, it is going to have to be in games against an opponent. We play Evansville on Wednesday and Alabama A&M on Friday. Tuesday and Thursday's practices will be a good opportunity for us to work on our set plays like corner kicks, indirect kicks, and free kicks from midfield. If you have seen us play, you know we need it. We will work on finishing this week. We are creating opportunities in our games. We had many good opportunities last weekend. We just need to put one in the back of the net.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Two Losses

Happy Labor Day! The last time we lost 2 games in the same weekend was October of 2007. Even though the results were the same, the losses could not have been more different. We were never really in the game against Vanderbilt. Early goals, a lack of physical presence, and a loss of confidence did not allow us to make it a competitive game. On Sunday, we did a better job of setting the tone, getting in a rhythm, and controlling the tempo of the game. A lack of scoring and a lapse in the defensive third was the only thing that kept us from winning.

I had to explain to the team, because I don't think they understand the transition that we are going through, currently. There is going to be a learning curve, and there are going to be some growing pains, but we will be a better team later in the season and forever in the future.

Since taking over the Belmont team in 2005, my philosophy has been result oriented. We were desperate to win games in order to build our confidence and our team cohesion. I sacrificed the quality of soccer we were playing in order to get wins. We doubled our average wins per season, and we won the A-Sun Tournament. Going into this 2009 season, we are confident, we have good team chemistry, and we have more talent. It is time to concentrate on playing better soccer. It is the natural next step in the evolution of this program.

In the early stages of this process, we could possibly lose some games that maybe we could have or would have won a year or two ago. We are going to make mistakes. There will be a lack of consistency. We are still identifying the best players to play in the best positions. We are doing all of this against top competition. The 3 teams to whom we have lost have a combined record of 15-1-1.

Just to give you an idea of how different our team tactics are, take a look at the statistics. Last year, we gave up over 40 shots to Vanderbilt. Sari had to make 17 saves. This year, we allowed 20 shots, and Sari made 7 saves. Last year, MTSU dominated us in shots, 19-11 and corner kicks, 5-1. Yesterday, we outshot MTSU by at least 10 shots, and we had 6 corner kicks to their zero.

I am not going to play the stats comparison all year. I just want to illustrate that our team is improving. There is going to be a time in the season when we need to win, and hopefully we will be prepared to do that. This week at practice, we will work on finishing and set plays. That should help us. I am looking forward to our next 4 games being at home. Our official visit weekend is next weekend.

It was great to have so many families in town over Labor Day weekend. We appreciate the support and hope to see everyone again soon.

Friday, September 4, 2009

First Weekend Wrap Up

We rode a roller coaster the first weekend, and it has reminded me of the unknowns, the uncontrollable, and the unpredictable weeks that lie ahead. No wonder there is not more longevity in the coaching career. It can be an emotional whirlwind. It makes me think sometimes it is not about how you play but who you play.

Even though we lost, I was so proud of the quality of soccer Friday night. I could not tell it was our first game. It set a high standard for the team, and I immediately raised my expectations. Even though we won on Sunday, I was disappointed in how we played. I don't think we could beat many teams on our schedule if we played the same as we did in our last game.

It is early in the season, and we do not have all the pieces in place. Some people will change positions. We have not spent much time on set pieces. Many players are getting small windows of playing time to give them a chance to improve or prove themselves. We will tweak our system of play. We will lack consistency for a few weeks, while we work out the kinks. It is probably too early for me to get all worked up about it, but I could not hide my disappointment on Sunday.

I have found that after a win, I can be more honest with the team than I can after a loss. If we play terribly and lose, I will say very little because the team is so down. If we play terribly and win, I can be more critical of the team, because the win will provide balance to how they feel about themselves.

The NCAA begins publishing the RPI about midway through the season. I have never known why it does not start immediately, but evidently, many games must be played before the RPI model gives an accurate ranking. There is a person who is showing an example of the early rankings and the evolution of the RPI through the season. Going into tonight's game, we are ranked #11! Yes, #11!

I have never been sure how the RPI works, but who cares when you're ranked #11. I know it weighs your opponents' records, and UAB has a very impressive 4-0 record with wins against Alabama, Ole Miss, and Clemson. Losing to them on their field by one goal gives us a high ranking. Not bad for a team with 10 scholarships and no field for a year. Here is the link if you want to see for yourself. It will change after this weekend:

Friday, August 28, 2009

Season Opener at UAB

Playing at UAB Friday night is probably the most competitive season opener I've had at Belmont. They were 2-0 with 2 shutouts and ranked #7 in the region. Their opponents so far had been Texas A&M, Alabama, and Ole Miss.

I was worried that if UAB got an early goal and got the crowd into it, we might not respond well this early in the season. Once the game started, I thought we might be the team to get the early goal. I was very pleased with how we played for the first 20 minutes of the game. I did not see visible signs of nervousness or anxiety. We worked together. We had possession of the ball a lot, and we created a few scoring chances. We did not leave ourselves exposed in the back. We certainly did not dominate the entire half and defended a lot in the last 15 minutes of the first half, but I thought it was a very good first 45 minutes to start the season.

The second 45 minutes was no worse. Our depth began playing a factor when Lydia Wright and Dani Stolt combined to give us one of our better chances to score. We began wearing down their right back, and LP got behind her, but the goalkeeper denied her low shot to the corner. UAB scored in the 79th minute even though we had pressure on the ball and good shape in the box. They definitely created their own scoring chance. We did not give them their goal. Although it was a 1-0 loss, it was a good start to our season.

It was great to have alumni and alumni parents at our game.

I am looking forward to Sunday's game against UT-Martin. I hope we build on this performance, and I hope our depth can play a bigger role on Sunday.

After practice on Saturday morning, I learned that my grandfather passed away. I had just gone to see him before pre-season started, because my family did not expect him to make it through the month. Ernie was 87 years old and a World War II Veteran. I was still on campus when I talked to my mom. The 8 or 9 players who took ice baths were the first people I talked to when I got off the phone. My players are good to me!

Ironically, after practice, I had 2 text messages. One was from my sister and it said, "Call mom." The other was from the assistant coach at Vanderbilt, and it said, "Ronnie is in labor." My good friend Ronnie Woodard, the head coach at Vanderbilt, gave birth to her son, Thomas, Saturday afternoon. C'est la vie.

Movies: The Replacements and Pocahontas

Friday, August 21, 2009

Preseason- August 11-21, 2009

One week after all the Division I teams had begun, I welcomed 27 players to Belmont for the 2009 season. This is the largest roster I have ever had. 11 new players. I made a welcome back slideshow for the team. Seeing pictures from winning the 2008 conference tournament with them again was special, and it somehow seemed so long ago. This feels like a brand new team with greater potential and greater goals. I have not seen anything that makes me think this team is going become complacent.

After the fitness test and 4 days of training, it was time to spend time getting to know each other. We took the True Colors Personality Test. It was a group discussion on different personalities, the strengths and weaknesses (characteristics) of each personality, and how others perceive certain personalities. We had a lot of fun with it. We call each other gold, orange, green, and blue. I am green, and it's not easy being green. We stereotype each other according to the color of their personality. It has been a good tool for learning about each other and about oneself, and it has been truly memorable. Just like camping last year was memorable.

We also went canoeing. I matched up the partners in each boat by position, and put people together who would have to work together and communicate on the field. Is it a bad sign that the only 2 canoes that tipped were those of the center backs and the coaches? This was no leisurely canoe trip. There were about 12 canoes racing down the river. It was crazy. Even when we would try to relax, we would all just end up maneuvering for position.

Thank you to all the people, schools, and organizations that allowed us to use their fields while ours was closed. Father Ryan, MBA, Nashville Metro, and Vanderbilt. Thank you to the families who provided food for us while the cafeteria was closed. Trocino, Loftis, Sanchez, and Musacchio.

When we played Southern Indiana on Sunday, it was our first game and their 3rd game. There were times in the game when I thought that was evident. I was happy with our progress on defending higher up the field and very happy with the number of scoring opportunities we created. There were definitely some nerves and some unfamiliarity with each other, but we won 1-0.

Today was the first day of classes. We are preparing for our first regular season game against UAB, who is 2-0. They have wins over Alabama and Ole Miss. They usually get large vocal crowds, and I expect we will be playing in a rowdy, unfriendly environment. Actually, it should be fun. Maybe in my pre-game speech, I will talk about my 1999 team that tied Georgia in front of 3000 Bulldog fans.

I am excited about this team and look forward to the season ahead. Communicating with, motivating, and keeping the focus of 27 college students is going to be a big challenge for me. So far, the team is doing great and showing no signs of disinterest. (That would be just like an orange.)

We will be at UAB this Friday night and home on Sunday against UT-Martin. I hope to see you there.

We play at Vanderbilt tonight. The crowd was over 1000 at last year's game. Hopefully, we can add to that tonight. Hopefully, we will continue to improve our defensive presence in the midfield, moving the ball from the midfield third to the attacking third, possession in the final third, and consistency. Come see for yourself!

We had a team meeting back at the hotel, and I was exhausted. You would think I would have a hard time falling asleep the night before a championship game, but I couldn't keep my eyes open. I was up in the middle of the night going over a list of penalty kickers, so I never fully catch up on my sleep.