Monday, August 30, 2010

Sari Lin

Other than a few of the early years at Jacksonville State, I have had outstanding goalkeepers. Even when I played, I was lucky to play with national level goalkeepers and All-Americans. In 1989, my college team finished the season with 3 goals against. We gave up only 3 goals in 20 games. It is still a NCAA record. I don't think it's #1, but it is one of the best season goals against average in the history of NCAA women's soccer.
Sari is an excellent goalkeeper. She has had a great start to her career - 2008 All-Freshman Team and Tournament MVP. 2009 First Team All-Conference, Belmont Female Athlete of the Year. 2010 Pre-Season All-Conference pick. She has been ranked nationally in save percentage, goals against average, and shutout percentage. Sari is probably the biggest reason for our 2008 tournament championship and trip to the NCAA Tournament. It was truly a team effort, but the goalkeeper often gets the credit (and the blame).

We have another great goalkeeper on our team - Nicole Berner, a freshman from New Jersey. Nicole came in ready to challenge for playing time. During the pre-season, Nicole out-performed Sari, and she has started all 5 of our games.

I am not writing this to give a public comparison of the two goalkeepers or to promote one goalkeeper over the other. I am writing this to talk about how one young adult has dealt with a situation that was probably very difficult and how this has defined her character.

Sari could have responded very poorly when she lost her starting position. She could have felt entitled to her position. She could have pointed the finger at others. She could have blamed me or Kyle or Andy. She could have blamed Nicole. She could have given up.

I do remember a training session while we were in Alabama where Sari looked like she was giving up. Then, she made that decision to compete for her position. I think she had to hold herself accountable to be able to make that commitment to herself and to her team. Since the Samford game, Sari has not taken one play off in training or in games. She is getting her timing back and her confidence back, and Sari's new work ethic is going to make her even better than she was before.

I am proud of Sari and the way she has handled this. I hope her peers and teammates will learn from her example. I know they have noticed. What a tribute to the value of collegiate sports. This is not the last time that Sari will be knocked down and challenged in her life. She has shown at a pretty young age that she can pick herself up, wipe herself off, and put herself back out there.

Not all student-athletes have the same reaction or attitude as Sari. A few years ago, I had a player quit the team when she lost her starting position. She told me that she was a junior and she shouldn't have to continue to prove herself.

I am glad Sari didn't respond that way, and I am grateful for Nicole's talent, preparation, and contribution to our team. Is it possible that we not only have the best goalkeeper in the conference but we have the 2 best goalkeepers in the conference?

Friday, August 27, 2010


We lost in overtime for the 2nd game in a row. The results have been the same, but the background stories could not be more different. The weather was beautiful tonight. The team played very well in front of a big crowd. The players played as well as they have been practicing.

We were down 1-0 at halftime, and we tied the game with 7 minutes remaining. I was proud of our experience, maturity, confidence, and determination.

Then, the referee decided to let Clemson win. He gave them a penalty kick 8 minutes into overtime. I believe our team had a little lapse in defending, and Clemson was attacking. However, it was not a physical game, and the referee had called very few fouls. He called that penalty kick out of the blue.

I feel bad for the players who worked so hard to play toe to toe with an ACC opponent just to have the referee decide the game, not the players on the field. It's a shame.

We did play toe to toe with Clemson. They took one more shot than we did, and we had 2 more corner kicks than they did.

It is just a bag of mixed emotions - upset to lose, pleased with our ability to compete with a big school, sad for the girls, impressed with our improvement, and disappointed in a few players.

I am guilty (again) of having unrealistic expectations of our players and our team. I begin every season idealistic that we are going to play like Spain in the World Cup. I get so upset when we don't. It usually takes me a few weeks to get accustomed to our strengths and weaknesses and to be more realistic about our abilities. This season is no different.

I am going to spend the next 2 days watching Minnesota on film and in person. I believe they are the best team on our schedule, and they will be one of the best teams I have ever coached against. I know 1:00 is not a good time for a game on a Tuesday, but I hope we will have a decent crowd. Free hot dogs and lemonade!

Thursday, August 26, 2010

tough conditions

We had 2 extremes in Missouri. Friday night, we played on a wet field in rain and wind. Sunday afternoon, we played on hot, dry turf. The temperature was 95 degrees in the parking lot, but it was over 105 degrees on that turf. It was the first time I ever had a water break in the middle of the half, and I have coached MANY games in extreme heat.

We lost 2-1 in overtime. There were many chances to score for both teams, and there were some good saves by the 3 goalkeepers. I think our team worked hard, especially considering the circumstances. If the girls will work hard in that heat against a non-conference opponent, I know they will work hard against Mercer, Kennesaw State, Stetson, and the others.

I have been happy with training this week. The team is looking to possess the ball more. The training environment is more game like. Team defending has improved. The goalkeepers are training at a high level. I think this schedule, the competitiveness within our team, and our experience is working to our advantage.

Our next 3 games are at home, and the next 2 games are against Clemson and Minnesota. What a great moment for Belmont women's soccer.

The soccer field and its surroundings look beautiful right now. At one end is a brand new 4 story dorm with an observation tower and a beautiful new $20 million building. I was at the men's soccer game yesterday, and the students can't help but come to the game. They walk out of their dorm, and they are at the game. It is a very unique environment, and I hope we are able to take advantage of it.

We still do not have a manager. Everyone has been helping with laundry and passing out equipment. We will have one by Monday. Jayme Trocino is injured, so she was the acting manager on the trip to Missouri. She had to video the game, do the team's laundry, and order food for the team before and after games. I think she has a new found respect for managers.

I plan every meal in detail on the road trips. Before a game, the players cannot eat too much or too little, too early or too late. The team ate breakfast at 9:30. We had food on the bus for everyone to eat before the game, but the players were not exactly aware of what food we had or where it was. I was out of routine, and so were they. By the time the game started at 2:00, the players were hungry. By the time overtime started at 4:00, they were running on empty. I guarantee that won't happen again this year. We will have a manager with us to be responsible for food. I will be more aware, and the players will be more responsible.

There are so many different things that go into being successful. It truly takes a team to manage, prepare, motivate, and perform.

See you on Friday night!

Friday, August 20, 2010

No Contest

We got our new uniforms today. They are a little small, but they look awesome!

Just when I thought I had seen it all, tonight's game at Missouri was a first for me. As we rode in the bus at 5:15, we watched a storm blow in from the west, and it arrived at the stadium about the same time we did. The sky went from blue to black during our 15 minute ride. The game manager met us on the bus and escorted us straight to the locker room where we sat for the next 1 1/2 hours while the storm hit. After an abbreviated warm up, we started the game at 7:45 on a saturated field with puddles.

After 14 minutes, we were winning 1-0 on a breakaway goal by Erica Carter off of a pass from Jamie Loftis. I thought our team played with courage and heart. Missouri was a physical opponent, and if that were not enough, a strong wind started blowing right in our faces. With the wet field, wind, and physical pressure, it was extremely difficult for us to get the ball out of our half. It took some great headers, some blocked shots, and some excellent saves by Nicole to be winning 1-0 when the game was suspended.

We waited in the locker room for 45 minutes. At 9:00, the game was cancelled. The team wanted to play. They were already asking if we could play the rest of the game in the morning. When I told them that Missouri has a flight at 8:00 tomorrow morning, they said they would play at 6am.

We were all very excited and disappointed that the game ended the way it did.

Tomorrow, we drive to Cape Girardeau, straight to the SEMO soccer stadium to practice at 3:00.

Thursday, August 19, 2010


August 3rd was the earliest report date women's soccer has ever had. We decided to take our pre-season training off campus. We went to Indian Springs School where we had convenient and unlimited access to the dorms, cafeteria, and soccer fields. It was one of the hottest pre-seasons we've had in a while, so we were practicing at 6am and 7pm. Besides soccer, there was very little activity other than eating and sleeping. It was very productive for the team and very conducive for me to coach for 2 weeks without worrying about money, meals, travel, and other distractions.

Before coming back to Nashville, we played Samford. It was a difficult game for us, especially the first half, but it was very good for us to play against that kind of pressure. It will help us be better prepared for Missouri. We lost 1-0, but we improved throughout the game.

Once we were back in Nashville, we had 73 people at our Welcome Back Dinner, hosted by the Trocino's. I think it is important for the women's soccer family to extend beyond the players.

The next evening, we played Vanderbilt. The first half started kind of slow, but there were 3 goals in the last 15 minutes of the game, and we finished by getting 2 corner kicks in the last minute. The score ended 2-2. As much as I wanted to win, I think a tie is fine.

As men's soccer and volleyball are arriving on campus and beginning their grueling practice schedules, we have tapered down to 1 practice a day to get ready for our season opener on Friday at Missouri. Missouri has finished in 1st place in the Big XII the last 2 years. Athletically, they are out of our league. I told our players we are not playing them in individual sports like track, 1v1, or weightlifting. We are playing them with 11 players at a time. If we work hard with each other and for each other, if we work smart together, then we will be competitive in this game.

Last week, I was nervous about this game. Today, I am excited!

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Soccer Camp

It is not even August 20th, and we have had 21 practices and 2 games in 15 days. I guess I forgot to count. I am sure everyone is excited to have tomorrow off. The next time we get on the field, it will be for our game vs. Missouri - 2009 Big XII Champions. What is the Big XII called today?

It has rained 2 nights in a row and most of the afternoon and evening today, which reminds me that I want to mention the flood back in May. My birthday was on April 24th. We were supposed to go to Lee College for our last spring game. There were storms, so we cancelled the game, and I was able to stay home for my birthday. It was not a fun day, because the rain was so hard that it leaked into the basement and caused me to have to do much more work than I wanted to do on my unexpected day off.

That was not the weekend it flooded, and my leak was nothing compared to the damage caused by the flooding one week later. The Friday before the flood, I remember telling friends to have a good rainy weekend. On Saturday, I actually did not know that Nashville was flooding. I was busy working in the basement. When the tornado sirens went off about an hour before I was supposed to drive across town to a friend's house for dinner, I decided to turn on the television. The first thing I saw was cars floating down I-24. It just got worse from there.

From Saturday afternoon until Monday or Tuesday, the local channels were local news only without commericials. It was at least 48 hours of uninterrupted flood coverage. The newscasters were sleeping at the stations. It reminded me of when Hurricane Andrew hit south Florida.

Sunday morning, Maddie's father called me. The house that she, Jess, and Charlotte rented had flooded. They needed help moving their belongings, a place to put them, and a place to stay.

The street below me is in a flood plane. They had to wade through water to their backyard, walk up the hill into my backyard, up my driveway, and get picked up in the street in front of my house. People carried cats, dogs, babies, etc. up that hill.

I learned of friends who lost their homes and practically everything in them.

The neighbors started ripping out their flood damaged walls, floors, HVAC units, etc. and put them in their front yards by the street. They put all of their flood damaged possessions out there too. A truck with a claw would come by and pick up all the trash and put it in a dump truck. The smell of flood is horrible! As the water receded, it left moldy marks on all the bushes, fences, houses, and trees. You could see a distinct water line on most houses and shrubs.

Belmont students, faculty, and staff did a great job volunteering to help flood victims all over the city. Jamie Loftis' high school flooded.

I just had to mention the flood. I will be back soon to discuss pre-season and the team's preparation to defend our conference championship. Make sure you check out Belmont's new athletics website. There are video interviews with women's soccer and volleyball. On the Atlantic Sun Conference website, a women's soccer player from each school is being interviewed. Erica Carter will be on tomorrow.