Monday, September 27, 2010

Triple Edged Sword

The United States won the first women's World Cup in 1991. I played with and against a lot of those players, and I was trained by Anson Dorrance on several occasions. I followed the team closely before and after the World Cup. I am disappointed that I have an awesome highlight video of the trip to China and the games on VHS. I don't have a VCR.

The United States was not favored to win the championship. Our team was made up of young amateurs, while other teams like Norway and Italy were made up of professional players.

When the U.S. won, Anson Dorrance described his 3 forwards as a triple edged sword. Even if an opponent could stop one of the forwards, they could not stop all three at the same time. I think by the end of the season, Belmont's forwards could be a double triple edged sword or even a triple triple edged sword.

Against Upstate, I used 8 forwards - JayTro, LP, JO, E, Bailey, Dani, Maddie, and Lofty. Each one of them brings a skill set that is different from the other. While there is a defender that might be better suited to defend JayTro or LP, that same defender might not be able to stop E, Bailey, or Maddie.

In order to become the triple-triple, there are a few things we need for our forwards to do: 1. Be consistent. 2. Be confident. 3. Work together. 4. Know each other's tendencies. 5. Execute.

If we start doing these things, opponents beware of the triple-triple!


I stopped being superstitious a long time ago. It just wears you out. There are so many more important things to worry about rather than packing the right shorts, making sure the right underwear are clean, or putting in the correct earrings.

I heard Andy and Kyle talking about what they would or would not wear to games because of us losing a certain game and what they were wearing at the time. During our losing streak, I even heard friends, players' parents, and people in the office talk about what they could wear or not wear to help us win. Colette Keyser is trying to find a lucky lip color for me to wear for games.

I don't believe in any of this stuff. Except... I was worried that wearing my 2008 championship ring to the games might be causing me to appear to be complacent. When I was putting on my rings and earrings on Thursday morning before leaving on the road trip, I decided not to wear that ring. I did put on the 2009 championship ring, because I have not worn it in a long time. Just because I wore it that day didn't mean I would wear it to the game. I did wear it to the game, and we won. I wore it again on Sunday, and we won. Of course, I will be wearing it on Thursday night.

The President's Spirit Award Competition will take place at our game on Thursday night. There should be hundreds of students there. It would be great to set a record for attendance for a women's soccer game. I'll be there with my ring on!


Finally! We got a break! A game that could have gone either way went our way! In overtime!

Just what the doctor ordered. We won a game that wasn't close. Then, we won a game that was very close and came down to the wire.

We scored 8 goals in 2 games. Seven different goal scorers. The assists were spread out all over. We generated over 20 corner kicks. Five set play goals. Four Big 5 goals. That is the Belmont I know and love!

I feel great about Laura Harris scoring a goal in each game. Erica was involved in all 3 goals against ETSU. I am proud of our senior center backs for scoring the goals that gave us the victory at ETSU. Marcela tied the game 2-2 in the last 4 minutes when she scored on a corner kick.

Jessica Rix got the game winner in double overtime with a well placed free kick that landed half way between the goalkeeper and the last defender. That is where we aim, because it causes the goalkeeper to make a decision whether to come out or stay on the line. She got the goalkeeper to take a couple of steps off her line. When the last defender allowed the ball to bounce, there was nothing the keeper could do. It bounced right into the goal.

For her effort, Jessica was named Defensive Player of the Week. Lauren Paynter had 1 goal and 3 assists in 2 games and was named A-Sun Player of the Week. LP is our leading scorer, and she is ranked in the top 10 in the conference in some statistical categories.

We were the only A-Sun team to get 6 points last weekend. All other teams went 1-1, 1-0, 0-1, or 0-2. That helped us make a big move in the standings.

Our next 3 conference games are at home. We must use this momentum to keep going and keep winning.

We played on 2 excellent fields last weekend. The good surfaces helped us play better soccer and get more corner kicks.

Again, we were not able to play at full strength. Sometimes I allow myself to dream about how good we might be and how much fun we would be to watch if all of our players were healthy. It doesn't do me any good to think about it too long. I have to work with the reality of some players not playing at all and others not playing at full strength.

If you had asked me in the summer, I would have said that our starting forwards would be Erica, J-Tro, and Emily Jones. Emily is out for the season. E is 75-80%, and J-Tro is probably 70%. A successful team will have other players take advantage of the opportunity to play, step up, and pick up the slack. I feel like LP, Jane Owen, and Bailey Kimbell are doing just that. Now we need greater consistency.

It is very surprising to me that we have gone into overtime 5 times, and we have no ties.

Finally, I just want to say what an emotional game the ETSU game was. It was less emotional for our team, but you could see the emotion in Andy and the ETSU players. That team was fired up! For us to win that game the way we did was a huge accomplishment. It will get easier for Andy from now on, but I am glad that one is over, and I'm glad we won.

Saturday, September 25, 2010


We set a goal for this game to score 1 goal every 15 minutes. Accomplishing that goal in the 1st half was critical. In the first 90 seconds, Jamie Loftis stole a ball in the midfield, caught the goalkeeper off her line, but Lofty's shot hit the crossbar and bounced out. Over the next 40 minutes, J-Tro had 2 breakaways saved by the keeper. Bailey was taken out in the penalty area, but no foul was called. I am sure most players and coaches were thinking, "Here we go again." We did not execute free kicks or corner kicks well enough to get a goal. With 4 minutes left in the half, I had 6 substitutes on the field. I told everyone on the bench to fill up water bottles, because we were going to the locker room for halftime. While the girls were lined up at the water jugs, we got a throw in.

We just changed our long throw in play that morning before the game and practiced it with a few people but not everyone. Erica took the throw in, Dani made her run, Lydia received the throw and got it to Dani in the middle of her run, and Dani put it in the near post with a good left footed shot in the 43rd minute.

While we were celebrating on the sideline and breathing a sigh of relief, I wondered how many of the players actually saw the goal. I told them to stop watching the game and go back to the water. Maybe it was good luck. We were up 1-0 at halftime. It was a Big 5 goal, it was a goal off of a restart, and it was an important goal. In the 2nd half, we scored another set play goal and another Big 5 goal. We scored 5 goals on the night with 5 different goal scorers.

Since the burn, we have declared an 8 game season. So we are 1-0 with 7 games remaining. Hopefully, this will be the game that changes our season. Like Andy said after the game, "Good things happen when you burn stuff."

Friday, September 24, 2010

The Burn

Less sleep, more problem solving, longer staff meetings... These are the things that happen when you are 1-7. One of Andy's ideas was to burn any and all negative memories from the last 8 games, so we feel like we are making a fresh start.

After practice on Tuesday, I gave the girls homework. Write down anything that caused negative thoughts, doubts, or frustration over the first 8 games. Bring it to practice on Wednesday, and we were going to set everyone's papers on fire.

After practice on Wednesday, we went over to a construction site (always easy to find on campus, usually near the soccer field). One by one, every person lit her (and his) papers and put them in a metal trash can. We had a pretty good small fire going, and we slow clapped until Andy put the lid on the trash can.

No one read their list. Everyone was told that this is the end of negativity, frustration, and the last 8 games. We cannot carry the past with us going into the next 8 games. We must go into our last 8 games with free minds, positive energy, and confidence.

I enjoyed the experience and have felt some weight lifted off my shoulders. Hopefully, everyone else feels the same way.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Kennesaw State

I'm not going to revisit the whole game. The one thing I want to talk about after this game is the bench. The substitutes played awesome today, changed the momentum of the game, and kept the momentum for the remainder of the game. It was one of the best performances by a group of substitutes that I have ever seen.

As low as our confidence is right now, it was very inspiring to see those 8-10 players play well together and play well against one of the best teams in the conference.

However, it is also an indication of one of the main things wrong with our season - inconsistency. I have not been able to rely on a core of players to perform their best over a period of time. I have not been able to predict how a certain player will do in a certain situation. I don't know why the players are so inconsistent. Injuries? Difficult field conditions? Weather conditions? Difference in opponents? Is it because they are a bunch of 20 year old female college students?

We actually took a lot of positives from the game today. We proved to ourselves that we can play as well as anyone in the conference. We know exactly what we need to work on. We are a deep team with many, many weapons. We have an identity, and it's not too late!


We started Saturday morning watching some video. We watched video of us playing well against Mercer, and we watched video of Kennesaw State not playing all that well. It was designed to be a confidence builder.

We spent about 45 minutes shooting. We created good scoring opportunities on Friday night, so we needed to make sure we could finish our opportunities against Kennesaw State.

I had to meet with recruits after practice. I was very pleased with the level of players we had in on the visit, and I was even happier to get their positive feedback. It was a little awkward on Friday night when we lost in ot, I was very animated with the team, and everyone was sick about the result. The recruits stood around in silence waiting for their hosts. It was uncomfortable for everyone. I'm sure the mood improved throughout the night.

When I was finished with my business at Belmont for the day, I went shopping. I needed a distraction, and I needed to buy a wedding present for Jennifer Rix and her husband Matt Reynolds. They got married on the 4th of July weekend. I couldn't go to the wedding, and I just kept forgetting to get them a gift. I went to Bed, Bath, & Beyond in Cool Springs to get them a gift card. When I walked in the store, I thought I saw Matt. I haven't seen him in a year, so I assumed it was not him. I was just thinking about Matt, so that person looked like him.

I bought the gift card, and turned around for a minute, and I saw Don Rix. Then, I saw Matt again and then Jenn. I walked over and started talking to them. We visited for a while. Jenn said they were there shopping for stuff for their apartment, so I gave them the gift card right then and there. No card. No mailing address.

The fact that I've had at least 4 months to buy that gift, and that store is not near my house, it was one of the biggest coincidences ever!

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Not Again!

I started my day on Friday at 9am with 5 recruits on campus. After 3 meetings, 2 tours, and many other obligations, it was time to begin our conference season against Mercer.

My personal record against Mercer is abysmal. Mercer has had soccer forever. As a player, I played against Mercer and my team won 6-0 or better. I have a very funny story about that game, but I won't share it now. The mid-90's were some of Mercer's best years. They had one of the best players in the country - Mirella Ninic. I had just started the program at JSU in the same conference, and we had to play them twice each year. I was going 0-2 against Mercer for 3 years before ever getting a result against them. In 2000, my JSU team was down 2-0 at Mercer. We were probably going to qualify for the conference tournament, and Mercer was fighting for their tournament life. It was possibly a do or die game for them. JSU came back and won that game 3-2. I still remember all 3 goals in the 2nd half. I remember some of the halftime speech, and I remember the Mercer coach not getting up off of the bench at the end of the game and remaining in that same position as we got on the bus.

Since 2005, Belmont has not beaten Mercer. I think our record vs. Mercer since 2005 was 0-3-4 going into Friday night's game. Yes, we beat them in PK's to win the 2008 A-Sun Tournament. That felt like 2 wins, but it goes down in the record book as a tie. We lost to them in the 2007 Semi-finals in penalty kicks, and that one is a tie too.

The first 45 minutes, we played as well as we have played all year. We had 3 excellent scoring opportunities and despite other opportunities, we failed to score. At halftime, we talked about how Mercer would not quit, and we couldn't play like we did in the 1st half. We would have to play even better.

We did not play better in the 2nd half. We didn't play terrible, but we did not sustain the same level of play. Regulation ended in a tie, and we were destined for our 4th overtime game out of 7 games. We did not have the momentum going into overtime. We gave up 2 or 3 corner kicks in the final minutes of regulation. I felt a sense of accomplishment to deny Mercer from scoring on a corner kick in the last minute of the game.

We gave up a goal with less than 2 minutes remaining in the first half of overtime. I can't describe the feeling - depressing, deflating, disappointing, sick, familiar, ...

I will tell you this, after the game, I let the team have it. We have lost 6 games - 4 in overtime and 1 in the last seconds of the game. After those games, I have been positive, I have been critical, and I have said nothing. I have been very careful not to rub salt in the wound, and I have been worried about the team's resiliency and ability to bounce back after a devastating and dramatic loss. Friday night, I rubbed salt in the wound.

I don't know if I did the right thing or the wrong thing, but I am running out of things to do and things to say. I do know this. My staff and I are working together to make sure the team believes we can win and we will win.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Jane Owen Robbins

One of the most fun parts of this job is watching young women gain confidence and the effect it has on all aspects of the student-athlete experience.

As a freshman last year, Jane Owen played in 2 games. She did not come in at the same level as most of the girls on the team, and she has been working to catch up ever since. JO plays center back, and it is not a position where I substitute very often. If you are not #1 or #2, you get very little playing time. The great thing about Jane Owen is that she trains so hard at center back that she makes our forwards better at practice. For a coach, this is a great situation. For Jane Owen, it is probably not her ideal role, but she continues to work hard at it.

On Wednesday, I was making the travel team for the last trip, and Jane Owen's name was in the bubble of players who might not travel. She was on the travel team in the morning, then not on the travel team after lunch. She was definitely a player I would evaluate in Wednesday's practice to make a final decision. While JO was working hard at center back, I thought about how she almost scored a goal against SEMO. We have some forwards who are injured, and I needed to take more forwards than defenders.

While we were in Missouri, I told Jane Owen that there was a slight chance that she might play forward against Missouri if I had to go deep into the bench. I told her to make sure she watched the center forward during the game. Since we only played 30 minutes, I did not go deep into the bench that game, but I did have to play a lot of players against SEMO on the 100 degree turf. Andy came up to me during the game and told me he thought we could put Jane Owen in the game at forward. She ended up having a great scoring opportunity, and the goalkeeper made a good save.

Wednesday's practice was 1.5 hours, and in 90 minutes Jane Owen's training habits took her from not travelling to the travel team. She did not get in Friday's game against Eastern Illinois, but when she played on Sunday, she scored a goal against Indiana State. JO will do anything to help her team, and she just keeps finding ways to help us and herself.

It takes an excellent attitude to embrace your role, like it or not, and find ways to help the team in your role. If a player can help the team within her role, then her role is more likely to change or grow.

One more thing. When we had our team meeting on Friday night, JO had some of the most important observations and said some meaningful things to her coaches and teammates. Probably the best thing she said was that it was a privilege to be on the team, to travel with the team, and to play in the games. She told her teammates to not take that privilege for granted, because there were other people who would do anything to earn that privilege and/or take a player's place.

I hope everyone can be as good a teammate to Jane Owen as she is to them.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Big Five Goals

When I played in college, my coach told us that the most crucial parts of the soccer game were the 1st 5 minutes of a half, the last 5 minutes of a half, and 5 minutes after a goal is scored. Those are the times when the most goals are scored.

Years later, I heard April Heinrichs call these Big 5 Goals. Her team would yell, "Big 5" during these times of the game, so everyone would focus.

Big 5 goals have played a huge role in our season so far. We have given up Big 5 goals in every game - SEMO-2, Clemson-1, Minnesota-3, Arkansas State-1, EIU-1, ISU-2. Even the game we won against Arkansas State, we gave up a goal in the first 5 minutes of the game. We did manage to score 2 Big 5 goals in that game.

The team knows how important the Big 5 is. We are working on it.


One year ago our record was 1-4-1. In our last 14 games last season, we were 9-2-3.

game at Indiana State

Sunday's game at Indiana State was on turf. Just another unfamiliar environment for us.

It was a big challenge for us to regroup against a good attacking team. It was 0-0 at halftime, and I thought we would play even better in the 2nd half. I wish I could say it is uncharacteristic for us to give up a goal in the first 5 minutes of a half, but it's not this year. We gave up a goal in the first 2 minutes of the 2nd half.

We had the mentality and ability to tie the score and go into overtime (again). Still tied at the end of the first overtime, we gave up a corner kick in the 2nd minute of the 2nd overtime. They scored, and we lost our 5th game - the 3rd overtime loss.

I was not pleased with the quality of our play, but I have not been able to be very critical of the team after games. When the team wins, I can be much more critical of them. Even after losses, I am usually able to speak honestly about the game. The overtime losses, the penalty kick losses have been devastating, so I have had to choose my words and time my coaching very carefully.

Instead of saying too much right after a loss, I have been addressing weaknesses and correcting mistakes in individual meetings, practices, video sessions, etc.

Although we lost on Sunday, it was a step in the right direction. The girls played much harder. They fought for each other. They had more desire, discipline, and dedication. We're getting there.

the day after

How do you recover from losing on a penalty kick in the last 12 seconds of a game?

We had practice at Indiana State on Saturday. We did a team challenge. The team had to complete passes under pressure for one minute without making a mistake. The girls almost completed it in the first try. Then, they could not make it 30 seconds. They started getting frustrated, and it started getting quiet. We had just talked about adversity, effort, leadership, and teamwork the night before. When the team accomplished the goal, they passed successfully for over 2 minutes.

Then we played a 7ASide round robin. There were some good shots, near misses, good saves, and good goals. It was fun.

Then, we drove to Carmel to spend the day and have dinner at Jessica Rix's house. It was awesome! We watched college football, ate, played corn hole, passed the football, played ladder golf, took naps, did homework, etc. The weather was great. We had a wonderful dinner. It was a great time!

After dinner, we drove back to Terre Haute to spend the night. Sunday would be a difficult day and an important game for us.

road trip

Before we got on the bus on Thursday, I talked to the team about how we must go 2-0 on a road trip in order to finish atop the Atlantic Sun Conference. The objective of this trip was to go 2-0 on a non-conference weekend, so we knew we could do it when conference started. Well, that speech didn't work out too well.

One penalty kick and one overtime later, we were 0-2 for the weekend.

I have never coached a game where there is a game deciding goal in the last minute of the game. I think I have seen goals scored or given up with 1:something on the clock but never 0:something. At Eastern Illinois, the referee called a penalty kick against one of our defenders in the last 12 seconds. We lost 1-0 on that goal with 0:12 on the clock.

It was by far the worst field I have seen in the 2000's. A ball could be rolling along the ground, and bounce over the player's foot when she tried to trap or kick it. After about 30 minutes, we had to vacate any passing in our game plan and just play direct and try to kick every ball over their defenders. Although this kept the ball out of our defensive half, it did not result in shots or scoring chances. We only took 1 shot in the second half.
I've been thinking about the quality of that field, and it has made me pretty upset. All the teams that show up there to compete and work hard deserve far better than that. Any coaches who spend time preparing their teams to play against Eastern Illinois deserve better than that. The coaches and student-athletes at EIU deserve better than that. There is no way you could practice on that field and get better. I'm not mad because I lost on that field. I'm just mad about that field, and the message that it sends to those who use it.
In addition to the bad field and officiating, the team gave one of our least inspired performances in a long time. The last second penalty kick was shocking. After the game, I said nothing to the team. We just got on the bus, went back to the hotel, got ready for dinner, and went to eat.

After dinner, we had a team meeting. The meeting lasted over an hour. When you lose games the way we have lost games this year, it leaves a scar. We are working through some scar tissue right now.

Monday, September 6, 2010

The Injury Bug

Part of the reason we have been so successful the last few years is because we have avoided injuries. We've had players playing injured. Erica and Jayme played injured in 2008. Jessica played injured in 2009 and will continue to do so this season. Jayme and Maddie are joining Jess this year on the playing injured list. Actually, JTro has only played in part of 2 pre-season games and against Clemson. She is scheduled to join practice this week. We have not had a season ending injury since Elizabeth Bublis tore her ACL in the spring of 08. I can't remember the last season ending injury we had in a fall season.

We had one the other day. Emily Jones tore her ACL, LCL, and meniscus in practice. She went all out. I feel bad for Emily, and the team will miss her. She has been starting and improving every game and every practice.

At practice, I was making sure everyone was getting a chance to play in an exercise, and when I looked at the people who were sitting out, I had more injured players than I had substitutes. The injured players were Jayme Trocino, Emily Jones, Dani Stolt (IT Band), Sari Lin, (torn ligament in her ring finger knuckle), Megan Rock (back, pelvis, and hip problems), and Jamie Loftis (back pain). In the next game against Arkansas State, Erica left the game with a sprained ankle and possible torn ankle ligaments.

Could this be the year when injuries affect how successful we are? Injuries have affected some individuals over the years, but they have never affected the whole team. We're getting pretty close to that now.

I was worried over the summer, because I knew we had a lot of injuries that were preventing people from getting fit and preparing for the season - Jessica Rix, Jayme Trocino, Patience Whitten, Maddie Porter, and Lydia Wright - 5 seniors. A few days before report day, Megan Rock called me and said she was injured. Other than Megan, none of these injuries kept people from working hard during pre-season, so I was relieved and thought maybe we were more healthy than I thought. The more games we've played, and other players have picked up some injuries, the larger affect it is having on our team.

There are 2 positive things that could come of this. Maybe we start getting healthy and get everyone back at the right time. Maybe we have other players step up when given the opportunity in practice and in games. Actually, we will probably need both of those things to happen for us to reach our goal of winning the A-Sun.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

My Worst Loss at Belmont

There were so many things that were disappointing about Tuesday that I've been contemplating what to write. Do I tell the whole story? Do I say nothing? Do I just wait and write about the next game or story?
Actually, the disappointment started at practice on Sunday. The coaching staff decided that we would not use conservative defensive tactics to get a result. We decided that we would stay in our 4-3-3 against their 3-5-2. We were going to play for development and not for the result. It meant that we would have to have exceptional individual and small group defending against Minnesota. Our defending in that practice was terrible. Maybe I should have changed my mind when I saw how poorly the majority of our team was defending. We trained well before the Clemson game, and we played well against Clemson. We trained poorly before the Minnesota game, and we played poorly in the game.
Tuesdays game helped us identify some things to work on to get ready for conference games. I think we learned from the experience. Ultimately, that was the goal all along.
In 2005 and 2006, my goal for the team was to compete and gain confidence from getting results. A good result then could have been a 1-0 win, a 0-0 tie, or even a 2-0 loss. We lost to Louisiana State 2-0, and I remember feeling really good about the result. We used tactics that allowed the players to play within themselves and allowed the team to have a chance to win the game at the end. The players worked together for 90 minutes, and it allowed us to become more cohesive, more competitive, and more confident.
That was not our goal this year against Samford, Vandy, Missouri, Clemson, and Minnesota. Our goal was to gain experience in our system against high level competition. Where we were exploited against great teams, we will fix before we play Mercer. The things that made us successful against those teams, we will use to our advantage against conference opponents.
We're not a bad 0-3 team, but I don't mind if our conference opponents think we are. Hopefully, after Sunday, we will be 1-3.
I am watching the USC football game. I might be the only person in Tennessee watching Lane Kiffin coach.