Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Pillow Pets

This team loves pillow pets!

Too Little Too Late

We had to hurry after the game. No stretching. No talking. No visiting. We had to take fast showers and drive to Orlando to get to the airport.

My state of euphoria did not last long. As soon as we got on the bus, I learned that ETSU and Kennesaw State tied, 1-1. That's it. We can no longer finish in a 3 way tie, and there is no way for us to get into the tournament.

Life is cruel. I think many players had given up hope that we would make the tournament. Just when everyone believed again, we were officially eliminated. I did not want to tell the team. We have had very few pleasant post-games this year, and I did not want to ruin this one. I told the team that I was proud of them. They played well. I gave one of my ultimate compliments. I told them I enjoyed watching them play.

As I was changing clothes in the Stetson restroom, I was still so happy with the result of the game and how we played and the resiliency of the players on this team. I thought back to one year ago, when I was changing clothes after the last regular season game at North Florida. I was in a bathroom stall changing my wet clothes, because the team dumped a water cooler on me because we finished in 1st place. The emotions were overwhelming. I was shaking in that bathroom stall at North Florida, and I was shaking again at Stetson. We had just played better against Stetson than we played one year ago, but we are nowhere near where we were one year ago. It is very difficult to understand and almost impossible to explain.

No explanations yet. We have 4 practices and one game remaining. We play Lipscomb on Saturday. It is Senior Day. If we play like we did against Stetson, the game will not even be close. This season, at home, that is a big IF.

When we got back to Belmont, I told the team we were out of the race. I assume they already knew. I told them to not let that take away from the win and the quality of play against Stetson. We need the momentum for Saturday.


Bad News. We gave up a goal in the first 3 minutes of the game. It was similar to other goals we have given up throughout the year, most recently against FGCU and UNF. The shot hit the underneath side of the crossbar and bounced down and in the goal.
It may have taken 10 minutes after the goal was scored, and we took over the tempo of the game. It was great possession, great tempo, great scoring chances, and great effort. It was the best we have played as a team all year. I could rely on every player I put in the game. Each player gave the same amount of effort.

The other thing about the game that was similar to our season... In the 109th minute of the game, we had 26 shots and 1 goal. We were one minute away from outshooting a team 27-13 and tying 1-1.

We could not tie, so I started cheating numbers forward. We were practically in a 2-4-4 during the last 5 minutes of overtime. The play was end to end. Thankfully, Stetson missed some wide open shots, and Marcela blocked a sure goal. With less than a minute in double overtime, we put together a string of urgent passes, a composed cross, and a header in the upper 90.

Going into the game, we were 3-0-1 against Stetson in our last 4 games with 3 out of our last 4 goals against them being off a set piece. Both of our goals in this game were beautiful and scored in the run of play. Kailee, Bailey, and Rock were involved in both goals. Rock played an excellent entry pass into Patience, but the Stetson defender kicked it out of bounds. Kailee threw the ball into Bailey, and Bailey was dribbling from the corner flag toward the corner of the penalty area when she unleashed a shot with her left foot. It zipped past the goalkeeper and into the far post side netting. Amazing!

On the second goal, Jamie Loftis got on the end of a bouncing entry pass. She, Bailey, and Megan Rock locked it into our attacking third and could not get clean shots off in 2 attempts. Bailey played the ball out to the left side where LP ran onto it. She took her defender to the end line, and passed the ball back to Kailee. Kailee took one touch and served it in the box. Because we had held the ball in the final third for so long, we had excellent numbers in the box. Rock headed the ball in the corner against the goalkeepers momentum. I call that, "Putting it back where it came from."

I was elated. I was not thinking about the conference tournament or anything else. I was thinking about how proud I was of our team. They came back from a goal down on a Sunday on the road. They played beautifully and passionately. They have played well 3 halves in a row, and we are peaking at the right time.

Another Saturday practice

One thing that makes the Stetson/Florida Gulf Coast weekend difficult, besides the heat and humidity, 2 drastically different but effective teams, and the distance from Nashville is the 4 hour drive between the two schools.
When our conference opponents come play us at Belmont, there is no travel between us and Lipscomb. The teams get to stay in the same hotel the whole trip. There is really nothing difficult about the travel on the Nashville weekend. It is a disadvantage for us.

We left Fort Myers after breakfast, and we got to Deland in the afternoon. Just like all my other trips to Deland, our hotel parking lot was full of motorcycles. It was Biktoberfest, but I think it is always biker week in that part of the country.

We practiced on Stetson's field. We played chain tag to attempt to help us with our communication. We should have been doing that once a week. We did a team challenge passing drill. At the end of practice, everyone got a partner, and we had an intervention. The team sat in the bleachers while 2 players would get in front of the group and talk about each other's strengths, talents, and any positive qualities that make her valuable to the team. Then the players in the bleachers were invited to tell those 2 players one thing that she could do better to help the team.

I heard a lot of - communicate, shoot more, take on defenders, be confident, be composed. I was very impressed with the way the teammates talked to each other. They would say, "You have a great shot. Shoot more." "You know where everyone should be on the field. Communicate."

It was a great exercise, and I need to remember it, and use it earlier.

That night, during our team meeting, the Campbell game finished up with Campbell beating North Florida 3-2. If we win our last 2 games, we will finish tied with Campbell with 12 points. Campbell beat us head to head, so they would advance over us. Now we need ETSU to win one of their last 2 games to finish with 12 points. If there is a 3 way tie, we will have a chance to advance in goal differential tie breaker. However, the chance of us making the A-Sun Tournament just got slimmer.


I am guilty of over coaching once every other year. Ok, maybe once a year. I don't think I have over coached since the 3-6-1 vs. Kennesaw State in the 2008 A-Sun semi-finals. We went back to our 4-3-3 at halftime.

In preparation for Florida Gulf Coast, we prepared the team to play a 4-1-4-1. There are many reasons for this: 1. It would simplify defending for our outside backs against their outside midfielders. 2. It would prevent our wide forwards from having to receive the ball with pressure on their backs. 3. It would give us a numerical advantage in the midfield. 4. It would prevent dragging our center backs out of the middle and giving up corner kicks. 5. It was result oriented coaching and playing. 6. Our team has not shown any consistency or proven themselves able to win in our current system.

We had a walk through the morning before the game, and I thought the team understood their defensive roles in the system.

They didn't. We spent most of the first half locked in our own half. Just like in the 2008 semi-finals, we were down one goal at halftime. We went back to the 4-3-3 and quickly began to dictate the tempo of the game. We were not able to come back and get the victory this time.

Being down 2-0 and fearing missing the tournament, some of the players got frustrated. I did not like watching our team playing out of desperation, panic, and frustration. It was ugly. It was dangerous. It was not smart.

After the game, we found out that ETSU had lost, so we were still alive. With 2 wins, a Campbell loss, and 1 ETSU loss, we would advance to the A-Sun Tournament. We had to quickly rid ourselves of the frustration and get ready for a difficult game on Sunday at Stetson.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Jacksonville/North Florida weekend

Our last 3 games have been against the top 3 teams in the conference - Florida Gulf Coast, Jacksonville, and North Florida. I think Jacksonville is the best team in the A-Sun. I think FGCU has the best possession of any team. I think UNF is the most improved team in the A-Sun. We came close to scoring a goal against FGCU. We came close to scoring 4 goals against Jacksonville. Their goalkeeper made 2 excellent saves. We were 2 minutes and/or 2 inches away from tying North Florida.

Our 7 verbally committed incoming 2011 freshmen and their parents were at the North Florida game. I am excited about this talented class. One played in USYS National Championship Tournament last summer. Three of them play in the Elite Clubs National League. Two more will join the league this year. These players have great experience with their reputable club teams - Mockingbird, Brentwood, Concorde, Carmel, D'Feeters, and Sting.

We played fine against Jacksonville, but we played better in the 2nd half. Against North Florida, we played poorly in the 2nd half. I have no idea what I am going to get when I put the players on the field. It has made it very difficult for me to choose a consistent line up, have a consistent substitution pattern, and even have a consistent preparation for each game.

We have a practice on Saturday mornings between games. It is usually for sweating, stretching, and preparing for Sunday's opponent. I am always cautious not to do too much on Saturday mornings, until that Saturday. We played gaelic football. I learned the game from Becky Burleigh and have not played it in a long time. It is a cross between rugby and soccer. The coaches played. We ran. We tackled. There were scrums. It was vicious.

I decided to play gaelic football, because I think the team is playing out of fear - playing not to lose, playing scared to lose. I wanted to take the fear out of them and show them that we could battle that we MUST battle. We had a substitute trainer that day, and he must have thought I was out of my mind. He was probably thinking, "No wonder the women's soccer team has so many injuries."

I'm not sure which game was more dirty - gaelic football or North Florida. Anyway, we were off to a good start against UNF. At halftime, you would have thought I told the team to stop passing the ball and start kicking it as far as they could. We started playing so direct, and we never had possession of the ball. We defended most of the half, and it was hard to get the momentum back after that. The game went into overtime, and we were 2 minutes away from a tie. The ball was partially cleared from our area to a UNF midfielder. She took a shot from 25 yards out and it hit the bottom of the crossbar and bounced down and in the goal. We have given up almost the exact same goal in the games against FGCU and Stetson. The Stetson goal hit the underside of the crossbar also. Unbelievable!!!

It's hard to believe we still control our own destiny. It will help us for ETSU and Campbell to lose, but if we win our last 3 games, we will make the A-Sun Tournament.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Taking Care of Business

There are 16 days left in the regular season. We need to win 4 out of 5 games in the next 16 days.
Remember when our opponents would have more possession, more shots, and more corner kicks than we would, but we would manage to walk away with a win? Well, our conference opponents are returning the favor this year. Against Campbell, we hit the crossbar more than 6 times.

In our first 5 conference games, we average over 14 shots per game and allow less than 10 shots per game. We have gotten an average of 8 corner kicks per game and give up 4 corner kicks per game. If you have been at the games, you know that our time of possession has been good. We don't have much to show for it.

It's hard to know how much to change just because we are not winning. We are playing well and often better than our opponent. I don't want to over react, but I do want results.

Our last 5 opponents are Jacksonville, North Florida, Gulf Coast, Stetson, and Lipscomb. Our seniors combined record against these teams for the last 3 years is 12-3-3. We can do this.

Kailee and her roommates hosted a team dinner tonight at their apartment.

We have 6 unofficial visits tomorrow, and 7 official visits start Saturday.

I met with every player individually this week. I met with 24 players in 3 days.

There was a calm intensity at practice today. Some of the players were more focused than usual. I would describe it as businesslike. Hopefully, we will be in the business of scoring goals tomorrow night.