Tennessee Soccer

mad4vols

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Thanks. A lot of solid/good players in solid/good programs are opting to leave and use their last year (or, some cases, two years) at other schools. It's a bit perplexing that there are so many. I think some good players want to play for a program they perceive is better than they one they've been in for three or four years. Vanderbilt, for example, has a good soccer program--it won the SEC tournament the year before last. And yet last year Vandy's best player, forward Haley Hopkins, transferred to Virginia (an even better program). She didn't even visit UVA before deciding to join that team but was certainly aware of it's excellent winning tradition and outstanding coach. She played regularly this past season and will be using her 5th year of eligibility with the Cavs this fall. Vandy wasn't so good this past season, partly because Hopkins left! That said, I'd venture that most transfers involve players who haven't been getting enough playing time and want to find a school where they can get on the field regularly.

Get this: I read today that 756 Division 1 soccer players are in the transfer portal. Of that number, 285 are 5th years. Those are big numbers. You can bet Pensky and his staff have put out feelers to a few whom they think could help the team--as most every staff in America has done/is doing. Sometimes transfers are a help, and sometimes they don't quite pan out. TopDrawer.com has a list of transfers that have already been announced--search for its "transfer tracker" on the site. None of these UT players are on it yet; it hasn't been updated in a couple of weeks but probably will be soon. It will eventually be a very long list.

The portal will enhance the parity in collegiate sports, IMO. It used to be, of course, that if you, the coach, had a couple of weak or mediocre recruiting years, you'd just have to suffer through some poor seasons and hope to recruit better. Now, the portal has become a valuable recruiting "redo" for teams that have talent holes: Coaches recruit potential transfers just like they do high-school seniors. Some coaches will pitch a lot of players in the portal and if they're persuasive can bring in 2, 3, 4 new players with experience who can quickly improve the team. Pensky and staff would only want to bring in someone they were fairly confident is a good/very good player who could help our already talented squad. I"m sure he'd want to avoid convincing someone to join the Vols who, as it turns out, isn't going to help--but that's the thing: Coaches never really know until they put eyes on a player on the field.
I wonder if bringing in transfers impacts the chemistry of a squad?

Thanks I found the tracker if this is the one you are talking about. Looks like a lot of schools have grabbed multiple players already.

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turbovol

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Because the 3 freshmen were so good for the Vols, Renie's massive contribution to last year's success has been somewhat overlooked. She
was stalwart! She started in a completely new position--a forward who was asked to play centerback--and, for the most part, she was very impressive. She read play well, challenged the ball effectively--and was poised. She is confident with the ball--a quality that centerbacks need but that UT's centerbacks (including French until this past season) haven't had in the last two/three years. And given that she's just had the one year of centerback experience, Renie should get even better. Renie is one of the tallest players on the team and I hope she can help improve our corner-kick conversion rate, which was not good last year. I think we had the 2nd highest number of corner kicks in the nation (after NCAA finalist BYU)--but didn't turn many into goals. French was the only player we had who could get up in the air and put balls on the net with her head. Renie got her head on a number of balls--but she didn't time her jumps very well and missed the net most of the time. She could get better--let's hope.

The big question is who will be her centerback partner next year now that French has graduated. It's got to be someone with the potential to be not just decent but good/very good. There could be three or four candidates, I would guess--and the coaches may see who shows out the most in preseason training. Or, maybe they have a good idea already; I don't know. I was completely surprised to see Renie in the position at the start of last year. Giselle Washington, who did not play last season (I assume because of injury), could be one candidate. She played centerback some in one match the year before last and I thought looked promising. She's tallish and athletic. She's been a midfielder but wasn't great in that role as a freshman and I don't see her getting much action at midfield this year. Another potential candidate could be Sydney Hennessey, who also did not play last year (again, I presume because of injury), but played quite a bit as an outside back the year before. She is athletic and strong and could also be quite good as a centerback--and I think played the position at club level before signing with Tennessee. Given how well Katz and Rain played last year at our fullback spots, I don't think Hennesey will be a starter at that position--so she could either come in as a sub or maybe the coaches will try her at centerback. Both she and Washington have potential and should see action this year, if healthy; the question is, at what positions.

We've also got two freshmen coming in who have played centerback for their ECNL clubs. One is Tierney Bailey, from Utah, who is notably tall and fairly athletic, and the other is Allyson Brown, whom I think has been considered a top prospect. I've seen some video of both and they look solid, though I can't say I was especially wowed by either. That doesn't mean much, obviously, just my reaction. I was actually hoping that UT would sign a centerback prospect out of Texas who looked good and seemed interested in the Vols, but she ended up signing with Clemson--a good ACC program. That was a bit disappointing but here's hoping the coaches have as much success picking Renie's partner as they did with her position shift.
 
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turbovol

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I've been thinking a bit about Katie Cousins and her pro career. I took a look at her Twitter feed for the time in a while yesterday, and noted that she IDs herself as "dabbling" in professional soccer. I thought that was a curious thing for her to include with a social-media account. And that follows on from the curiousity I had about why she didn't immediately pursue professional soccer after her very successful college career with the Vols. Though she certainly has the talent to be a pro, she didn't sign up for the NWSL draft and basically sat out a year before signing with a pro club in Iceland. She apparently played well in Iceland--and of course now finds herself in the big city of LA and playing for a new NWSL franchise. It's a great opportunity--and It will be interesting to see if she can earn playing time in Los Angeles, as there will be a lot of competition for starting spots. It will also be interesting to see if Cousins can adapt to LA and the women's pro soccer culture in America.

My sense is that Cousins has wondered about the latter issue herself--and that that may be why she delayed starting her post-college career and why she notes only that she is "dabbling" in professional soccer. Cousins is from a rural area of Virginia and is very religious. The women's pro-soccer culture in America is quite progressive. While there are a lot of players who have boyfriends, husbands and even a few with children, there are also a lot of single-sex relationships in women's soccer. It's a very tolerant, inclusive culture. I suspect that Cousins has been aware of this and that it may account for her seeming hesitancy about pro soccer. Can she fit in with the diverse culture--with teammates who may not think or act quite like she does. I hope she can. Even in college, one encounters teammates from different backgrounds, with different personalities and world views. You hope everyone adjusts. I hope that for Cousins, who is a good player and a good person. I'd hate for cultural, political, religious differences to keep her from doing something she's good at and certainly loves. We shall see.

My bet is that, however long she plays pro soccer--and it wouldn't surprise me if it's not very long, for the reasons mentioned--she's destined to become a preacher or minister one day. I do think that, given the opportunity in front of her now, she should drop the words "dabbling in pro soccer" from her Twitter ID. Coaches, teammates and others from around the league could see it--and you certainly don't want to give them the idea that you aren't entirely committed to soccer. It's like getting a good job at a great company and then telling your new boss when you meet him or her, "Well, I'm going to dabble with this job for a while and see if I like it." Even if it's true, it's not what bosses or colleagues want to hear.

There is one other issue that will face both Cousins and Vignola. Money: I think the MAX NWSL salary is $52,500. That's a pittance--and that's the maximum amount. It's very likely that both of these former Vols--plus many others around the league--are making less than that. That would be hard to live on in any city or town--much less LA. I hope they can both make it work!
 
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mad4vols

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I've been thinking a bit about Katie Cousins and her pro career. I took a look at her Twitter feed for the time in a while yesterday, and noted that she IDs herself as "dabbling" in professional soccer. I thought that was a curious thing for her to include with a social-media account. And that follows on from the curiousity I had about why she didn't immediately pursue professional soccer after her very successful college career with the Vols. Though she certainly has the talent to be a pro, she didn't sign up for the NWSL draft and basically sat out a year before signing with a pro club in Iceland. She apparently played well in Iceland--and of course now finds herself in the big city of LA and playing for a new NWSL franchise. It's a great opportunity--and It will be interesting to see if she can earn playing time in Los Angeles, as there will be a lot of competition for starting spots. It will also be interesting to see if Cousins can adapt to LA and the women's pro soccer culture in America.

My sense is that Cousins has wondered about the latter issue herself--and that that may be why she delayed starting her post-college career and why she notes only that she is "dabbling" in professional soccer. Cousins is from a rural area of Virginia and is very religious. The women's pro-soccer culture in America is quite progressive. While there are a lot of players who have boyfriends, husbands and even a few with children, there are also a lot of single-sex relationships in women's soccer. It's a very tolerant, inclusive culture. I suspect that Cousins has been aware of this and that it may account for her seeming hesitancy about pro soccer. Can she fit in with the diverse culture--with teammates who may not think or act quite like she does. I hope she can. Even in college, one encounters teammates from different backgrounds, with different personalities and world views. You hope everyone adjusts. I hope that for Cousins, who is a good player and a good person. I'd hate for cultural, political, religious differences to keep her from doing something she's good at and certainly loves. We shall see.

My bet is that, however long she plays pro soccer--and it wouldn't surprise me if it's not very long, for the reasons mentioned--she's destined to become a preacher or minister one day. I do think that, given the opportunity in front of her now, she should drop the words "dabbling in pro soccer" from her Twitter ID. Coaches, teammates and others from around the league could see it--and you certainly don't want to give them the idea that you aren't entirely committed to soccer. It's like getting a good job at a great company and then telling your new boss when you meet him or her, "Well, I'm going to dabble with this job for a while and see if I like it." Even if it's true, it's not what bosses or colleagues want to hear.

There is one other issue that will face both Cousins and Vignola. Money: I think the MAX NWSL salary is $52,500. That's a pittance--and that's the maximum amount. It's very likely that both of these former Vols--plus many others around the league--are making less than that. That would be hard to live on in any city or town--much less LA. I hope they can both make it work!
Great write up, I’ve noticed that about Cousins too. I’ll be rooting for both of them.
 

mad4vols

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Because the 3 freshmen were so good for the Vols, Renie's massive contribution to last year's success has been somewhat overlooked. She
was stalwart! She started in a completely new position--a forward who was asked to play centerback--and, for the most part, she was very impressive. She read play well, challenged the ball effectively--and was poised. She is confident with the ball--a quality that centerbacks need but that UT's centerbacks (including French until this past season) haven't had in the last two/three years. And given that she's just had the one year of centerback experience, Renie should get even better. Renie is one of the tallest players on the team and I hope she can help improve our corner-kick conversion rate, which was not good last year. I think we had the 2nd highest number of corner kicks in the nation (after NCAA finalist BYU)--but didn't turn many into goals. French was the only player we had who could get up in the air and put balls on the net with her head. Renie got her head on a number of balls--but she didn't time her jumps very well and missed the net most of the time. She could get better--let's hope.

The big question is who will be her centerback partner next year now that French has graduated. It's got to be someone with the potential to be not just decent but good/very good. There could be three or four candidates, I would guess--and the coaches may see who shows out the most in preseason training. Or, maybe they have a good idea already; I don't know. I was completely surprised to see Renie in the position at the start of last year. Giselle Washington, who did not play last season (I assume because of injury), could be one candidate. She played centerback some in one match the year before last and I thought looked promising. She's tallish and athletic. She's been a midfielder but wasn't great in that role as a freshman and I don't see her getting much action at midfield this year. Another potential candidate could be Sydney Hennessey, who also did not play last year (again, I presume because of injury), but played quite a bit as an outside back the year before. She is athletic and strong and could also be quite good as a centerback--and I think played the position at club level before signing with Tennessee. Given how well Katz and Rain played last year at our fullback spots, I don't think Hennesey will be a starter at that position--so she could either come in as a sub or maybe the coaches will try her at centerback. Both she and Washington have potential and should see action this year, if healthy; the question is, at what positions.

We've also got two freshmen coming in who have played centerback for their ECNL clubs. One is Tierney Bailey, from Utah, who is notably tall and fairly athletic, and the other is Allyson Brown, whom I think has been considered a top prospect. I've seen some video of both and they look solid, though I can't say I was especially wowed by either. That doesn't mean much, obviously, just my reaction. I was actually hoping that UT would sign a centerback prospect out of Texas who looked good and seemed interested in the Vols, but she ended up signing with Clemson--a good ACC program. That was a bit disappointing but here's hoping the coaches have as much success picking Renie's partner as they did with her position shift.
Do you think Katz and Rain will both stay at fullback, or get moved to other positions?
Also, what’s the plan for spring ball, last year there were a lot of games. And do the new freshman start practicing with the team or wait until fall?
 

mad4vols

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Big honor 👏 Our future Goalkeeper Abby Reisz on the cover of The Dispatch central Ohio 2021 Fall Sports All-Stars. (it’s behind a paywall so can’t post the article)
 

turbovol

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Do you think Katz and Rain will both stay at fullback, or get moved to other positions?
Also, what’s the plan for spring ball, last year there were a lot of games. And do the new freshman start practicing with the team or wait until fall?
Sorry to have missed this question. I'm certain Rain will stay at left fullback because she's got the right mix of athleticism and skills for what is the most demanding position in soccer, because you've got to be able to defend 1v1 against opposing forwards, who can be fast and talented, and you have to be able to get up the field to help in attack and when pressing the opposition. She is fast and athletic, has good size and good ball skills. I had seen tape of her after she signed and thought she looked promising--but she was better than expected and a real workhorse all year as a true freshman. She probably played too much and I think was worn out by the NCAA tourney.

Katz is a natural midfielder who was converted to outside back and has done a more than credible job, especially for someone who's isn't quite the physical fit for the position that, say, Rain and M.A. Vignola are. Katz is not physical and not a great 1v1 defender--but she's a very responsible defender, meaning she gets back, sticks with her mark--and is good about getting over and protecting her side of the box. She's a real asset in attack--she likes getting forward and, because of her background as a midfielder, is comfortable with the ball and can beat a defender with the dribble and push the ball into the attacking half or third. She and Huff worked well together on the right side of the field last season. I do expect her to say at right fullback. Both she and Rain make for a quality pair--and you need quality at those positions. Pensky frankly didn't do a great job of recruiting fullbacks--or players with fullback potential--for a few years. Check out Lucy Bronze, who plays for Manchester City and the England Women's National Team. She's been the best fullback in the women's game for several years. She's been out injured for a few months but should be playing again soon.

The year before last, Burdette was our right fullback, and freshman Maria Nelson played on the left before injuring her knee late in the season. They worked hard but were not hugely effective. Burdette doesn't have the pace to play fullback effectively. She liked to get up the field and into our attack, which was admirable--but you've got to be able to race back and defend when the opponent wins the ball and might try to send a deep ball down the flank to a speedy forward. Her recovery speed wasn't/isn't ideal--and there was a funny moment in which it was on display--and ironically helped us--the year before last, when we played Florida. On multiple occasions the Florida forward on Burdette's side of the field would start to dash by Abbey, and each time Burdette, knowing she was going to get beat, would subtly tug on her arm, jersey or midsection just enough to slow her down. Despite her grabbing, Burdette never got a yellow card, and by the last 20 minutes of the game the Florida forward was pissed and yelling at the referee about Burdette's uncalled fouls. Indeed, the Florida forward was carded at some point, for some reason--maybe for screaming at the ref or for a foul, I can't remember. In any case, we were nursing a 1-goal lead with about 10 minutes to play, and after another Burdette grab the Florida forward had had enough. She again started barking at the ref. He got angry, stopped play abd gave her a second yellow card--when in fact Burdette was the real culprit most of the game. The Gator player was out of the game! With a player advantage, we held on for the win.

So the coaches were smart to move Burdette from that position to defensive midfield--a spot that suits her skill set wonderfully--and put Katz in the fullback spot. That switch and bringing in Rain really improved the team. As for Nelson, she was a star high-school forward converted to fullback for us the year before last. She worked very hard but fullback was definitely a challenging adjustment for her. I think we'll see more of Nelson this year--she's athletic and has ball skills--but I'm not sure at which position.
 

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