Thoughts from the 2018 Soccer season. (long)

#1

StrangeVol

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Disclaimer: I am not a soccer expert. I have never played or coached the game. I am simply a fan of the game in general and our program in particular. It is not my intent here to criticize players or coaches but to offer my personal analysis and commentary.

Was that a fun season or what? :)

We got treated to one of the best soccer season ever at UT. Made it to the Elite Eight (quarterfinals) for the first time ever. Of course, we had a bit of bad luck landing in the overall #1 seed Stanford's bracket and having to face them and their 44 game winning streak on their home pitch. The result, two – nil, was not a surprise to anyone, but I do think we gave a reasonably good account of ourselves.

So now, we move on to the next season, in which I sincerely hope we can maintain and grow our program's strength and success. Seniors Meghan Flynn, Danielle Marcano, Rylie O'Keefe, MacKenzie Gouner, Bunny Shaw, Anna Bialczak, and Shea Yanez have used up their time with us and I know we'll miss them every one. On top of that, we lose a heck of a lot of talent.

However, the cupboard is not bare by any means. We still have rising seniors Katie Cousins, Maya Neal, MA Vignola, and Salera Jordan along with a hand full of experienced underclassmen like Erin Gilroy, Wrenne French, and McKinley Burkett. Mix in some talented freshmen and we have at least the potential for a solid soccer team. These are our newest Lady Vol team members: Tennessee Soccer Signs Seven - University of Tennessee Athletics

In the past, as well as this past season, we were primarily a “direct” team in terms of our style of play. So what do I mean when I say “direct” style? Simply stated lots of long passes into our opponent's half of the pitch trying to give our forwards/strikers a chance to quickly get on the ball and launch a shot.

Why did we play that way? There are two likely reasons. First, when you have a truly gifted player like Bunny Shaw who is magical with the ball at her feet, supported by quick wings like Anna, Danielle, and Erin who can pounce on a loose ball and score, you get the ball forward (into the opponent's end of the pitch) as quickly and often as you can. It's not the most efficient method but it does produce goals pretty often.

That strategy worked well most of the time, but when our 'direct' style was well defended by an energetic and skilled back line (defenders) it left us wanting of both alternate strategies and goals.

The other reason seemed to be that we couldn't play “possession” soccer very well.

So what is “possession” soccer? It's the other and most popular style of play worldwide. We saw a great example of a “possession” system during our match with Stanford.

If you've ever watched Premier League (British) soccer, you've seen how soccer should be played, imo. If you haven't watched any pro soccer, you should. It's very educational. The first thing you'll notice is the precise passing. Almost every pass goes exactly where it's meant to go with just the right amount of velocity (or weight) to put it on the boot of a teammate. Damned impressive. Also very hard to do!

Yes, I realize Premier League is likely the best soccer league in the world and those guys can do anything they want with the ball on their boot 95% of the time. Our girls aren't nearly that skilled but that shouldn't stop us from playing a good deal more of the possession game if we work on it. Stanford did it pretty well and both outshot (30-12) and outscored us (2–0) in a manner that looked pretty easy, playing more “possession” than “direct.” During most of the match, we looked to be under constant siege. They were/are that good.

Which brings me to my main point. We should be able to play either style when we choose to. This past season we couldn't play “possession” very well, due to an obvious weakness in technical skills in some of our players. As a result, I saw a lot of what I thought were passes without purpose or maybe they were just bad passes that totally missed their target. Most of the time our passes seemed to be without a serious intent other than to get the ball out of our end or to just move the ball somewhere down the pitch. Sort of a “boot it down the pitch and see what happens” approach.

I think we can do better than that if we try to improve our technical skills, with great emphasis on passing. Having command of multiple styles of play should be our priority going forward, imo. Stanford plays this way and we can too.

Oh! One other thing. Did anyone else notice that while we got a lot more corner kicks than anyone else in the SEC, we did less with them? I recall us scoring 3 or 4 goals on corners (I really hope there were more) out of 162 attempts. 162. Why was that?

So, having said all that, I'll wrap this up with a few things I'd like to see in the season ahead.

First, it probably goes without saying that I would love to see us develop the ability to play possession soccer more often than not. In my opinion, we simply must become better passers.

Second, we need to really work at getting better on set pieces like corner and penalty kicks. We left a lot of goals on the pitch.

Third, I hope to see MA Vignola with more of a role in our offense. Is it crazy for me to think she might take a role similar to Bunny's role these past two seasons? Probably, but I'd at the least love to see her getting forward on the attack a lot more in the future. The girl can play! The only problem is that she is such a good defender moving her from the back line might not be the best idea, depending on who we have to replace her.

Finally, I would like to see more out of Katie Cousins. I think she can be more of a force than she has been out of the midfield going forward on the attack as she is a very good passer, and is calm and steady with the ball at her feet, and has a very strong shot.

So those are my thoughts for what they're worth.

Happy Holidays! :)

StrangeVol

Lady Vol Soccer Rules!!!
 
#2

illinoisvolfan1

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#2
I’ve always liked soccer. All three of my kids played traveling soccer when they were growing up. I never played but started coaching and got a coaching license from the Illinois Youth Soccer Association.

I like it because almost any kid can play and get to be decent if they work at it.

Great to see the Ladies getting good. This will help recruiting too
 
#3

Smallvol#1

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#3
Corner kicks are set plays. 3 or 4 out of 162 is abysmal. That sounds like lack of skill....or we are very, very, short🤣.

Thanks for the write up. You make a lot of good points and bring a lot of information to the table.

Go Lady Vols!🍊🍊🍊🍊🍊🍊🧡🧡🧡🧡

SV😉
 
#4

StrangeVol

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#4
Corner kicks are set plays. 3 or 4 out of 162 is abysmal. That sounds like lack of skill....or we are very, very, short🤣.

Thanks for the write up. You make a lot of good points and bring a lot of information to the table.

Go Lady Vols!🍊🍊🍊🍊🍊🍊🧡🧡🧡🧡

SV😉
The corner kick thing really gets my goat. As far as I know, Katie Cousins took every corner kick throughout the season and we were really miserable at scoring off her kicks. It seems to me that one of two things were happening. Either Katie's kicks were not very good, or the people on the receiving end were terrible at headers. One or the other has to be the problem. So why not have someone else take the corner kick every now and then. See if that makes a difference. Or, perhaps we should try an indirect attack off the corner kick. Kick the ball to a player outside the penalty area where everyone is elbow to elbow and see if a shot from distance is a better method.

My point is that if you're doing something and it isn't working, do something different! You can't be any worse than you have been and you might be better.
 
#5

sccshortstop

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I have coached soccer and I do not disagree with anything you said. I did notice that several teams we played had taller and leaner players who was fast as well. Us not so many. I love Maya Neal but I bet there was no one in womens soccer kick as many balls out of bounds as she did. Now granted there were times that was a good think but it seemed to be a habit to me. Not complaining but merely making an observation. I am truly worried where our scoring will come from but Pensky knows his team better than I. Great year and probably got the most out of the ladies as we could. Going to miss those seniors. JMHO as always and thanks SV!!!! Cant wait to knock the softball around!
 
#6

StrangeVol

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#6
I have coached soccer and I do not disagree with anything you said. I did notice that several teams we played had taller and leaner players who was fast as well. Us not so many. I love Maya Neal but I bet there was no one in womens soccer kick as many balls out of bounds as she did. Now granted there were times that was a good think but it seemed to be a habit to me. Not complaining but merely making an observation. I am truly worried where our scoring will come from but Pensky knows his team better than I. Great year and probably got the most out of the ladies as we could. Going to miss those seniors. JMHO as always and thanks SV!!!! Cant wait to knock the softball around!
That taller and leaner thing was really obvious against Arizona. They looked like a pack of whippets chasing a rabbit. As to out of bounds kicks, I think that is the way they were taught. Maya was really quick to give up the inbounds to the other side. I wish she had the confidence to dribble the ball away from trouble, into the clear, and try to launch a counter-attack from the back. Not all the time...but every now and then when the option presents itself.
 
#7

RollerVol

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#7
guess what confused me was how some games you couldn't see any energy and for others you could...heck, that was even during the same game…that's why I would joke about somebody had flipped a switch...just weird...:D

PS. thanks Lady Vols for a great season!!!!!!!!!!!

GO LADY VOLS!!!!!!!!!!!
 
#8

Bigorangefaninga

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#8
I am really excited to see all of our signees, but 4 really excite me with Goralski, Burdette, McInroy and Thompson, ECNL is a top notch league and their players end up on national teams and stuff often.

I do agree we should have used someone else for Corners AND we dont really have any tall players at all and headers come from either tall players or fierce players not afraid to get their head cracked in space when going for a header. It would be nice to get a few 5'10 or taller girls that can hang above everyone else on a header and put it away sadly none of the new signees fit that bill, but i am still excited for them(besides Bunny and GK Katie King, UT is a relative short team with a bunch of 5'4-5'7 players). Also though I saw Katie kick way to many kicks over the far post of the goal when its less likely to be headed in because of angle, i would rather it land closer to the near post compared to the past the far post, hopefully if she continues to take those kicks she will work on that.

As far as kicking ball out of bounds lots of coaches use that strategy. I am a licensed soccer coach and also a licensed referee. Throw in's are not considered an advantage for the team throwing the ball in, so kicking the ball out of bounds to allow your defense time to get back into position is a good strategy compared to hoping you get enough defense back in time for the ball to not be crossed or shot taken. I have drills solely to clear the ball out of bounds while my mids and fullbacks get back into defensive positions for the throw in, especially since there is no offside on throw in. Nothing worse than messing around as a defender with the ball at your feet and getting it taken away and having to try and chase someone down!


And an FYI Stanford has 9 players 5'8 and over on their roster that play. UT has 6 at 5'8 and over 2 of ours are goalies lol. I am so happy to see the soccer team and volleyball team doing so well!
 
#9

StrangeVol

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#9
I am really excited to see all of our signees, but 4 really excite me with Goralski, Burdette, McInroy and Thompson, ECNL is a top notch league and their players end up on national teams and stuff often.

I do agree we should have used someone else for Corners AND we dont really have any tall players at all and headers come from either tall players or fierce players not afraid to get their head cracked in space when going for a header. It would be nice to get a few 5'10 or taller girls that can hang above everyone else on a header and put it away sadly none of the new signees fit that bill, but i am still excited for them(besides Bunny and GK Katie King, UT is a relative short team with a bunch of 5'4-5'7 players). Also though I saw Katie kick way to many kicks over the far post of the goal when its less likely to be headed in because of angle, i would rather it land closer to the near post compared to the past the far post, hopefully if she continues to take those kicks she will work on that.

As far as kicking ball out of bounds lots of coaches use that strategy. I am a licensed soccer coach and also a licensed referee. Throw in's are not considered an advantage for the team throwing the ball in, so kicking the ball out of bounds to allow your defense time to get back into position is a good strategy compared to hoping you get enough defense back in time for the ball to not be crossed or shot taken. I have drills solely to clear the ball out of bounds while my mids and fullbacks get back into defensive positions for the throw in, especially since there is no offside on throw in. Nothing worse than messing around as a defender with the ball at your feet and getting it taken away and having to try and chase someone down!


And an FYI Stanford has 9 players 5'8 and over on their roster that play. UT has 6 at 5'8 and over 2 of ours are goalies lol. I am so happy to see the soccer team and volleyball team doing so well!
Thanks for your comments. I thought that Maya had likely been told to kick the ball out of bounds by the coaches and since there is no advantage I suppose it does no harm and can certainly prevent problems with the ball being mishandled.

The team I thought had great height and speed was Arizona. They looked like Amazons out on the pitch.
 
#10

Bigorangefaninga

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#10
Thanks for your comments. I thought that Maya had likely been told to kick the ball out of bounds by the coaches and since there is no advantage I suppose it does no harm and can certainly prevent problems with the ball being mishandled.

The team I thought had great height and speed was Arizona. They looked like Amazons out on the pitch.
Arizona only has 5 players 5'8 and over, aggregate they would actually be shorter compared to UT, unlike Stanford though we matched up well with them although i do think they were a tick quicker, however maybe a little less skilled away from the ball, while Stanford has height and skill on ball and off the ball which is a crucial skill to learn(being at right place at right time without being offside).

As far as Maya she was probably taught that from a young age, when I played I was told the exact same thing and my oldest son did it and my youngest son is doing it now also. Defenders usually arent the most skilled players as far as foot skills, but they dont have to be as skilled, usually their passes are made with less pressure so have to be less precise, they also usually have bigger legs as far as kicking it farther, their entire job is to clear a ball(hopefully to the outside) and so if she has learned that early on, she might not have worked on the foot skills required of mids and forwards. My youngest is really good with foot skills, he just has a brother 8 years older he grew up watching and wants to follow in his footsteps, so although really skilled as a player he would rather play defense for me. But usually they are not as fast or foot skilled and get pushed back to fullback. I also just for my own pleasure went and looked it up.

FSU has 8 that are 5'8 or taller
Georgetown has 9 that are 5'8 or taller
UNC has 13 that are 5'8 or taller DANG!
 

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