Women kick into a higher gear with new coach, playing style

Sylvie Luiten

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After recent changes in both coaching and playing style, the women’s soccer team has  made  improvements in its game and managed to maintain a strong team atmosphere. The team has increased the number of defenders and reduced the number of attackers. The team, which has yet to lose a conference game this season, had an overall record of 8-9-2 in 2009 and 6-11-2 in 2010. The women say their playing style has evolved with the team.

Credit: Faith Bernstein

“Freshman year we played 4-4-2 and now we’re playing a 4-5-1 system. We changed our playing style tactically and that has both positives and negatives,” says junior co-captain Jaclyn Rudd, describing, from defense to offense, the layout of players on the field.

“Last year we played a 3-5-2 system so now there’s one less defender and one more forward which is working better,” says Rudd.

Changes in the team’s system have been based on playing to the strengths of the team each year. “We’ve adjusted to the strengths on the team fairly well: as people graduated, we switched a lot,” said junior Erin Flannery.

Scott Shields was coach of the women’s soccer team until two years ago, when he switched to coaching men’s and women’s cross country. Following a nation-wide search, current Head Coach Heather Cato was brought to Whitman. This is her second season with the women.

“Scott [Shields] had  Corina Gabbert, who was a big scorer, and to not have her changed the way we played. We work as a unit now rather than to certain individuals,” said Cato.

Since Cato’s arrival, the women’s tactics on the field have been adjusted.

Credit: Faith Bernstein

“We use a system that best fits our personnel. We added a bit more competition and aggressiveness,” said Cato.

Adjustments were necessary for the new coach, who came from the University of Arkansas, where she participated on the soccer team as a player and later as an assistant coach.

“It’s hard going from being a player to a coach, but the hardest is going from Division I where sports are number one to Division III where school is number one. I’m really trying to help them be successful in both,” said Cato.

 The team helped Cato make the adjustment to be an effective DIII coach.

“[Cato] didn’t know how [our system] works, so she really listened to us and adjusted,” said Flannery.

Despite major changes in coaching and playing style, the team has managed to stay unified.

“We maintained cohesiveness despite the changes,” says Flannery. “Both coaches have really emphasized team cohesiveness,” said Rudd, who played one year under Shields before he made the switch to cross country.

“This team is a big family that Scott started and we’ve continued. Being so far away from mine it’s really nice to be able to come here and have that soccer family,” added Cato.

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