Petrucelli sees maturation as key to success for 2006 Soccer squad
One of the favored expressions of coaches in collegiate sports is that freshmen become sophomores.
Texas head coach Chris Petrucelli can take that a little further as his soccer team begins preparations for the 2006 season this month. He may add that his juniors have become seniors and sophomores have become juniors.
“Last year, we were pretty talented,” said Petrucelli, who begins his eight season as the leader of the Longhorns’ soccer team.
“We were young,” he continued, noting that the 2005 roster had only two seniors and a dozen freshmen and sophomores. “Neither of our seniors played much. That lack of maturity was a factor for us down the stretch in games. We were figuring out how to win games. We struggled with that.
“There was not a lack of talent on our team last year, but there was a lack of experience.”
Curiously, it is Petrucelli’s coaching staff that features the freshest faces as the 2006 season nears.
Matt Mott became the newest assistant coach on July 17, coming from Auburn where he had been an assistant, assistant head coach and associate head coach during his tenure. The Tigers averaged nearly 12 victories per season and reached the NCAA Tournament for the first four times in school history during Mott’s time there.
Last March, Petrucelli tabbed Nicole Nelson as an assistant, replacing former assistant Kelly Lindsey, who left in December to become the head coach at St. Mary’s (Calif.) College.
Nelson had been an assistant at Baylor for a year, following three years as head coach at Stephen F. Austin, where she was two-time Southland Conference Coach of the Year and guided SFA to its first-ever NCAA Tournament appearance in 2003.
Petrucelli, a two-time National Coach of the Year, has guided the Horns to double-digit win seasons for six consecutive years – 12-plus wins per year – and led the team to its first five NCAA Tournament appearances (2001-05).
He said he began to see the maturation of his team during the exhibitions last spring when Texas finished 5-0-1.
He witnessed the fine play of Carrie Schmit, Ashley Foster, Amy Burlingham and Dana Hall, who all are seniors, as well as Kelsey Carpenter and Caitlin Kennedy, both juniors, and Dianna Pfenninger, now a sophomore goalkeeper.
“We had a very productive spring and it was nice to see the improvement in our players,” Petrucelli said. “We used our entire roster for significant minutes and that was a positive. The players have matured physically and mentally.”
Burlingham, who plays all three positions, has four game-winning goals in her Texas career and ranks as the all-time active career postseason scoring leader with seven points. She netted two of those game-winning goals in 2005 and recorded a goal and an assist in the opening round game of the NCAA tourney against UTEP.
Her even more impressive numbers came in the classroom as Burlingham was one of 25 players to be named Scholar All-American by the National Soccer Coaches Association of America (NSCAA). To be eligible, a player must be at least a junior in academic standing, have no lower than a 3.3 cumulative grade point average, start at least 50 percent of the team’s games and be nominated by a NSCAA member coach.
Carpenter, a forward with a powerful shot, started 16 of the 17 games she played in during the 2005 season and was tied for the lead in scoring with 16 points, including a team-best six goals.
Kennedy, a midfielder who was an All-American as a freshman in 2004, started 19 of 20 games last year and was tied for the lead in points (16) and goals (6) in 2005. She also tied in game-winning goals last season with two.
Pfenninger, who became a regular in goal in September, netted four shutouts overall and tied for the Big 12 lead with three shutouts in league play. Her eight-save outing against 25th-ranked Nebraska and gave-saving stop in the final 12 minutes against Iowa State earned her Newcomer of the Week honors on October 18.
“We’re a much better team now than we were heading into last fall,” said Petrucelli, whose team opens the regular season at Auburn on August 25, but has an exhibition contest at home against UTSA on August 18.
In both of those encounters, the Horns will be without their most celebrated player, sophomore defender Stephanie Logterman, who will be in Russia competing in the FIFA World Championships as a member of the U.S. Under-20 Women’s National Team.
Logterman, an All-Big 12 performer who started 20 of 21 games as a freshman, will be competing with the national team until September 3.
“Stephanie is one of our most talented kids,” Petrucelli said. “She’s been gone a lot during the summer. One of my challenges when she returns is to assimilate her back into the team, despite her missing practice time with us. She is a good kid, so I think this will be fine.
“I also am going to have to watch fatigue. She will have been in Russia almost a month.”
Again, Petrucelli repeated that he felt that his team was technically good last year and believes the same this year.
“They all have worked very hard since the end of last season,” he said. “We’re headed into the season with a good deal of momentum.”
And a good deal more experience.