Maturation of Soccer team leads to success
According to the adage, one should lead, follow or get out of the way.
Chris Petrucelli, head coach of the Texas Soccer team, is exercising the final option as he prepares his club for the 2007 season.
"The worst thing I can do with this group, a veteran group is over-coach them," said Petrucelli, who is coming off a grand season that saw him honored as the Central Region Coach of the Year.
In 2007, the Longhorns were 18-4-3, setting a record for victories in a season. UT also captured the Big 12 Conference tournament title and made its seventh consecutive NCAA tournament appearance. Texas' No. 8 ranking at season's end was its best ever.
Texas reached double-digit victories in a season for the seventh consecutive year, averaging 13-plus wins per season during Petrucelli's tenure, which began Dec. 31, 1998.
"Last year was great for us," said Petrucelli, who this fall begins his ninth season as head coach. "We played quite well at times and we also played our best against the best competition. That says something.
"We have a strong team coming back."
Senior Kelsey Carpenter, who along with junior Stephanie Logterman competed for the U.S. National Team in the 2007 Nordic Cup in Finland, is a vital component of the strong team returning and also exemplifies what Petrucelli said about last year's team playing well against the best competition.
"Being aggressive is definitely my style of play," Carpenter said. "That is my strength. I have speed and I can finish pretty well. My teammates have made it easier for me to get more opportunities on goal."
In 2006, Carpenter had the game-winning goal against both Penn State (No. 3) and Illinois (No. 13), earning the Soccer America National Player of the Week honor for the first time in her career. Those back-to-back triumphs were Texas' first consecutive victories against top 25 schools since 2003.
"Kelsey has developed into one of the premier forwards in the country," Petrucelli said. "And Stephanie is such an important part of this team. She is one of the fastest defenders in all of college soccer."
And this year, Logterman is with the team from the outset of August, whereas last year she was in Russia until September, competing for the U.S. Under 20 National Team.
"It was the end of September before she really hit her stride," the coach noted. "Our team really didn't get going until the end of September."
Also returning for Petrucelli is junior defender Kasey Moore, senior defender Leslie Imber, senior midfielder Caitlin Kennedy and junior goaltender Dianna Pfenninger. Moore was a first-team All-America last year and Carpenter was a member of the second team.
"We've really put in time teaching the last couple of years, helping them to do the things that will make them successful," Petrucelli said. "Now, I have to give them (the players) the freedom to prove that they can play in a way to make us a success."
Nine of Petrucelli's returnees are seniors.
"A couple of years ago we were starting six freshmen and were primarily a freshmen and sophomore team," Petrucelli said. "Now, we've grown up."
Texas' defense has experience and speed and its goalkeeper is strong.
"We have the tools," said Petrucelli of his team that opens the regular season on the last day of this month at home against TCU.
"Now I just have to let them go out there and use those tools."