Soccer looks for synchronized stride
July 12, 2012
Natalie England, TexasSports.com
AUSTIN, Texas -- If you think of soccer as an art form, passes are the strokes that put paint on canvas. Penetrating forward knocks and sneaky lateral passes provide the texture that brings color into action.
Only on the soccer field, there isn't one painter and paintbrush, but 11, and each possesses a distinct style and charm. Synergy and selflessness keep all the strokes blending together, in one graceful motion.
As Angela Kelly begins her inaugural season at the helm of the Texas Soccer program, with UT's home opener just more than five weeks away, the vision is unmistakably clear. The Longhorns, when they take the field, will play as a marching phalanx of physicality, united by the unison that forms when competitive individuals work together toward a common goal, in the pursuit of excellence.
"We are very connected to the character of the individual and their aspiration for greatness. That's not just lip service here," Kelly says. "Their responsibility and accountability to their game and personal development becomes that much greater the moment they choose to become a Longhorn. We want them to be accountable and respectful to themselves and to this program. We want them to understand that they need to be their best in this moment, on this day. It is the job of our staff to take that pursuit of excellence and build on it day to day. Each day will build on itself."
In addition to the returning letterwinners' experience, Kelly and her assistants, Keeley Dowling and Jaimel Johnson, usher in a nine-member freshman class rated in the top-10 nationally and the best in the Big 12 Conference. In addition, the staff recently added a sophomore all-conference transfer from the University of Houston.
Freshman goalkeeper Abby Smith is ranked fifth on the ESPNHS Top 150 list, and Top Drawer Soccer ranks her 13th in the country and second in the state of Texas. Forward Kelsey Shimmick is ranked 43rd on the ESPNHS Top 150 list, while Top Drawer ranks her 41st in the country and seventh in Texas.
Sharis Lachappelle earned Conference USA All-Conference Third Team honors and was named to the league's All-Freshman team after starting 17 of 19 matches last year for Houston. She ranked second on the team in goals, assists and points.
"We looked at the character and integrity of each young lady because we need people who truly want to be the best," Kelly says. "We are going to be consistent in how we represent all that is Texas.
"This is much bigger than just wins and losses for me. This is about developing stronger young women who can be leaders in society. There has to be a higher standard within each of them, and that has to be cultivated now."
Kelly values versatile players who maintain the ability to be fundamentally creative within the designed scheme. Though a transitional coach who places a premium on possession, Kelly also builds teams that are distinguished by their grit and fighter's mentality. Look for the Longhorns to battle to the final second, whittling away at their opponent's will.
"Our goal is to have the opposition leaving our field not wanting to play us again," Kelly says. "We will defend as a unit and attack as a unit, always creating numerical superiority around the ball. And the players have to have a higher tactical understanding of the game, and the way in which it needs to be played, making the appropriate tactical decisions in each scenario. That is why soccer is referred to as the 'Players Game.'"
The Longhorns open preseason training on Aug. 1, and play their 2012 season opener against Dayton on Friday, Aug. 17 at Mike A. Myers Stadium.
As always, time is of the essence, and beauty lies in the eye of the beholder.
"We are going to be very dynamic with great personalities on the ball," Kelly says. "Ultimately, it is each player's responsibility to compete every session to be one of the top 11 players, and then it is the job of a coach to place the best 11 on the field."
AllWhiteKit.com Top 10 Final 2012 National Recruiting Class Rankings (as of July 4, 2012)
AllWhiteKit.com 2012 Recruiting Class Rankings for Big 12 Conference
Individual Player Recruit Rankings
TopDrawerSoccer.com National Rankings
TopDrawerSoccer.com State of Texas Rankings