Dean's Coaches Corner Blog
Oct. 31, 2008
Our 'Part 1 segment' for a successful 2008 Pac-10 season is now complete and we now have a well deserved mental and physical break from playing seven tough conference games over the past three weeks. With no games scheduled this coming weekend (Pac-10 bye week) we can use this important time to gather ourselves, take stock of our current position and most importantly get ready for a big push to finish our season. We have everything to play for.
Before we started Pac-10 play at the beginning of October, we met with the team to propose a plan for success in Pac-10 play. Basically the plan cuts the conference season into two segments which allows the players to 'narrow their focus' so they can perform at the highest level for a set amount of time. The challenge of the tougher games paired with the increasing demand in the classroom can take its toll on players and they need to really stay organized and focused in order to give our team its best chance. So, we finished the first segment with a 3-2-2 record which has us in 2nd place at the moment.
To recap the month October, we took a good 5-3-0 non-conference record into our opening Pac-10 weekend at home and started well with a close 1-0 win over Stanford and then an exciting 2-2 tie with defending Pac-10 champions Cal. Benchmarking the previous conference champions over the past few seasons reveals the importance of getting good results at home and then picking up a few good wins on the road.
Our first road game in conference play this year was down at Oregon State and over recent years that has been a very challenging place for us to play. Not since 2001 have we really dominated play in Corvallis and we knew we had to be 'alert and alive' to have any chance to come away with a win.
We played very well against Oregon State that night and managed to post a convincing 2-1 win which kept us at the top of the standings. The stats for game had us outshooting them 18 to 9 and having seven more corner kicks but it sure seemed closer to us coaches. Anyway, it was a great first road result and George John in particular seemed pleased as he announced to the entire team on the field after the game that he won't be rushing back to Corvallis anytime soon to savor any past soccer memories.
We then took our undefeated conference record (2-0-1) down to Southern California to take on UCLA and the SDSU. UCLA is never an easy place to play as their home record will reveal and in fact you need to have your game near the top to have a real chance to upset them. We never got going in the first half and were behind by two goals in the first 30 minutes.
The overall performance was a long way from the normal effort we bring and although we made a better accounting of ourselves in the second half, we lost our first game in over a month. When you get on a good run of results like we were, that first set back can have a very sobering effect and we all realized that we what we brought that night wasn't good enough.
When you take loss the next game always looms larger since you need to turn things around in order to stay in the race for the conference title. While SDSU has not had a great season record-wise we only know them as a tough, direct and athletic team whom we have yet to beat in San Diego in three previous tries. Our work was definitely cut out for us.
The game against SDSU was everything we expected (hard fought, combative and close) and like many of the prior games against them, destined to go into overtime. Our team on the day was magnificent with its commitment and determination to find a way to return to our wining ways. The defending was inspirational with Taylor Muller playing his best game ever in a Husky uniform. The midfield fought hard to keep possession of the ball on a difficult field and the attackers got us two vital goals to help us decide the game in our favor.
Our first ever win at SDSU did come at a big cost however as we lost both George John and Tyler Klein to knee injuries in the first half. Having lost key players both the previous two years I was somewhat 'conditioned' for the loss but the realities of losing your senior captain and a promising freshman have now put the onus upon all of us to find a way to bring more to the team that must carry on. We all possess great inner resources to draw upon in times of need and we must have new leaders step up and fill the void. Together we can do it!
The big home rematch with UCLA was our next focus and we all promised ourselves a better effort this time around. It was an exciting night for our team and we produced some great moments despite not being able to score. Statistics would favor us in shots on goal but some good goalkeeping and some timely UCLA goals scored against the run of play would see us lose our second conference game to them in seven days. As a coach I felt sorry for the 'spirit' of our team as we played our hearts out and did all we could to win the match.
As coaches we preach a lot about bringing 'optimal effort' and letting the results take care of themselves. Well, the majority of our players brought all they had that night and its hard not to recognize them for that so sometimes you have take your knocks and get on with it. Still I was proud of the effort we brought and the chances we created against arguably the top team in the conference.
So, only UCLA, Cal and UW remain in contention for the 2008 Pac-10 title so we still have three big games to play. While we can't control what happens in the other games in our conference, we do have everything to say about what we can accomplish in our final three games. Talk about everything to play for at the end of your season!
It's pretty clear that if we can get good results in our final three games, we can not only contend for the Pac-10 title but also put ourselves in position for an at-large selection to the NCAA tournament. It's an exciting position to be in and we intend on making the most of it! The key for us is to use this bye wisely so we both rest up and keep our game sharp. We need to have everything 'clicking' when we head down to the Bay Area on November 6. What a way to finish!
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