Sunday, August 24, 2008

New Season and Thoughts on Track Team

The Men's soccer team kicked off the season this week with two exhibitions - the first with George Mason and the second with VCU. Charlie Campbell scored two goals off assists from Ghanian frosh Phil Aseweh in the GMU game. The VCU game was a draw but probably a better result. VCU usually fields a strong team with a significant mature foreign contingent. To earn a draw is a better result at this point of the season than the GMU win. I watched a talented VCU team dismantle an experienced Hokie Team last year 4-0 and the season turned out ok. Oliver always tries to test the team early with a good out of conference schedule. This allows him to fine tune and toughen the players for ACC play. With a significant influx of new talent this year I expect the same. We will probably lose some games we should win early but will factor in the ACC although winning outright is unlikely. A good season will entail a NCAA appearance and a great season will include a bye or a win in the NCAAs. The freshman class includes the three from Ghana, two from Germany, two local Blacksburg kids (who Oliver coached), a Floridian, a Californian and a Virginian (Richmond). Given the success of the foreign players Oliver has had the foreigners are probably the ones to watch this year. Also Luiz Yamashita from Miami is worth watching because he was on at least one first team All American list.

On the Track side there has been some discussion on about Queen Harrison turning pro after her Olympics debut and the departure of her great coach (now head coach of Clemson). I think it is unlikely. First she did not win or finish particularly high. Second her event (400m hurdles) is not a glamor event like the 100M, 200M, 100M hurdles, marathon, 1500M. A top performer in those areas can make a 7 figure annual income with endorsements, sponsorships and prizes. I think the loss of Coach Johnson is significant. He was clearly one of the best sprint coaches in the country but Coach Cianelli has a top program to offer and a cupboard full of athletes. A good new coach will be on the way, of that I am confident.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Outstanding Year for Olympic Sports

Men' s Soccer, Softball, Women's Track all rocked on the national scene. Men' soccer with mill Patrick Nyarko, softball with miss Angela Tincher but Women's track should continue to rock with a great recruiting class and the retention of most of the top athletes.

Monday, December 24, 2007

Track Note

I am really looking forward to following the track teams this year. The women are preseason #10 indoors and with the Kristi Castlin and Queen Harrison returning to anchor the sprints great things can be attained. The men are preseason #25 but to really vault up the rankings the men's team needs sprinters badly.

Season in Review

If you had told me on August 31 after watching the Hokies get eviscerated by VCU that they would make the Final Four losing to eventual national champ Wake Forest I would have bet large sums against the prospect. I knew the Hokies would get better, an Oliver Weiss team tends to do that, but this surprised even me. Over the next 3+ months the Hokies only losses were to a very high caliber BC team. The team gelled and developed a depth that in years past simply was not there. Patrick Nyarko became more of a setup man than the past two years by leading the team with 10 assists but he scored critical goals during the year. This development of his game no doubt contributed to his Hermann Trophy finalist status and making first team AA. Overall goal scoring was distributed well as 3 players tallied at least 7 goals. Several new comers were big in key positions but the play of senior Ben Nason was pivotal. Nason has seen the program grow from the early days and has played many roles for the Hokies and was rewarded with second team All-ACC status. A least one freshman made an impact as well with James Shupp making All-ACC Frosh team. Some hubbub has been made of the presence of several foreigners on the team. If they are full time students and the NCAA allows it, what is the issue? Three Frosh did not play a single minute (indicating a possible redshirt situation) while Bentley, Boland and Hooper played limited minutes. Shupp was the only Frosh to play significant minutes. Hopefully the maturation of these players and another good recruiting class means the future is bright. I know with Oliver Weiss running the ship the program will continue to gain stature.

In summary, this team played in the most significant Olympic Sporting event in school history and arguably the second most significant event ever after the football national championship game. They completed the greatest season in school history and deserve their place in the annuals of Va Tech sports.

Go Hokies!

Monday, October 15, 2007

The Streak

The Hokies Futbol Team has reached a school record 11 matches without a loss. This surpasses the ten match unbeaten streak of the 2003 team. The difference is conference. The last unbeaten streak came in the Big East, a fine conference but the ACC is at another level. Eighth and ninth place teams in the ACC can go to the national final four ala Clemson a few years ago. It is a tough, grit it out, soccer league, where a game or two separate 1st and 9th place. The shame of it is the Hokies probably should have had a win or two in the three draws in conference. Certainly the UVA game comes to mind and the lead in the Maryland game is another. That said this year's team is gelling. Patrick Nyarko is not scoring at his pace of the last two years but the team is benefiting from the balanced scoring of Nyarko, Zehender, Hock and Edmans.

If one team at VA Tech has the potential to win the national championship in the next several years, I think it is men's soccer. Oliver Weiss continues to build the program and Jim Weaver has certainly given him the resources with facilities. A little more depth and continuity and that elusive team national championship is possible.

I believe.

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

VT vs. Adelphia (5-1 W)

The only blemish in this game was the goal we gave up. We tried so hard to have a clean sheet, and we still gave up a goal in the last few minutes of the game just as we did in our exhibition against High Point. That clearly signals a lack of concentration and leadership to me. Granted, we made several substitutions at that time, but, still, players need to become responsible to not let their guard down if we want to get better quickly. We played well, the game plan of being patient and waiting for our chances after Adelphi built their attack against us worked well. We finished well. I think it was 3 goals on 5 shots in the first half.
That's excellent. We still have to work on being better on the ball and not give it away without pressure. That has to be the #1 goal to improve between now and our Clemson game. Careless give aways in our backfield, just because...I cannot explain it nor want to right now b/c it has to just stop. One way of doing it by limiting player's freedom of what they can do with the ball. Another way it to substitute players. The message was clear, we have a lot of work ahead with a team that is talented, but has not found it's soul yet. We have 16 games left to do it.

VT vs. VCU (0-4 L)

Well, it's a bit of a shocker, but that's part of college soccer and coaching young adults in a very competitive environment. We knew VCU would be tough to crack based on their pre-season form and our slow and non-challenging preseason schedule. What we did not know was that we would make many individual mistakes in our backfield that would lead to easy goals for VCU right off the bat in each half. I think if we had marked up on both restarts (throw in in 1st half and corner in 2nd half), the game would have been a very tight affair. I am still not sure how we would have scored a goal that night since our offense was uninspiring while their forwards seemed dangerous all the time. Sometimes you just can't explain certain lapses of players, but overall we made errors that we've never done before. For example, we had trouble clearing a ball when under pressure. What? That was hard to believe...
This led directly to the first 2 goals. We talked with the guys about it, showed them some video and appealed to them to take responsibility for their mistakes and improve. I think, then when you do improve, as we did on Sunday, you know we stepped in the right direction and we just have to work so much harder now to win more games b/c we dropped our opener. I give VCU a lot of credit for being an excellent defensive team on the night and they did deserve this victory and everything that comes with it.