Born and raised in England, what do you see as the major differences between U.S. soccer and U.K. soccer?
Football in the U.K. takes up over 10 pages in the newspapers. It’s on all the TVs and you can’t escape it. “Soccer” in this country is thefifth most popular sport. I think the major difference comes down to tactical and physical play, whereas players in the U.K. are a tad better mentally and players here are gifted with physical prowess.
This year marks your 21st season here at St. John’s, what has this program meant to you?
My journey here started a long time ago. I began as a part-time head coach and quickly realized how successful this program could be. With the help of amazing assistant coaches and players, I find myself here today. It has really taken up most, if not all of my time but I love being here on campus. Spending time and bonding with my players is what it’s all about and St. John’s has allowed me to do that for a long time and I’m very grateful.
Describe your relationship with the girls this year and how this team is different from others you’ve coached.
Another tough question. I compare this team very closely with the first team I ever coached at St. John’s in 1994. Both of those teams had a determination to win once they crossed those white lines. Also, both teams were technically gifted and shared a strong chemistry. As for this year’s chemistry? This team took a bit to bond and totally buy into what I was trying to teach. But now, they understand what it takes to win and push each other along the way.
The NCAA Tournament is right around the corner, describe your hopes going into the tournament.
As I see it right now, we need to win the rest of our games to make the NCAA Tournament. So we don’t want to get ahead of ourselves. One game at a time, that’s our motto and it has been working for us so far. I do admit, it would be great, but the Big East Tournament is our major concern at the moment.
Talk about the senior players’ journey and how much will they be missed.
These seniors have meant a lot to the program throughout the years. Players like, Jen Gibbons, Georgia Kearney-Perry, Deanna Murino, Caitlyn McLaughlin, Chelsey Martino, Marisa Ammaturo, Sandra Osborn, Rachel Hoffman and Jazmine Rhodes will be missed and they are leaving everything on the field this season. But the thing I like most is that they understand their leadership roles and mentor young players.
On the opposite end, your freshman performed extremely well this year. Talk about the bright future of the team.
Definitely, the future looks bright. Shea Connors and Jesse Schaefer highlighted the freshmen this year and show promise for the future. Our major focus is to keep on improving their development and make them into successful four-year players.
Looking back at your already legendary career at St. John’s, take me through some of your most memorable moments as a coach.
I would have to say winning the Big East Tournament my first year here as a part-time head coach ranks up there for sure. Also, 2009 was a major year for the program and we were lucky enough to advance to the NCAA Tournament. That experience [developed] me as a coach and definitely ranks up there for me as well.
Describe this year’s team in a nutshell, what makes them so special?
This is a team that has gone through a lot this year. But they bonded through hard work and heart. I think that’s their best attribute: their determination to win trumps all.
How would you describe your coaching style?
My coaching style isn’t too complicated. I try to focus on two-sided player development. I try my best to mature players off the field while improving their game as well. I take it very seriously and I’ve had a bunch of great players, for me it’s all about player development. Me and the assistant coaches try our best to do what’s best for our players.
You are the ‘winningest’ coach in St. John’s women’s soccer history. Speak about what this major milestone means to you.
Like I said before, starting out as a part-time head coach, I really never thought I would get to this point. I think St. John’s and the players deserve most of the respect. Especially the players, there is only so much I can do from the sidelines. Of course, we prep and prepare for the games but it’s on them to execute. Overall, I’m honored and glad to be a part of the great soccer history here at St. John’s.
Rachel Daly’s prolific goal scoring has carried the team at times this year. Describe her role on the team from a coach’s standpoint.
Rachel has come a long way since she started here, both on and off the field. She leads our team with her play and also brings the girls closer together with her international experience. I think that really sets her apart. Playing on a world stage at such a young age was huge for her.
Daly also received the honor of playing for the under-20 English National team, do you think she can be a major piece of England’s future?
Like I said, playing on an international stage can be key for any player’s progression. She got a chance to play in the under-17 World Cup for England and as a result she matured as a player. I’m truly impressed with just how far Rachel has come, not just in terms of soccer.
Up next, you and your squad take on Georgetown in the Big East Semi-Finals on Friday. What’s your gameplan heading into the match?
We take one game at a time. Belson Stadium should be loud and full of energy, we need to use that and stay within our game.
Now a few personal questions:
Being from the U.K., I would imagine you follow the Barclays Premier League. What team do you support and why?
When I was around four or five, my father gave me an all-white jersey with no logo on it. So naturally I asked, “What team is this?” and he said Leeds United. From that point on I supported Leeds and still am today. Although it’s tough to watch their games out here, I try my best to keep updated through Twitter.
Who is your all-time favorite footballer and why?
That’s a tough question. I’ll stick with a female player that I actually coached against, Kelly Smith. I have yet to see a player of her caliber. Kelly was magic with the ball. But I can say, certain aspects of Rachel Daly’s game remind me of Kelly.
What coach do you replicate your style after and what are some of your major influences?
I can honestly say various St. John’s coaches have made me the coach I am today. Dave Masur has been instrumental [in] my progression as a coach. Also coaches like Steve Lavin and Lou Carnesecca have showed me the New York mindset. Finally, Ed Blankmeyer has also been very important to me. I can bounce ideas off him, which is nice.