The 2010 season marks a new era for the Spring Hill College women's soccer program. The team welcomes a new head coach in Christian DeVries who brings with him a new system and a fresh outlook on the game. The college has also moved into the West Division of the newly expanded Southern States Athletic Conference (SSAC), bringing the women's soccer team into one of the most powerful conferences in the NAIA.
DeVries comes to Spring Hill from the University of Minnesota-Morris where he built a 123-106 record over 12 seasons. "Our focus will be to possess the ball longer than the other team," he says. "We spend a lot of time talking about being faster, smarter and stronger than our opponents. What we mean is that we must use our strengths to win the game. We must be better than the other teams in the technical aspects of the game."
Spring Hill returns a strong cast of veteran players for the 2010 season. Last season, the Badgers opened with only 17 players on the roster, but this year DeVries will have 24 players including 13 returnees. Team Captains Jade Beason, a senior forward from Cincinnati, Ohio, and Lorie Pendergast, a junior midfielder from St. Louis, Mo., will be the team leaders on and off the field.
Nine freshmen and a junior transfer will each look to win a role in the Badger line up and push the upperclassmen. "I didn't coach Amber O'Connor (junior; Ham Lake, Minn.) at Morris, but I've watched her play for the past two years, so she's a known commodity to me," says DeVries. "She knows her role in this scheme and will help solidify our midfield. Also, Molly Cowley of Jefferson City, Mo., has stepped into a starting role on defense and become one of the most consistent players among the freshmen."
Defensively, the Badgers lost 1st team All-Conference player Allison Gilles to graduation, but DeVries is still very confident in his squad. "Defense is the area I'm most comfortable with as we look to start the year," he says. "Cowley, sophomore Savanna Sablich of Roswell, Ga., and senior Lara Menke of St. Louis understand their roles and that can be tough in our system. We will begin the year splitting time between senior Emma Pitchford of Ridgeland, Miss., and freshman Cassandra Amore from Jay, Fla."
The Spring Hill offense will get a boost with the return of two-time All-Conference selection Kasey Pruett of Flower Mound, Texas. "Pruett needs to re-emerge this year," says DeVries. "She missed last year and it hurt her, but we can definitely use her this year once she returns to form." The Badgers have also installed a new offense that promises to be more potent. "We're changing the entire system and that's always tough," DeVries says. "We will score more goals as the season progresses, but we have to understand the concepts first."
Unlike past Badger teams that stressed defense, DeVries will build his system around his midfield. "The midfield will control our game," he says. "It will no longer just move the ball from defense to offense. One of my biggest tasks is to find the right combination to work the midfield for us this year. I feel we have five to six midfielders who can start at anytime."
The 2010 schedule is one of the toughest that the Badgers have faced in many years. "The move to the SSAC will be good for us," says DeVries. "It is definitely a powerhouse in NAIA soccer, especially in the West Division that had five of the conference's top eight teams in the preseason rankings. There's not an easy team in our division. If we expect to move forward as a program, we have to play the best teams in the non-conference schedule to get ready for conference play."
"This is going to be an exciting year for our team. In fact, the next several years will be exciting," says DeVries. "We have very talented players that are still learning a new coach and a new system. Once that happens, we'll compete in this division. We're headed a positive direction with this team."
Spring Hill opens the 2010 season on Sunday at Truett-McConnell College in Cleveland, Ga., at 1 p.m. and then travels to Savannah, Ga., to face Savannah College of Art & Design (SCAD) at 1 p.m. on Monday. The Badgers open the home slate on Saturday, October 11, at 1 p.m. versus Southern Wesleyan University on Library Field.