RICHMOND, Va. – In literature, rain is seen as symbolism for cleansing or a new life.
With that thought in mind, it should come as no surprise that the Virginia Commonwealth University women's soccer team used the early spring season, a time known for its abundance of rain, to cleanse or refine their tactics heading into another fall season under Co-Head Coaches Tiffany Roberts Sahaydak and Tim Sahaydak.
In the past, the Sahaydaks had used the spring season for more individual skill work and some minor tactical changes, but this year was different, thanks to having all but one player back this fall.
"With pretty much the whole team back this fall, this spring was a vital training time for us," Roberts Sahaydak said. "We chose to focus on team tactics and developing our style of play much more than we have in prior years. We still did individual development work, but we wanted to continue to refine our play as a whole, specifically making some adjustments to how we do things in the midfield."
The Black & Gold took the pitch five times this spring, never lost once and only surrendered two goals over that stretch.
"Obviously by looking at our results, our defensive strategies and tactics are getting closer to where we want them," Sahaydak said.
With the graduation of CAA Defender of the Year and four-year starter Myriam Bouchard, one might think that defense and leadership would be an area of concern. Two months later, the peanut gallery now knows exactly what the coaching staff knew all along.
"Myriam's intensity and competitiveness will definitely be missed, but we've known that our class of rising juniors had already showed how committed they are to this program," Roberts Sahaydak said. "It's been rewarding to see each of them grow into the person that they are now. It's great to see them positively impacting their teammates and holding everybody in our program to high standards, both on and off the field."
The rising junior class includes midfielders Heather Hovanesian (left) and Jessica McNamara, forward Azania, as well as defenders Meghan Dullea and Molly Allen. Hovanesian, Dullea and Allen have been steady starters for the past three years and give the Rams just what they'll need in the leadership category.
"This group has really taken great strides as a whole and individually, particularly Heather and Meghan, who always give their best in training and have always led this team with their actions," Roberts Sahaydak said. "They've earned the respect of their teammates and we have confidence in them to lead this team effectively."
Last fall was a frustrating one for the Black & Gold with seven of their nine losses being decided by one goal. Everyone in the program knows that they're just a few tweaks away from being a steady contender in the CAA race.
"We've seen a real maturity in the way this team works in training and how each player has invested their time into bettering their game and this program," Roberts Sahaydak stated. "The experiences from last fall have strengthened and motivated not only our players, but our coaching staff."
As close as the Rams were last fall, the coaching staff has taken a lot of positives out of the 2010 campaign. A lot of the younger players like Bex Kunz, Taryn Cressy, Leah Gallie and many more got valuable experience and were looked upon for huge contributions, which helped them develop at a quicker rate.
"We feel very good about the core group of players that we already have in place," Sahaydak said. "With the addition of a very strong incoming group, we can't help but be very excited for the start of preseason camp."