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Lady Lions show growth in McBride's inaugural season

Posted: Sunday, November 12, 2017 | Views: 1492

Lady Lions show growth in McBride's inaugural season
HAMMOND – With a new coaching staff, the loss of seven seniors and the addition of 11 newcomers, Southeastern Louisiana head coach Chris McBride knew his first season was going to be a challenging one.

But McBride and assistant coach Mary Mancin overcame those obstacles to have the Lady Lions in contention for a berth in the Southland Conference on the final day of the season.

Southeastern did its part, taking a 1-0 victory at Nicholls when senior midfielder Maddie Kresevic scored with 31 seconds left in the second overtime. But Texas A&M-Corpus Christi was able to claim the final spot in the tournament with a 0-0 tie with Houston Baptist later that evening. The Lady Lions finished the season at 5-10-3 overall, 3-6-2 in conference play.

"It was a good first year for us as a coaching staff just to get some experience in the conference and see how each team plays," McBride said. "Now that we have seen them all in person, we really know what we are looking for in the conference. We know the style of play some coaches like to play. Overall, it was a good experience for us. Coming in and starting in the spring and replacing what we had to replace, it was always going to be tough for us. Obviously we would have liked to have ended it a little better than we did and not have our destiny in somebody else's hands. I think we will learn from that and next year we will try our best to make sure that doesn't happen again.

"It was disappointing not getting into the tournament, but when you look at the big picture of things, we showed a lot of progress, a lot of growth. If you look at our first weekend of the year at Alabama State and Georgia State and then you look at our last weekend against Northwestern State and Central Arkansas, it's night and day."

Southeastern was in nearly every match with its biggest losses a pair of 3-0 defeats at Georgia State and eventual Sun Belt Conference champion South Alabama. The Lady Lions shut out GSU in the second half and were tied with USA at the break. Two more losses came via penalty kicks. And this was with a squad that started at least four freshmen every match, including six in a 2-2 tie at Houston Baptist.

"I think a lot of the games that we were in or that we lost, the difference were marginal," McBride said. "The games we lost by a couple of goals, it was because we were pushing for a goal to get back into the game and it left us exposed. We were in most of the games and that's promising for us having such a young team. You look at where we started with the inexperience we had, it was a really good year for growth for a lot of young players on the team."

One of the main factors in Southeastern keeping the matches close was the play of a Lady Lion defense that included three freshmen – goalkeeper Michaela Hawthorn and defenders Abby Johnson and Tilly Hallas-Potts – along with juniors Sofia Olsson and Christina Cutura, the latter a honorable mention All-Southland selection. Southeastern gave up 25 goals in 18 matches after allowing 32 in 20 matches in 2016 with All-American Hope Sabadash in net and a more experienced defense. The 2017 squad also did not give up a one-on-one opportunity, McBride noted.

"I think our defense was completely overlooked this year," McBride said. "We got Christina on the honorable mention list but we had Michaela in goal and Abby and Tilly at center defense. Those three did a good job all year working together and then with Christina on one side and Sofia on the other, we felt very comfortable with our back five.

McBride said a number of the goals the Lady Lions allowed this season could be credited to an outstanding play by the opposition.

"Coach Mary and I talked about it, we just felt like we got everybody's best," McBride said. "Every good team in the conference that was above us, we got their best game. The second goal against Lamar was incredible and by the player of the year in the conference. Looking back at it, yeah, it was frustrating, but some of the performances we had this year, were very, very promising."

McBride said there will be a few areas that will be worked on this offseason, including offense and transitional defense.

"There were new tactical components put into the game this year that we really need to hone down on," McBride said. "We need to have a real fundamental understanding of our attacking philosophy and our defensive philosophy. There were quite a few goals this year when we got caught in transition and tactically we didn't drop into the right position. So we'll be working a lot on that in the offseason along with getting everybody better individually. We'll take little groups here and there and we'll make sure individually for their specific role on the team, they are getting better in their areas."

McBride and Mancin will be on the recruiting trail the next five weeks, looking to finalize the 2018 and '19 classes. The squad will start its strength and conditioning program the first week of the new semester before beginning spring drills Feb. 15. McBride plans for spring practice to run through April 28 and is looking to fill all five dates allotted for scrimmages after being limited to three this past spring due to a lack of players.

"Last year we only had 13 players. This year we have 21, so we can do a lot this spring so we're excited about it," McBride said.

It will be a different offseason for McBride and Mancin with the numbers up and with a season of experience. The team's familiarity with each other and the style of play will also allow the coaches to be able to increase their level of instruction from last spring.

"Last spring, we just touched on some fundamentals and touched on some changes in the style of play," McBride said. "Now that we've got the style of play down - and we can improve in that area still - we can start to add in what we do in certain areas when the ball is the air, when we have it and don't have it, when we're transitioning forward and transitioning back. We're looking forward to the spring. As coaches, that's when we put in all our work because that's when players get better. We want to make sure that in the spring, everybody gets better in some component of their game."

Southeastern lost three seniors in Kresevic, midfielder Lauren Babcock and defender Kim Porche but will have the majority of the squad back for 2018, including a number who will be participating in their first spring drills.

"We have a very young class that gained a lot of experience this year," McBride said. "This will be their first full spring so they will get to understand what it means like to improve. In the fall, it's games, rest, games, rest with a practice once a week. In the spring, you're practicing five times a week, you're in the weight room three times a week. It's more work in the spring than it is in the fall. Your spring is the work you put in. The fall comes and that's test time. It's like studying for a class. You do your course work in the spring and tests are in the fall. They are going to understand that it's going to be good for each other because everybody on the team is going to be able to push each other because we have 21 players. Everybody is still fighting for each other and fighting for a spot. It's going to be good."
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