March 10, 2006
Spring is in the air and so is soccer as the University of New Mexico women's soccer team hits the field for spring training. The Lobos are coming off one of their most successful fall seasons and are ready to take the team to the next level in 2006. Fifth year head coach Kit Vela recently sat down to give a preview of what the spring holds for UNM. Vela says the spring season is one of the best times for a program to work on certain skills and really get into the finer details of the game. She also says that it's up to each player to take the spring seriously and those players who take advantage of spring training are sure to see success again in the fall.
What's always the goal when you're going into spring season?
Vela: To improve. We have areas that we are looking to improve and the spring is all about individual player development and then ultimately team development.
This is the second spring since we've been here, including last spring, where the 22 players that are here are the nucleus of what we're going to have next fall. We lost three starters, very important starters in seniors Nicole McCarty, Nicole Pitcock and Kristen Winters, but we have the players here to fill their roles. The spring is the time for them to do the majority of the learning so when they come back in August they're ready to go.
What's a typical week like of training during the spring?
Vela: A lot of tactics. Working on our team defense and offense. Working on team chemistry. A lot of playing because a lot of what they're going to learn is within playing. Of course, strength and conditioning, fitness. We're really trying to get to a different level in every element and we're working very hard to do that.
The team had a successful spring last year and in turn had a great fall. How does this spring compare to last spring so far?
Vela: It's actually even better. The training is a whole step up from where we were last year because our players are one more year experienced. The seven juniors that are going to be seniors this fall have had another year to develop and get better. They had another fall of experience and it was a successful fall. So, that success in the fall had rubbed off on them to where they're more determined to have an even better fall this year. They know the only way they can do that is to have an even better spring. So this spring so far has been better than last spring in a lot of different ways.
You mentioned the three seniors from last year being important leaders to the team. With the seven to-be seniors coming in this spring are there any potential leaders you see within that group?
Vela: All seven have been great. This is the best senior class we've ever had. I say the best because last year's senior class was amazing, but there were only three. Everything is always better in numbers. It helps when you have bigger numbers. All seven of them have been outstanding.
What are you looking to get out of the games played this spring?
Vela: We're looking for these seven juniors to take over the leadership. They have during training, but games are different situations from training. Their leadership abilities will really come forth in these games. Once we get into these games those players are going to have to step forward and lead.
So is there a set starting lineup you already see for this fall watching your players during the spring or is it still interchangeable?
Vela: There's some interchangeable. We're still looking for who's going to step into those three roles that were vacated by last year's seniors. We have multiple players who can do it. We have some ideas, but right now they're all competing out there. In all fairness, we got some younger players that want to win starting roles in other areas and so they're pushing the older players. It's a very competitive environment.
So there really is no offseason in soccer.
Vela: No. There's no such thing. The spring is considered our non-traditional season. Technically on paper the games we play in the spring don't mean anything, but really what the spring means to a program is an opportunity to develop. Players learn that if you want your fall to be good, your spring should be used as your catapult into the fall. Those that have taken it seriously fitness wise, strength wise, health wise have had huge success in the fall. I think right now we're all getting on the right page. The right page is the spring is about developing and learning to take risks so you can learn what you can and can't do next fall within your position. Really learning our style of play. It's about working on the details. We can dissect certain things and work on making each player better. Ultimately it's up to them, but we put them in the environment where they really learn the details of what we're asking them to do. It allows them to get to a comfort level hopefully by the end of April.