Head Coach Angela Kelly and Emily Dowd
Sept. 1, 2009
Transcribed by Brian Davis, Assistant Media Relations Director
KNOXVILLE, Tenn. - With the Tennessee Lady Vol soccer team off and running in its 2009 campaign, the next step for the squad will be the initial road trip of the season to battle Big Ten Conference foes Minnesota (Fri. at 8 p.m. ET) and Wisconsin (Sun. at 12:30 p.m. ET) in Minneapolis, Minn., over Sept 4 & 6. Before venturing north later this week, utladyvols.com sat down with UT head soccer coach Angela Kelly for a brief question and answer session about the young '09 season and what's ahead for the Lady Vols.
What are your thoughts on the early season and the 2009 Lady Vol freshman class?
"We are all really, really excited about this season, the energy is high, and we understand that the season is comprised of lots of peaks and valleys. The mind-set is...we are strongest together and nothing can ultimately defeat us!!" Kelly said. "The team is becoming more comfortable and confident with the system of play, and we are seeing significant progress every week! We have an exceptional freshman class. They are extremely talented and continue to look for more responsibility and accountability within our program. That really says something about them as a group.
"Jayden Barrett and Ali Hall have played a majority of the minutes for our program during the past three matches and at some points have been truly dominant at their positions. Amy Harrison has been a solid contributor for us, and we have been easing her back in after just being released to play two weeks before pre-season began. Alexis Owens is contributing much more than I anticipated and is like a sponge in training, continuing to get better and better each day. Kylie Bono is starting to show more and more confidence and playing the way that I know she is capable. She captured her first start as a Lady Vol this past weekend. That means five of our eight freshmen have contributed in a very significant way already, which makes me excited for the future of our program.
"The best part of this freshman group is their competitiveness. They possess a great drive and willingness to compete and they don't shy away from anything on the field. Seeing how our freshmen have responded to whatever adversity we have faced as a team has been exciting.
"I believe adversity reveals character, and that which does not kill you makes you stronger, with that being said, our strength of schedule in August and September will always make us stronger. Our hope is that playing against teams such as Arizona State, Pepperdine, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Memphis and West Virginia, just to list a few, will challenge us and make us better. We haven't had the early results we'd like, but unless someone is close to our program, they have little idea the adversity we have faced to this point."
What sort of adversity has the team been dealing with to this point in the season?
"We currently or have been without as many as six possible starters at any one given time thus far, due to injury, illness and an array of different combinations of both." Kelly said. "Tanya Emerson was ready to start last Friday night for just the second time this season, as she was recovering from a previous injury, but was unable to attend the game due to illness. Jayden Barrett and Emily Shore didn't train all last week because they were sick. Amy Harrison is still working to return from an injury, and she was forced to leave at halftime against Pepperdine with an illness. Julie Edwards hasn't played since May because of an injury and saw 70 minutes of action against Arizona State Friday night. She did very well for not having touched a ball, and she just needs to get played in and time to work back into game shape. Anna Fisher has been out the past two months with an injury, but just today was cleared to play. She actually stepped right in on her first day and passed one of her three fitness tests required by our program to travel or start. That's six players that could be starters at any given time, who have been unable to train or play regularly during the early season. That's a lot of adversity to deal with for a young team, on the flip side...think how excited we will be when we are at full strength and healthy. Wow, that is going to be very dynamic and fun to watch!!
"We must always keep things in perspective. We put ourselves in position to win both games this past weekend versus Arizona State and Pepperdine, despite the adversity. We played well for about 70 minutes against ASU until we made some youthful mistakes which put us on our heels a little. Something our team needs to learn is that you must continue to go forward and bring that level of competitiveness, mentality and effort for 90 minutes. That's the foundation of Tennessee Soccer, mentality, a desire to compete and a willingness to dominate our opponent is what we do. Having that mentality is what allows your team to capitalize on the opposing teams errors, to constantly be on the attack. We must always be composed enough, fit enough, to make smart decisions under whatever circumstance we face. Staying plugged in, all of the time, is something I challenge the entire team with every day. The way in which the ASU game played out, has allowed our staff the opportunity to teach and pound home this message to our team. I am excited about how they are responding thus far and can see some very unique qualities in this group that should benefit us come October and November."
What challenges/benefits does the first road trip of the season bring?
"When you have a young team, road trips help a great deal," Kelly said. "They all come to Tennessee because they are proud and want to be a part of the tradition. You see it on their faces when we are traveling through the airport wearing the Orange and White and proud to be representing Tennessee. When we are eating together, spending time together in new places, all of that helps create a unique bond. And early in this season, having dealt with a lot of adversity and with 14 of our 23 players being freshman or sophomores, there couldn't be a better time, than the present, for a road trip.
"We're excited to be headed to Minnesota to play teams with different styles and to be challenged in different ways. I played with Minnesota coach Mikki Denney Wright for two years in college and know that her team will play with a great deal of heart and energy. Paula Wilkins' (Wisconsin coach) teams always come ready to battle and play for 90 minutes. It will be a battle this weekend against both Minnesota and Wisconsin, but I am excited to see our team attempt to match the drive and intensity that both teams will bring."