Fairfield girls? soccer won the Southeast Conference last season and is hoping to repeat as champions, but they will have a new engineer pushing the Trojan train down the tracks this season with the hiring of elementary aid/assistant swim coach Brittany Winslow.
Coach Winslow spoke with The Ledger after practice Wednesday night and it was clear she is still a player?s coach who likes to have fun, but who expects her team to know when to take her seriously.
How does the team look here super early in the season?
Winslow: We?re looking pretty good. We have a good handful of returning seniors and some incoming freshmen with solid soccer skills. We have 23 girls right now, so just enough for a varsity and junior varsity team.
Do you think you have a good mix to fill all of the positions?
Winslow: We do. At the beginning, I wasn?t quite sure because we lost a lot of our defense and some of our center-mid girls, but it sounds like some of these girls have played a lot of defense and I?m really looking forward to see them work together.
Do you find that the girls coming in have a lot of experience?
Winslow: There?s a good mix. Right now we have some girls that have played since they were young through Fairfield Area Soccer Association and some others who this will be their first year.
Our seniors Kelsey [Hollander] and Ella [Pollet] didn?t start until they were in high school. Some of the girls with the least amount of experience have really stepped up and gotten a lot better since they started.
What?s going to be your biggest challenge in this first year?
Winslow: It will probably be looking at the other teams stats and making sure that we are prepared to play other girls. We need to do our homework and I think that?s the hardest part about not having any help is going to games that are far away and relying on stats online.
Do you think helping with swimming prepared you for this season better?
Winslow: It definitely has helped. Working at the elementary school, I thought things would be different working with high schoolers. *laughs* Some of the same issues are there and it helped a lot, knowing how strict you need to be and what you need to do to make sure the girls are ready to play ball. I jumped into swim team using Hannah?s [Baker] rules and guidelines, so it?s been nice having my own team and making my own rules and letting the girls know where I stand and who I am and how we?re going to interact.
Are you more strict now that it?s your team or are you still a player?s coach?
Winslow: I?m not the scream and crazy yelling coach. I just tell the girls there?s a time to be serious and a time to play around. Basically, when they are warming up and things like that, I want their focus to be on their body needs. Make sure you are stretching and taking care of your body and doing the things to prepare for the game. At practice I play music and like to have a good time with the girls, so as long as we?re getting done what I want during practice, I don?t mind the side talk here and there and the joking around.
Where do you think the team stands in the SEC heading into the season?
Winslow: Last year, the girls won the conference so I think we have a chance this year. We did lose a couple of key players, but that gives these girls the chance to step up and we have a chance to be right in the thick of things to win the conference again.
What do you need to do to pull the ?Witzenburg? and take these girls to state your first year?
Winslow: *Laughing* Going to state is a big thing. We have a lot of good private schools that we have to make it through to get there. That?s really hard coming from a public school stand point even though we have a team that could compete at state if we can get through some of those teams. How I?m looking at this season is pushing ball control and fundamentals and ways to keep possession of the ball and getting the defense to work together. Right now we?re breaking it down to the basics and getting the fundamentals fresh in our minds.
There are so many great female athletes at Fairfield right now. Does it hurt you that three sports are sharing them?
Winslow: This happens with all sports. During swimming, we thought it?d be nice to have a lot of the volleyball girls on our team and there are girls getting pulled in different directions with golf and track and field. We have some girls that play in FASA but then they get older and want to run track or play golf so it does hurt us a little bit. Another thing is that softball crosses over with us quite a bit, so we have at least one athlete who will play softball so you lose girls at the end of the season, too.
Where is your confidence level all things considered?
Winslow: I have a pretty high confidence level. These girls have a good spirit and attitude. They?re ready to play, I?m ready to play. I still have that competitiveness since I played for Fairfield and I know these girls are ready, too.