bleedCrimson.net: How has this week's practice gone after coming off the long trip to Hawai'i?
Michael Needham: It was good. We took an extra day's rest. We took Tuesday off, got back, had a good session yesterday and today was a pregame session, pretty light, tried to score some goals and get the kids excited and then be ready to go tomorrow night.
bc.net: What has the energy level been like this week from your kids knowing that you still have a shot at the making the tournament versus if you had come back not having a shot?
MN: I think the energy level is good. I think even if we were mathematically eliminated, we would still be playing for a lot so I don't think the emotion has changed that much in that I think we want to send our seniors off on the right note, we want to finish the year on a win and that's very important if the scenarios don't work out for us. I think winning is important to us. The other big note is that we're 7-7-3 and for us to continue making our progress and doing what we're doing, to win on Friday night and go to 8-7-3 and secure a winning record for 2010 is definitely something our kids find important so I think the energy level would have been good either way. But it's definitely better still having a chance. You win and then we come inside and start checking results. That'll be fun, hopefully it's fun, and then you go from there but really I think the big focus is beating LA Tech.
bc.net: What do you expect to see from LA Tech and what do you hope to be able to do against them?
MN: I think LA Tech has proven they're a good team. They score a lot of goals. They're very dangerous in the attack and they put balls into very dangerous places so we'll need a great performance out of our back four and I think our back four is ready to have that kind of performance. I don't think they're particularly pleased with some of the results we've had. I think we're ready for that challenge. They're a potent offensive team.
What we'll look to do is get the ball on the ground and try to get behind their midfield and get going at their backs and try to put as many balls on their goal as we can. I think it'll be a great game, I think it'll be exciting, I think both teams want to attack so it's not like anybody is going to sit back and try to win the thing 1-0. I think it'll be an attack-minded game and a lot of fun to watch.
bc.net: Going back to the Hawai'i, the two goals your team scored, particularly the first one, if you could pick out one thing that typified Aggie soccer and that being hard work, I thought that goal with Crystal Burns working hard to dig that ball out of the end line and getting it over to Yollie for the goal really did that.
MN: Yeah, I think if you're going to say it typified, I think you'd say more that it typified the way I want them to play and what we're striving for. We talk a lot about trying to score ugly goals and goals that are not clear-cut chances and you're taking half-chances and just overall taking chances. On that first goal Crystal does a great job of chasing a ball down and that's something we've talked to her about for the past 18 months. You've got to defend, you've got work harder, she took it to heart, she's worked harder all year and she goes in and digs a ball out and plays a good cross and Yollie, we've talked to her, "You've got to do anything it takes to get in front of a ball and knock it into the net." If it means you've got to slide through somebody, if that means you've got to dive across somebody, whatever it takes. You can't just let chances fly by in front of you. That goal was absolutely embodied those two things. Working your butt off and doing whatever it takes to score. That was fun to see. All in all it was a great goal.
bc.net: From the beginning of conference play to now what improvements have you seen from your club?
MN: I think we're playing better pure soccer. We're getting the ball on the ground, we're playing the way we want to play and I think the difference in maturity is that under pressure can you still do the things that we ask you to do? So rather than just being a technical soccer player, we're asking our players to be skillful soccer players. The difference is that you can do all the technical stuff under pressure.
We're stringing things together. We're playing 45 to 60 minutes of good soccer per game. To beat Louisiana Tech tomorrow night we'll need to play a full 90 and maybe 110, you never know.
I think we've grown with every game. I think the first half of the Hawai'i game was probably the best we've played.
bc.net: Friday night is Senior Night for three players, Baili Foutz, Nina Yanes and Marissa Moya. Give me your thoughts on each of them and share a favorite memory on or off the field with them.
MN: Collectively they're a great group of young women. They're young women that graduate from our program and I'll be proud to have them walk around in Aggie soccer gear.
Baili Foutz, captain for us this year. Baili has done a good job in a relatively tough situation with Marissa being out with some health concerns and kind of being the lone senior who is a captain. Baili has done a nice job in that role and she's one of those kids that you know every time out there she's going to give everything and anything that she has whether it's the right thing or not.
A funny moment with her, about a month ago she had a chance to get into a slide tackle and I looked at her and said, "Baili, you've got to get into a slide tackle" and she looked at me and said, "Coach, nobody every taught me how to slide!" I said, "What? Are you kidding? You're an All-American in junior college and you don't know how to slide?"
These kids have grown up into great young women for our program and this group of seniors is absolutely special to me because I had them for two years. Katie was special last year but I only had her for six months. Having these guys for a year and a half has been really cool.
Nina Yanes was a big part of this program. She did a lot for us in her junior year and this year hasn't gone probably the way she really wanted it to go but she's one of my favorite players on the team because Nina tells you the way it is whether you want to hear it or you don't want to hear it. She makes me laugh, I make her laugh. Our personalities are a little bit similar. I'll miss her around, particularly around me because she keeps me light and keeps me on my toes. I'll definitely miss Nina because I think she's got a special personality and has definitely been a lot of fun.
Marissa is a hard one to talk about because that kid, she gave anything and everything her body had in the first 14 games of her Aggie career and then she gets an injury and she can't play the rest of the year but still remains as an amazing captain the rest of the year, stays positive and keeps us on track. She was a huge part of us making the conference tournament last year just from a leadership standpoint. Then she battles back for what seemed like forever, she battled back for nine or ten months, felt she had herself back to being totally healthy and then got bad news from the doctor about some stress fracture stuff this year. That was probably my most emotional moment as a head coach because I knew how hard she had worked and how hard the doctors worked and how hard her family worked to get her back and then all of the sudden it all came crashing down at one point for her.
That was just unfortunate because I think if Marissa had been here and been around us more this year, just having her there, we probably would have won a couple more games because she's such a good leader and the kids respect her. She's an amazing student, she's an amazing person and not having her around as much this year and having her her would have been helpful from a leadership standpoint.
bc.net: You've got so many young kids, if there's one or two things that they've taken away from these three seniors this year that you hope they integrate into their personal and soccer lives what would that be?
MN: I think it's that you have to cherish every game and every second that you get an opportunity to play. Nina and Baili are both junior college athletes, they came in and only really had the potential to play 38 games for us and our younger players have the opportunity to play around 85 games for us and when they look back at this year and they go, "wow, that's one year done already, I've only got three more years to go and am I happy with what I just did?" I think they should take from this group of seniors that you never know when that last day is going to be so you've just got to bring it every day and do everything you can to be as good as you can.