bleedCrimson.net: Your thoughts on the 2012 class overall?
Blair Quinn: The class in general is a good class. To be honest, as late as we got them for the 2012 recruiting class, we were lucky that they were still available. College women's recruiting is going super fast, it's usually two years out or more and for these kids to still be available, we feel pretty fortunate. Every one of them could come in and we think make an impact in the first year. I think the only thing that'll really determine that is how quickly they pick up the speed of the college game. All of them bring a technical ability with them or a certain amount of athleticism and speed, it's just a matter of how quickly they pick up the speed and pace of the college game, that'll determine how much they play. The idea with this class was to begin adding quality depth, not just numbers. The first two years of the program they had so many kids, and you have to do that to start a program, unfortunately when that happens you get a lot of turnover in the first couple of years and so there was a lot of turnover even right up to the time before I got here. I think out of the 30 or so kids that started the program that first year, I want to say nine are left now. That just happens. I think with this class now we've been able to add quality depth in every position, mid-field and back position.
bc.net: When you're going out and recruiting for this class, after seeing what type of players you had in the program, what specifically were some things that you were looking to bring in to suit your system and your style of play.
BQ: To be honest, some kids that were a little bit more comfortable with the ball than some of the kids we have. We needed some more kids that were just better technically in their one-v-one dribbling ability and possession passing ability. I've said since day one that we're very much a possession style team and that's really not just lip service. We play through our midfield and to be honest we still didn't do it as much as we wanted. I think we needed more kids that were really comfortable with the ball regardless of their position, whether they were a back or a mid or a forward but specifically the mids and forwards, just to give us a better chance to attack as a team, more goal scoring opportunities. We need to score more than 30 goals a season.
bc.net: How important was it to the recruitment of these players that you had a successful season in your first year? How much did that help recruiting?
BQ: I think it helps a lot. One of the things we used to build here, we're still building a program and I think that people want to be a part of that and be a part of something they can put their name on that they helped build into a winner and I think what we were able to accomplish here, the kids that we have here were able to do a really good job of believing more in themselves and the program that they didn't want to just be .500 or under .500 anymore, they wanted winning seasons to be the norm. That was the mentality and when we recruit, that's the mentality we tell the kids too. It's not about coming here and seeing if we can get into the conference tournament in the six spot every year, we were excited to be in and I'm happy for the girls that we were in but they know that next year we don't want to get in in sixth, we want to be two or three and ideally we want to win the conference. I think that helps a lot in recruiting when you're successful, especially when you're trying to get kids like we have in this class. We've got a lot of kids that were either state champs or region champs or state runners-up or region runners-up, they've been in a lot of championship games. These are kids that are coming from winning programs. It's hard to get kids to come from winning programs to come to one that doesn't win. I think that's going to be helpful for us not just with this class but for the 2013 and 14 classes.
bc.net: When you're looking at the recruiting, how much does the changing landscape of the conference change your recruiting based off of that and the different styles of play that you're going to see?
BQ: I don't know if it changes what we're trying to do so much. There's a specific kind of player that we've been trying to get since day one and it's always going to be about our team and our style first and then we'll figure out how to match up who we're going against. But what I think it does do for us is open up some new recruiting areas for us. It opens up the Seattle recruiting area for us, I was already trying to get into Denver anyway because Colorado is a border state and there's no reason we shouldn't be getting kids from that area and I've also had a couple different recruiting trips into Texas. Being a border state and with the size and depth of talent there, I think Texas may be second and certainly top five in country in terms of depth of talent. I think everybody would agree that Southern Cal is number one and then Texas is certainly right there with the depth of talent in Dallas, Houston, San Antonio. I think it opens up more recruiting markets for us in terms of players.
bc.net: In terms of class size, obviously the first class that was brought in was an entire team, then the second class there weren't as many players and this year's class has five players. What can fans expect on a year-to-year basis for an average recruiting class size?
BQ: We're now in our fourth year, once we graduate this class, what we call the foundation class, which is this group of kids that's going to be seniors, I think that we can get into a pretty steady five or six or so each year. You have a little bit of attrition every once in a while, you'll have a kid who only plays a couple years due to injuries or something, so we may have a year with an eight person class or we may have a year where we have a four person class but I think six is your standard class size.
Even though we only lost one player to graduation and getting five this year, we weren't quite where we needed to be depth wise in certain positions and when we lose that foundation class it's going to keep me from having to go get nine kids to replace them. I was actually looking in advance of this class as well so I wouldn't have to have a nine player class.
bc.net: Let's talk about each of the players and some of the skills and talent that you saw when you were recruiting them.
Cat is a local kid. She actually showed up here on our doorstep, literally the first week I was here. She made a point to come in and meet me right away. She had been speaking with the previous staff and being a local kid and when the program started I think she was a freshman or sophomore in high school and a goal she had set was Division I soccer and now she had the opportunity to do it here in her hometown and I think anybody that can do that and have that opportunity, I did. I played college soccer in my hometown and I know how important it was to me and my family and I thought it was a big deal so I think for her it was awesome and it's awesome for us. I love that fact that we have a local kid, not just a New Mexico kid but the kid literally lives five minutes away from campus. That was important from that standpoint.
The kid scores goals. I've watched her with her club team, I've watched her with her high school team, she scores goals. I don't care where you are or who you're playing against, you're doing something right. We need more of that. We are very much trying to push the attacking side of our game to another level and I think she's somebody that can help us do that either from a goal scoring stance or a playmaking stance. She can be a setup player as well. I think with her and again with the class in general, the biggest thing that will affect how much they play is how quickly they can adapt to the pace of the game. She certainly has the technical ability.
BQ: Mikaela is a great big personality kid. I'd say of the five kids in this class she's kind of the personality kid. They all have their own individual style and personality but this kid is kind of like the energizer bunny. Just nonstop, always smiling, goofing around. The girls all really like her already. She's 5'1" and I think she thinks she's about 5'9" because she plays like it. She's a lot more physical and a lot stronger than her frame might suggest. I think she's a good one-v-one defender and she's actually a pretty good attacking right back which is something that's important to our particular style of play. We don't want to use defenders to just sit at home all the time, they've got to be able to get us moving forward. I think she's somebody that's going to have a chance to get minutes in our rotation. Ideally we want to use four wide backs a game not just two and we weren't able to do that this year with our depth. It took some of the younger players a little while to get up to speed with the system and hopefully next year with adding her we'll be able to use four wide backs and really just run at people.
Tati is a very good player out of Southern Cal. She plays for SoCal Blues. Her team played in the national championships last year. The kid is really versatile. Every time I watched her play with her club team, she started the game at right back, 20 or so minutes in her coach would make a substitution, take out a midfielder, put her in the midfield and put somebody else in the back because he wanted to keep her on the field so he'd move her up into the midfield. Talking to her, apparently in nationals she was even playing some forward. She's really versatile. She's just a good soccer player plain and simple. She gets the game and I think she can help us in at least two and maybe three positions in our formation the way we play. She's a good soccer player from really the toughest place to play in the country in Southern Cal. You're playing against the best kids every week.
Sam, I'm really excited about. She brings a special characteristic that we don't really have. We have one other player that's a left-footed player. Sam is left-footed, a quick little left-footed player that plays wide forward. She can serve the ball well. She's good in space one-v-one where she can isolate that wide back by herself and take her on and beat her and get a good service in or go to goal herself. There's no secrets to her or why we added her. It's very straight forward. We want her playing on that left win and taking people on and getting shots or serving balls in. I think a rotation of her and Jennae [Cambra] who is a freshman this year, both left-footed players, similar size, similar styles, just running at people nonstop and getting left-footed shots and crosses, it's going to add a lot to our game.
Miranda is a sneaky player. She's probably the most technical player that we're adding in terms of her ability on the ball. She's very good one-v-one. She plays what we call a withdrawn forward, so she can play forward or attacking center-mid, she's really good in that gap between the other team's back line and the midfield line. She finds that dangerous space in between. She sneaks into that space and she's a really good distributor from there or she can go to goal herself. I know that she's one of the leading scorers on her high school team in that Southern California league.
bc.net: You talked about Tatiana's versatility in being able to play multiple positions and you've got a couple other kids on the team already who can do the same. How important is it to find kids who are able to play in multiple spots.
BQ: You know, it's not something I necessarily go out and look for, a kid who can play in three or four positions, but it's certainly helpful. I'm looking for a kid that can be one of the best players in a particular position and the fact that they can play somewhere else, especially if it's an injury early in a game and you've got to shuffle things really quick, it's nice to be able to move somebody that's already on the field into a particular position while you're allowing other players to warm up and then figuring out who's going to be the best player to go into whatever position is now open. It's not something we absolutely are looking for all the time or is a requirement but I think any kid that can play multiple positions is typically going to be your more well rounded soccer player as well. They're probably going to be a little bit better or little bit more comfortable with the ball as opposed to this is my spot, I only do these two or three things. It's definitely a positive.
bc.net: The spring season is coming up, what is the plan for the team heading into the spring?
BQ: We're in our winter period right now where we get eight hours a week but we're getting a lot of good fitness training in right now. We're trying to build our fitness base for the spring and really improve our overall fitness base for the year. We'll start actual soccer practices on February 20th then we play our first spring game that weekend. We've got Arizona State coming in here on Sunday, February 26th. We're going to play ASU, we've got U of A, UTEP, right now it looks like we're going to also play Texas Tech this spring. Some very good challenging games. All teams that based on conferences they're in and last year's performances, I think people would say they're better than us right now but that's how you get better. The reality is that the outcome of these games don't matter to me at all. I know people will probably think, "pre-emptive strike for if they lose" but that's not the case. Spring and our philosophy is about individual development and every kid getting better because we can spend so much more time with each kid in the spring than we can in the fall. The fall is about team development, immediately tactically playing better as a group and now in the spring we get to spend so much time individually with them on technical things and position specific things. Playing against teams that are bigger or faster or stronger or all of the above will make you better in the end. I'm really happy with our spring schedule in terms how each will individually improve based on that.
bc.net: Obviously you got hired right before the final spring game of last year and so you only got to see the team in one spring game. What are things that you're looking for in these spring games from your players and in general from the team.
BQ: Looking literally from February 20th to April 21st which is our last spring day, I'm looking for individual growth. In each spring game what we'll have is conditions or stipulations or goals to meet for individual players or specific groups. As an example, we may say, in our ASU game we want six crosses from the wide-back position in this game which is obviously in turn encouraging our wide-backs to get forward and serve the ball. That's something that everybody should know. We're going to attack more with our entire team and that includes our backs. That's just one example. Maybe taking our forwards and maybe particular forward like Yolie, taking her and saying you need to do four different one-v-one moves in this half. You need to take on their defender at least four times, one-v-one, not thinking about passing, just can you go and beat her? It'll be a lot of positional or individual goal setting for each game and that'll be how we're able to measure if we're getting better. The score in the spring game won't really tell much because everybody will play and most schools are this way. Everybody will play as equally as I can because I want the kids who didn't play much in the fall, they're going to progress a ton this spring because of the amount of time we get to spend with them and the amount of time they get to spend on the ball and one the field.
bc.net: One of the things we talked about a lot in the fall during the season was the way that your team starts and you were going to talk to some coaches and colleagues in the offseason about how to solve that. What are some things that you want to see from your team as far as getting off to better starts, things that you want to see in the spring?
BQ: After talking to a couple friends of mine, I think first and foremost, it comes out of mentality and that begins even before the warmup. I'm definitely going to adjust some things it the warmup. I'm going to use the spring games to try various sequences in the warmup. It's something, we even adjusted our warmup with maybe two weeks or so to go in the season because we weren't getting what we needed out of our starts. I think when we made that adjustment it helped somewhat, it changed our energy when we started. That's obviously going to be important but I think I need to keep developing ways to change our mentality before we start. It's not, "Okay now the whistle's blowing, here we go," it's, "Come on, blow the whistle, let's start." I think we aren't there yet as an entire team mentality-wise. We have some kids that are like that that are chomping at the bit constantly and that's not to say that any of these kids don't want to be there or don't want to play, that's not what I mean, I just think we need to raise the intensity level or the focus level of their mentality before we start. That's something we're going to work on through the spring.