The Bisons are a week away from starting preparations for the 2009 season. They open at home Aug. 22 with an exhibition game with the University of Louisville at the Lipscomb Soccer Complex. The regular season features a tough non-conference field that includes both Michigan and Michigan State.
Coach Charles Morrow, beginning his fifth season with the Bisons, took some time to answer a few questions about the 2009 team for LipscombSports.com.
Last season was the best in the history of the program with both team and individual records being set. How do you motivate this year’s players to take their games to even higher levels?
“It is easy to find contentment and a sense that we have arrived once we have had that success. It is not only a challenge for this year, but it has been a challenge for the last three years. We have done a good job as coaches in working very hard to find the right player, but we have also worked very hard to keep the players focused on getting better and not being content with the things we have accomplished.
“This year is a huge test. We are not surprising anybody in the conference this year either. Every year we have been here we have done better in the conference than where we were picked in preseason. I think we will be in the top five this season. We have to work harder this season. We give our best every time we step on the field because we know we are going to be getting the best from the team we are playing against.”
The “Sophomore” slump is often talked about in sports. Garret Pettis, last year’s A-Sun Freshman of the Year, will find it challenging to duplicate his team record 12 goals and one assist from last season. How do you keep him from having a letdown?
“Garret Pettis had an unbelievable season for us last year. He scored some great goals and did a lot for us. But he would be the first to tell you that without the cast around him that would never have happened.
“We have forwards who sat on the bench last year that are better finishers than Garret. You might look at it that Garret has a spot locked up, but I don’t think Garret feels that way. We have addressed the sophomore year with him. He has been playing in the summer and did well. “Garret is a team guy. He is not someone who is going to get caught up in his numbers. As long as we are doing well and progressing he is not going to be caught up in trying to duplicate what he has done.”
Forward Miguel DaSilva has been the driving force for the offense the past two seasons. Last season he had more assists (11) than goals (nine). What do you envision for him this season?
“Miguel is so dangerous one vs. one. You can’t stop Miguel from getting by you. You might take the ball from him, but if he gets isolated during a game then two out of three times he is going to get behind the defender.
“He is just so good getting to the goal and creating opportunities. Not only does he create a lot for himself, but he creates a lot for others. He is a pretty good passer, but he also draws so much attention to himself.”
Defensively, Kezi Lara has been a leader. What skills do Kezi possess that make him such an effective defender?
“No. 1, Kezi is quick and fast and can cover a lot of ground. If he gets out of position he can still recover. He is one of the strongest players on the field. He carries himself very well and knows how to use his body very well in terms of protecting the ball.
“He has played at a very high level. He has seen world class competition playing for the U-17 national team for Trinidad and Tobago. He was originally a midfielder and talked about moving him to the back. We thought he might be a liability and he asked us to name one person who had ever gotten by him. . He takes pride in the fact that one vs. one no one is going to get by him. Whether he is dribbling or defending he is a great one vs. one player. A lot of times being a good defensive player is just a matter of character and who you are.”
T.J. Williams is the only starter from last season not returning to the team. While it would appear that the bulk of the roster spots are set, you are expecting a great deal of competition for starting time?
“Every position is open. There is a little bit of credit for what has been done in the past. But if someone is performing better than you on a given day, or in a given week, that person is going to play. We are going to put the best 11 on the field.”
How unusual is it for an NCAA Division I soccer team to have so many of its starters returning from the previous season?
“I would imagine there is no one in the conference that has more starters returning. It is very unheard of to have that many returning. I think it is a good thing. We have a better idea of the type of player and the type of person each one of these guys is who are coming back.
“It’s not easy to do the same thing we did last year and go out and have success. If we don’t build on what we did last year in terms of improvement and building on players playing different roles, and if we don’t grow, we will not have the same year we had last year. That’s a huge point we talked about with our returning guys during the spring. And we will continue to harp on it throughout the year if guys aren’t improving and getting better or if they are not broadening in the sense of being able to do more and different things on the field.”
Last season Patrick Walsh settled into the No. 1 goalkeeper’s spot after splitting time in net with Brent McGee. Does Walsh retain No.1 status for this season?
“Toward the end of the season Walsh won that role. He was injured a little bit in the spring. The thought would be that he would come in as the No.1 goalkeeper.
“Brent McGee is also a very capable keeper. And Joey DeRosa, who redshirted last year, was the only keeper in the spring to not surrender a goal. Who is going to start there is still to be determined and we prefer it to be that way.”