Aug. 9, 2006
Charles Morrow's first season as head coach for the Lipscomb Bisons soccer team didn't produce an Atlantic Sun Conference Championship, but the 5-11-1 record, 2-6 in the conference, did give his team a huge confidence boost for the 2006 season.
"Coming in last season I really didn't have too many expectations," said Morrow. "I think we were just trying to get through it more than anything and evaluate as we went along.
"From the outside looking in, you can say that the players did better. They won a lot more games than they won the year before. Nationwide we were eighth in the country in terms of the most improved programs. You look at that and think that the players should be happy with that, but they were pretty disappointed. At the end of the day they were mildly pleased with the change and the results but still not satisfied. They had high expectations."
The Bisons were picked to finish seventh in the A-Sun by the coaches in a preseason poll. Morrow knows his team can beat that prediction. Even better, his players are not willing to settle for anything less than a berth in the A-Sun Tournament.
"The guys that we have back from last season have improved throughout the course of the year and the spring," said Morrow. "And a lot of the new guys that we have coming in will compete for time right away. The expectations are even higher among the players than they were last season."
The Bisons were known for their defensive abilities last season, but Morrow is looking for more offense this time around, especially from some of the new additions to the team.
"With a couple of exceptions we didn't give up a whole lot of goals last year," said Morrow. "We were able to be pretty competitive with almost everyone. But if we didn't score first then it wasn't going to happen.
"Even though Scott Mason had a game with a hat trick and Kevin Terry had several games with game-winning goals, really our main offensive threat was Ben Page. Everybody we played against keyed on that and that made us one-dimensional. Ben was the only guy up top who was consistently a threat."
Morrow is bringing in 13 new players this season. Most of them have the ability to jump start the Bisons offense. But he stops short at saying the Bisons will have a more offensive-oriented approach this season.
"In recruiting this year we tried to find the best guys that we could find who could give us more bite in the attacking third," said Morrow. "Several of the guys coming in could do that for us.
"We might not be so much offensive-minded, but more competent in the attacking third. It might be that we will be so much better as a team that we don't have to be offensive- minded. We will have guys who are better at getting behind defenses and better at running at defenders. I think it will make us better in the attacking third. Because of that we might give up fewer goals because we will be so much better."
One of the concerns for Morrow is making sure that the newcomers become members of the team on all levels as quickly as possible.
"It is almost like starting over again to have so many guys coming in," said Morrow. "It is a big challenge, not only for me, but for the current players. Everyone has their own individual expectations of what role they want to be in. Sometimes that view is accurate and sometimes it is not. Our team chemistry will be a pretty important piece of our success this year... how quickly the guys bond and jell together on the field.
"Something that is really important to me is that the upperclassmen have the understanding that this is not my guys coming in versus the players who have been here before. We want the best people out there who will give us the best opportunity to win and be successful."
The Bisons are welcoming 15 returning players. Morrow and assistant coach Kevin Burk have seen the veteran players benefit from their hard work the past few months.
"The guys who have been here want to do better," said Morrow. "They are hard on themselves. They have risen to every challenge that we have thrown out there. A lot of it is just maturity.
"We practiced and trained everyday this spring. We gave them the weekends off, but we practiced everyday. On their days to lift weights we practiced. We just felt like we needed to be on the field with the ball in order to make up as much ground as possible."
The Bisons are coming off an undefeated spring season with victories over Vanderbilt, Belmont, Covenant College and a team from Uruguay.
"We felt like Jake grew quite a bit in the spring," said Morrow. It will be a good fight between them. It will be interesting to see who emerges out of preseason and during the season."
The rest of the starting lineup is going to be more difficult to determine. There is depth on defense, in the midfield and among the forwards. But sorting out a starting lineup will take some time.
"The back is probably the most solidified area," said Morrow. "Jeff Boynton is the right back. Xander Vooys has done very well. I don't know if we will play three or four on the back. Tim Hunter is coming back after being a medical red-shirt and will get a look. Plus we have some good backs coming in."
In the midfield are veterans Terry and Mason, both juniors, along with senior Tyler Johnson. Newcomers Kezi Lara, Benji Lance and Josh Inglebright will also get long looks. Alexi Achilleos, who has played extensively in Greece while in high school, will challenge on either defense or in the midfield.
"The midfield is where there is the most competition and the biggest uncertainty," said Morrow. "I have no idea who is going to be there. It could be any number of people."
Preseason drills will be even more important this season as playing time and starting spots are up for grabs at many positions.
"We have tried to talk about the starting lineup," said Morrow. "At this point it is hard to speculate."