James Profetto/Contributing Writer
FIU women’s soccer drilled home lots of what Head Coach Thomas Chestnutt hopes to capitalize and improve upon this offseason during Thursday’s second day of practice. Whether it is defense, offense or the aggressive mentality, he wants to see out of his players.
“We evaluated the first day [of practice] and started to get little pieces together. [The] intensity was great and they had a great workout at the beach this morning,” said Chestnutt.
A day full of fine-tuning and getting to the level they were once at before season’s end is no easy task. Thursday’s practice included two-on-two drills, nine-on-nine drills and plenty of work with through balls and one touch passes, aspects that Chestnutt feels are important to attack during games.
“Right now, it’s just about the different pieces. Whenever you come back from a big vacation, it’s about getting the tempo up,” said Chestnutt.
The tempo was high for the full 75 minutes. Utilizing the two halves of the field gave every player good amounts of touches and encouraged a high-intensity mindset. Chestnutt feels the team must get going in the right direction in terms of tempo.
When asked if tempo is the most glaring area of improvement he wants to see in his team, Chestnutt said: “Look, whenever you win seven out of 20 games, you have a lot to work on. There’s no question—it’s technically and tactically. But, we have a fantastic group. They’re highly motivated and they’re pushing each other.”
The Panthers finished 16th, last in Conference USA, in goals allowed with 39 in 2013, an area that falls underneath the umbrella of improvement for 2014.
The vocal nature of each athlete on the field was showcased. During the nine-on-nine drills, with one team donning orange jerseys and the other a green hue, players yelled from across the field, calling for crosses that would switch the field in an instant.
One leader amongst the team looking to rally her teammates is senior Ashleigh Shim. With a team-high eight goals last season, Shim knows that her work is not done.
“There’s always room for improvement. Even when you’re the best of the best, you still want to get better each and every day,” said Shim.
Shim mentioned the technical work that was done during practice, saying that the most crucial part of soccer is handling the ball.
“You can run all day and night, but if you don’t know how to kick, if you have donkey feet, it’s not going to work,” said Shim.
When asked after practice if there were any areas she could improve upon, Shim simply answered: “Score more goals.”
Shim recognized that she has to embrace the leadership role her teammates will instill in her throughout the regular season, mentioning “trust and credibility” being two qualities that are important to carry onward.
But, there was one quality demonstrated shortly after that Shim never mentioned: selflessness.
When asked about her team’s goals this season, she seemingly breathed a sigh of relief and said, “Oh, good, because I don’t want this to be all about me.”
The team’s goals are to win the C-USA tournament and be ranked top 25 in the nation, and being selfless brings this FIU team one step closer to their endgame.
The women’s soccer team opens up their regular season Aug. 22 against Arizona at home.