Coach David Jones feels it is only a matter of time before his club starts winning.
“It took the men’s team about four years to get their act together,” said Jones a former assistant to the men’s team. “But I think we can turn things around quicker.”
Over the last two seasons, the Owls have posted a disappointing 12-26-1 record. These unimpressive results weren’t due to a lack of athleticism, according to Jones.
“We have had a good nucleus with a lot of talent,” he said, “and this year is probably the most talented team we have had.”
Jones took over as the interim coach following the abrupt departure of then-coach Seamus McWilliams. Jones is the third coach in the program’s 13-year history. After he took over in September of last year, he recognized that many changes were needed.
After the coaching switch, athletics director Bill Bradshaw noticed an immediate difference with Jones. In February he had the interim tag removed and was named head coach.
“He (Jones) was able to get the players to buy into his approach in a short period of time, and the improvement on the field was noticeable,” said Bradshaw on owlsports.com of the hiring. “His commitment to the program and its future made it an easy decision.”
Bradshaw’s decision wasn’t very surprising to Jones.
“I expected to be the coach by the start of the new season,” Jones said. “I still had to go through the hiring process, but I had a pretty good feel for the situation.”
Before taking over, the team was disorganized and lacked focus.
“We used to be down the shore in the summer,” senior co-captain Christine McInaw said. “Our minds weren’t focused on soccer like they should have been.”
In order to improve the squad’s mindset, Jones took simple and pragmatic approaches. He put them through a grueling training schedule that included four-a-day practices.
Instead of tanning, swimming, and relaxing this summer, it was practice, practice, and more practice.
“I really wanted to set the tone,” Jones said. “I wanted a focus on fitness, and more importantly, I wanted the girls focused on being a team.”
Senior goalkeeper Jackie Mauro said the effects of Jones’ practice schedule was more intense than what the team experienced in the past.
“We weren’t really together as a team before,” she said. “Now we do a lot more together, and we are definitely much more competitive.”
Jones’ approach seems to work. Last year, the Owls managed just 12 goals in 19 games, while their opponents netted 55. There was also a dramatic deficiency in the Owl’s shots on goal, which pointed to problems on the defensive side of the ball.
Jones’ attitude seems to be rubbing off on his squad, as they opened the season with two straight wins.
The question is will this success carry on through the rest of the season?
“I think we can reach twelve wins this year,” Jones said. “We have four seniors who are real leaders, and we have some of our younger players ready to contribute.”
Andrew Monaghan can be reached at email@example.com.