The UTD women’s soccer team is focusing on the significance of player development this season with a squad that includes 17 freshmen.
With 36 members on the team, 24 of whom are underclassmen, head coach Kanute Drugan has strongly emphasized the importance of getting freshmen and sophomores involved immediately in their college careers.
By developing these players from the beginning, Drugan said he believes that they will be able to leverage the experiences learned early on in order to adapt efficiently to the system when they reach their junior and senior years. This way, they will have had three to four years of soccer experience by the time they become an upperclassman.
“It takes four to five seasons to get where you want to be,” Drugan said. “We’ve had to grow and mature and if we can get (to the ASC tournament) this year with juniors leading us, we’ll be playing teams where a lot of those seniors, it’ll be their third time. Our juniors will have had the game experience that a lot of seniors will have had, and I think that evens the playing field.”
Junior forward Melissa Fulfer’s exposure to Drugan’s system helped her become comfortable with the formations and tactics used throughout the season. In addition to this, Fulfer is able to mentor the younger players and ensure that they are successful both on and off the field.
“It was a lot of fun and I actually enjoyed being able to play a lot my freshman year,” Fulfer said. “I’m really thankful for it now because we have the experience of seniors just because (Drugan) let us play so much.”
When Drugan first came to UTD in 2014, he was able to work with the freshmen and make sure they understood the game plans and formations. Those freshmen are now seniors this year, and he said he believes they can serve as valuable role models who strive to aid freshmen and sophomores adjust to the demands of college soccer.
Forward Nique Enloe, one of the 17 freshmen, scored her first collegiate goal against Grove City College within the first 30 seconds of kickoff. As a member of the new wave of underclassmen joining the Comets, Enloe hopes to play a key role by not only helping the Comets win the ASC Championship this season, but also building for long-term success through in-game experience, learning from the juniors and seniors on the team.
“I really like how (the juniors and seniors) welcomed us onto the team,” Enloe said. “We can ask them questions and they help coach us and bring us along as well.”
Last season, the women’s team finished with twelve wins and seven losses. Their campaign came up short after a second-round elimination in the ASC tournament, which came down to the wire against Hardin-Simmons University. Despite the disappointing exit, the Comets have high expectations to make it back to tournament and prepare for a deep run.
“My expectations for the season are to focus on the details and playing the formation the way we should,” Melissa Fulfer said. “We also want a ring and that’s our end goal.”