Former, current women’s soccer head coaches face off for first time; team shows off new scoring capability under new leadership
In its first matchup against former head coach John Antonisse, the women’s soccer team beat Letourneau 4-0 Oct. 2.
The game was a showcase of old against new coaching philosophies.
Antonisse, who served as UTD’s women’s soccer coach from 1997 to 2014, had a successful career with the Comets, going 208-94-34 overall. Under his leadership, UTD claimed one ASC championship and a conference co-championship in 2002 and 2004, respectively, along with two berths in the NCAA tournament.
After being let go last spring, he was hired as head coach by LeTourneau in June.
Despite the unique situation of playing their old head coach, the Comets tried their best to treat the game like any other.
“It doesn’t matter who it is or what the situation is, you just need to play every game the same,” said senior forward Carli Beckett.
Heading into the game, however, the circumstances facing the team could not be overlooked. Beckett said the game would be in a different environment, whether they wanted it to be or not.
A week before the event, head coach Kanute Drugan, who was hired in February, said Antonisse’s presence would not play into how he would prepare.
“(Antonisse) is not a factor in anything I’m doing,” Drugan said. “As far as that game is concerned, we take every game with the same approach, and that is nameless and faceless. When we played Trinity we didn’t ever use their name in practice; when we played anybody this year we didn’t use their name in practice.”
The contest was one-sided from the start, with Beckett starting off the attack with a goal on an assist from sophomore forward Megan Mugavero late in the 24th minute, Beckett’s 10th of the year. The scoring was relatively slow for the rest of the half, even though the Comets (8-1-1) controlled the ball for the majority of the period with 18 shots.
The second half quickly went south for the YellowJackets (4-5-1), as the Comets scored three times, twice by senior wing Alissa Burch and once by Mugavero.
Throughout the game, the drastic differences between the two coaching styles were apparent. The Comets’ passing attack was fluid and aggressive, focusing on moving the ball toward the center of the field to set up shots for the forwards.
On the other side, the few offensive possessions LeTourneau had were characterized by keeping the ball away from the other team rather than a focus on striking.
Drugan said he and assistant coach Sterling Mueller have attempted to make the offense much more dynamic and focused on movement, something that didn’t happen last year. He said Antonisse’s style was much more direct and about going to the ball.
This strategic change shows in the number of goals the Comets’ have scored this year, with the team already picking up 32 in only 10 games – just one goal short of last year’s total.
Beckett was happy about how the team performed, especially in the second half.
“We knew we were doing the right things; we just knew it was going to take a little bit for the goals to come,” she said. “There was nothing unhappy to talk about, nothing bad to talk about. We just kind of knew we were going to have to be patient … we were sitting there talking about how ‘The goals are gonna come. The goals are gonna come,’ and then boom, we get three more.”
She said after the game Antonisse came up and greeted his former team, complimenting them on how they played.
Antonisse said his history with UTD and the players on the team allowed him to know beforehand about what certain players would do in certain situations. He said he could see how the chemistry and experience between the players had helped them as a team.
Antonisse said the game was no different for him than any other, despite people asking him otherwise.
“I had people say, ‘Did you even sleep last night?’ I slept like a baby,” he said. “It didn’t even faze me. It was definitely just another game, because I’m 100 percent totally committed to Letourneau.”
The Comets played again Oct. 4 against UT Tyler, finishing with a 1-1 draw. Their next game will be at home Oct. 11 against Carroll.