St. Vincent girls soccer players add voice to team's halftime adjustments

Thursday, June 2, 2011
St. Vincent's Courtney Heberlie kicks the ball around St. Elizabeth Academy's Amanda Batty during their Class 1 sectional game last month in Perryville, Mo. (Kristin Eberts)

PERRYVILLE, Mo. -- St. Vincent girls soccer coach Dusty Wengert tries to end each halftime speech with a question, almost a solicitation.

This is the first year he remembers his players taking advantage of his offer.

"I always ask at the end of my spiel at halftime, 'Are you seeing what I'm seeing? Is there something else?'" he said. "That way I kind of leave the door open for any adjustments I don't see that are in front of the girls themselves. I think this year is the first year someone actually said, 'OK, you know what, if nobody else is going to speak up, I will.'"

The Indians have won two of their last three games in the second half. They went to halftime scoreless against St. Pius in the district title game and John Burroughs in the state quarterfinal contest. Halftime adjustments helped St. Vincent prevail both times.

"Sometimes during the first half, we don't always play up to what we are," senior Chelsie Boxdorfer said. "At halftime, a few of our players might see what other people can do better and point it out."

St. Vincent's Abby Lappe, right, and St. Elizabeth Academy's Amanda Batty chase the ball during their Class 1 sectional game last month in Perryville, Mo. (Kristin Eberts)

The players said they started speaking up early in the season, but it was awkward at first.

"I was kind of nervous the whole time because I didn't know if I should say it or not," junior Abby Lappe said. "But a few other people started speaking up so I just figured I might as well. It can only help. Coach is not the kind of person who's going to get mad at that. He knows he can't see some things."

The Indians will make their third consecutive appearance at the Class 1 final four Friday and Saturday. This year's juniors and seniors played a crucial role in the team's state championship in 2009 and third-place finish last year. They're relying on their experience to help the team improve during games.

"This season I feel like we've been the most talkative out of every single year that I've played," junior Storm French said. "Now that the juniors and seniors have both experienced winning vs. getting third, we know what it's like and we want to be back on top again."

French started the season as a midfielder but moved to sweeper to shore up the defense and because her legs started aching during games. She said the vantage point from the sweeper position allows her to see potential areas for the offense to attack.

"Sometimes we'll notice we're not going to the ball first, and us as backs, we can kind of notice the passing patterns that the other team has," French said. "We're more able to be able to get there first."

Lappe said the information offered at halftime varies game to game.

"The way their defenders are set up," she said. "We can tell forwards what kind of certain runs to make. The way they make passes or if they fall in love with one side -- ways to help prevent that."

Wengert said he can't remember a time when he thought his players' halftime analysis was wrong.

"I think for the most part we've been on the same wavelength," he said. "There are times I just don't see what they're seeing or there are times they don't see what I'm seeing. It's funny because then you go back and watch film and nine times out of 10 we're both right."

Junior Courtney Heberlie said the tone of the advice never is accusatory.

"I feel like they understand what I'm saying," she said. "They know I'm there to help them, not to criticize them."

Wengert doesn't have a problem with players telling each other where they need to be on the field. It's something he encourages from the beginning of the season.

"We're not going to point fingers to place blame, but if you're pointing a finger to tell so-and-so to be in the right place, that's OK," he said. "We're not griping at you, we're not mad at you, we're trying to get you in the right place where we're going to try to play the ball so you have an idea."

The younger players have responded well to their teammates offering halftime advice.

"I feel like it helps out more because they're out there with us," sophomore Holly Cissell said. "Sometimes we don't see things that are going wrong or going right. To have people who are on the same level as us to tell us what to do is really helpful."

Freshman Holly Blandford said she almost listens more to her teammates' than Wengert's halftime talk.

"It's mostly just helpful," she said about her teammates' advice. "They don't ever accuse. It's an eye-opener."

The players all agree the best part of the players offering their insights at halftime is when it turns into a goal.

"It's very satisfying because I think it brings us closer as a team to know that we can overcome things and see our problems and be able to fix them," Cissell said.

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