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Paul Nelson ready to fill wife's shoes in interim as Southeast Missouri State women's soccer coach

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Heather Nelson
There is a chance Southeast Missouri State soccer coach Heather Nelson will miss the entire 2012 season, according to her husband and Redhawks associate head coach.

But Paul Nelson said Wednesday that his wife is expected to be fine eventually after suffering a broken back and a broken wrist during an accident last month.

Southeast issued a news release Tuesday that said Heather Nelson will be sidelined for the immediate future due to an accident over the summer but gave no further details.

"It was just a freak accident," Paul said. "But it's nothing life threatening. We're expecting a full recovery in about three to five months."

Paul will run the team while his wife recovers. He is a former professional soccer player at the sport's highest level who has been an assistant with the program since Heather became coach for Southeast's inaugural season in 1999.

Paul Nelson
But Paul said Heather, a four-time Ohio Valley Conference coach of the year who has guided Southeast to a 130-78-26 record in 13 seasons, will be missed sorely on the sidelines.

"There's certainly a transition," Paul said. "She is the absolute inspiration of the team, the leader. We're going to miss her team talks before the game and at halftime."

Paul said Heather, while absent from practice, has been in contact with the players primarily through text messaging. He said she probably will try to watch a home game from the Houck Stadium press box in the next several weeks.

The Redhawks are the defending OVC regular-season champions. Last year's title was their fourth. Southeast also has won two OVC tournament crowns and made two NCAA tournament appearances.

"It's been hard without her," senior defensive standout Hayley Abbott said. "We just wish her all the best."

Southeast opens the season Friday with a 6:30 p.m. home game against Illinois State.

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