Friday, October 11, 2013

The Turn Around: Lipscomb Women’s Soccer

From 2010-12, Lipscomb Women’s Soccer managed a combined eight points in conference action with a 2-24-2 record in those three seasons.

Nearly halfway through the 2013 Atlantic Sun conference schedule, the Bison are sitting at 4-5-4 overall with five points in conference play on a 1-1-2 record against A-Sun opponents.

The squad has rewritten the LU record books in several facets including goals scored in a season, points, wins and shutouts just to name a few.

So how have they turned the program around?

Looking at this year’s Bison roster you would never guess this would be the season they would tie the defending A-Sun Champion FGCU and defeat the A-Sun Finalist Mercer. The roster is comprised of 14 freshmen, eight sophomores, three juniors and four seniors. In total, the team consists of 20 out-of-state 
players, four international players and just five from the state of Tennessee.

“The reality is that the recruiting landscape for women’s soccer is very early, so girls are committing at the end of their sophomore year and the beginning of their junior year in high school so when I got the job here the top American players were picked over so I said we were going to get the best we could get and sprinkle in some international players,” Head Coach of the Lipscomb Kevin O’Brien explained.

LU currently has eight freshmen in its starting line-up but they are not letting that hold them back.

O’Brien has been pleased with the results from his young squad and how well they have bought into what he is trying to create with the program. 

“Did I expect the freshmen to come in and do as well as they have? No. But ultimately I am happy they have. I think they are getting experience that they typically would not get with other programs.”

Leading the charge is freshman stand-out Ellen Lundy who leads the A-Sun in goals (12) and points (27). As of October 7th, Lundy ranks in the top-ten in the nation in goals and points. 

Lundy has already crushed the Lipscomb program record for goals in a season which was six goals set in 2011 and broke the record for points in a season (14) set in 2008.

“Ellen is a funny story, her club coach told her it would be difficult to be a Division I forward and she should train to be a center back with her height, but when she came to the ID camp I knew she was a prototypical forward because you can play it to her and she can keep possession and make great decisions with the ball,” 
O’Brien said. “For me she was a perfect fit for what I wanted in a forward.”

Lundy’s jump start into her first collegiate season was a shock to many even her coach “I didn’t know Ellen would be quite as good as she is at scoring. I thought she would be setting up shots for others but she just has a knack for shaping shots.”

“The top-producing freshmen in Ellen and Caroline Springsteen both came to an ID camp and the fit at Lipscomb was what they were looking for and ultimately I could tell quickly that they were going to be impact players here,” O’Brien said.

The Bisons have never collected more than four wins in a season. As they currently stand, they have four victories with five games left in the season and stand a fair chance at earning a spot in the A-Sun Championship for the first time in program history.

“As we move forward and these players mature we will set our bar a little higher until we can reach the ultimate goal of winning an A-Sun Championship,” O’Brien stated.

Baylee Linnell is one of the upperclassmen on the squad and has seen the changes the team has gone through in the past couple of years.

“Before our team consisted of a lot of individual players, talented players but we hadn’t put it all together. Now we work off each other and put it together as a team and we are much more successful,” Linnell explained. “He (Kevin O’Brien) has set the team up to grow together and I’m really looking forward to seeing where the program is going.”

Linnell has been an important part in the Bisons season as she has six goals and five assists for 17 points. 
Linnell’s 17 points is tied for the third-most in the A-Sun.

Linnell says that the team’s success has derived from all of the players buying into the changes that have been made since O’Brien took over last season.

“You can really get kids excited if you cast the vision of ‘Hey, we want you to be part of the change,’ kids get excited about that,” O’Brien mentioned.

As part of that change Linnell remarked, “The progression I’ve seen is something I’m really proud to be a part of.”

One thing is certain, the players on Lipscomb’s Women’s Soccer squad are rewriting the program's history and it is something to be excited about.

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