Athletics & Recreation / Magazine Feature

Coach, player spill women’s soccer success secrets

soccer player

Senior midfielder Jenna Billingsley. PHOTO BY: Denver Athletics.

Yes, DU’s women’s soccer team has what you’d expect to field a winning squad: speed, stamina, agility — all of those and more are there.

But those words come in second to another one: trust.

“The key word is trust,” says Michael Thomas, the women’s assistant soccer coach. “They trust each other and the coaching staff. So when you can get a group of people working towards one goal and truly trusting, success naturally follows.”

Evidently. This year the women are kicking butt and taking names. Big names.

In September, DU stunned Stanford, the number one ranked team in the nation. The coaches say it was the big upset of the year. 

“It’s nice to see the growth of the program and to be able to knock off a national power like Stanford,” Thomas says.  

And the women have gone on to hand other top teams marks in the L column. But is trust the only reason? 

Senior midfielder Jenna Billingsley agrees with Thomas on the trust issue but adds that to her it comes down to work ethic. 

“When our team decides to work hard I have no doubt we can beat any team in the country,” she says.  

She also credits coach Jeff Hooker for his attention to detail. 

“One coach might just say what formation the team will play, but Jeff helps us understand why we’re playing a certain way and how to become the best players within a formation,” she says. “Tactically, he teaches us new formations and a broader understanding of the subtleties of the game.”   

But beyond trust, hard work and even the coaches are the players — a crop of tenacious women who are not very familiar with losing. 

Billingsley, a two-time Sun Belt Conference player of the week, is clearly a standout. She booted the winning goal against Stanford with just under four minutes left in the game. 

“Jenna does so many things for this team it is unreal,” Thomas says. “She gets assists, scores goals and does all the dirty work in the midfield that wins soccer games.”  

But coaches are also quick to praise the defense and the back line and name Katie Oates, center back, Jamie Dierberger, center back, and Elise Mascitelli, left back, along with goalkeeper Mackenzie Snyder. 

Snyder leads the conference, allowing just one goal in eight Sunbelt Conference games. Her conference saves percentage is .960. 

Thomas calls the defense’s work “impressive.” Billingsley agrees. “The back line gives us the confidence to win big games against very talented opponents,” she says.

DU leads the conference by allowing only 0.57 goals per game.    

“With such strong talent, we have the potential for every game to be very good,” Billingsley says.

So what are the prospects for a 2007 SBC title?

“If we keep improving, we have a chance to do something pretty special, but the Sun Belt is too good of a conference to take anything for granted,” Thomas says.

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