Bill Solberg Interview: Lady Cougar Soccer

"We want to keep the winning tradition going, because that's what these girls deserve, that's what the alumni deserve and that's what this university is all about. I am extremely proud to be a part of the Cougar Coaching Family and hope to remain a Cougar for many years to come!" - Bill Solberg

CR: What drew you to UH originally?
BS: My good friend is the coach at Marquette for the Women's Team and he told me about the assistant position for UH. He told me to apply because I could really help that program and C-USA. I was hesitant at first, but decided to take the interview. When I saw the campus and the facilities, I just had to do whatever it takes to get the job. That pretty much sealed the deal. I knew there were some challenges with a young program but I wanted the challenge. The campus is beautiful and the facilities for soccer are some of the best in the nation!

CR: What are/were your responsibilities as a member of the Region III staff?
BS: Region III staff allows me to coach the best players in the Southern Region. I go to a week long camp in Montevallo, AL and coach and evaluate the best players form the southern states. (Texas, Oklahoma, Mississippi, North Carolina, Florida, Georgia, Alabama, Tennessee, Louisiana, Arkansas and South Carolina) Being able to coach these kids and get to know their personalities is great. Better yet, they get to know me and my coaching philosophies.

The rest of the year there will be several other Regional events that I have the opportunity to get invited and help coach the team that was selected. The Region III team that I help select, the National Team then selects them. So being a Region III coach is a very elite honor. I hope to continue to do a good job for US Soccer and Region III so I can continue to get invited back!

CR: Coach, last year we finished 8-8, I think that's pretty good for a young program finding its way. Your thoughts?
BS: I think we are definitely taking the right steps to build a classy professional Division I program. As a coach the record I was not overly happy with. I am extremely competitive so I don't like to lose a game. I want to win a Conference Championship and make it to the NCAA tourney and make good run at this thing. Because of the young program we graduated 11 players one season that was difficult to get back on a recruiting schedule and a result of a starting a program. We are back on recruiting 6-7 kids a years rather than 10 or 11. I schedule the toughest schedule in the history of the program next year, playing Baylor and SMU at home - two teams we have never beaten. Then we play Georgia, and South Carolina in the same weekend at home as well. Finally we head to C-USA teams and that is a battle in every game. We are going to continue to schedule tough to make us better and get us to break through in the national rankings. But I will not be totally happy until a Conference Title and NCAA run!

CR: I noticed the 5-2 record at home, do the ladies step it up a notch for their home field?
BS: We make it a point to the ladies to take extra pride in their home. Robertson stadium is a place other teams should fear coming to because they know how tough we are on our home turf. The old cliché, "not in our house" is said before we leave the locker room for every home game. The ladies are aware of their home field advantage and take pride in winning games at home to show the fans and University of Houston we will do whatever it takes to win for this program for the fans, for the alumni, and for us!

CR: Every fan loves a rivalry, who is the rival for your squad?
BS: We have several rivals in soccer. Every year we are known as the most physical team in the Conference. Which means we are always tackling and bumping players everywhere on the field. The obvious rival for us is cross-town rival Rice University. Rival games are always so difficult because no matter who has the better team, anyone can win on that day because of the rivalry and what it brings out in players. Everyone in C-USA is a rival but for whatever reason we always battle hardest against Marquette. We are more physical than in any other game.

CR: Coach we are a relatively young team; now traditionally in team sports, youth is a bad thing. Does the same hold true for Soccer?
BS: Youth brings desire, passion, and excitement to our team. However, it also brings inexperience and a learning curve. As much as we try to recruit the best players in the nation, there is time needed for them to really learn our possession style of play and what is expected of them. So, yes the same does hold true for soccer, but that is no excuse for us. We have to become better teachers to move the incoming freshmen along faster so they can grasp the system and impact the team immediately.

CR: Coach, tell me about the local soccer scene. I noticed on the 2003 roster you have several girls from Houston-area schools. Are local programs taking notice of the work you are doing at the U of H?
BS: The local scene is exceptional. We do not have as many Houston players as we would like and are very focused on that for next years recruiting class. We feel the more our program gets established the more Houston kids are going to recognize the great program and school they have right in their back yard! The coaching staff continues to work hard to reach out to the 70,000 youth soccer players and clubs. We perform free soccer clinics for clubs throughout the spring where we bring players out so that these kids can see college athletes and someone to look up to. In has been fairly successful so far, but we still want to reach out to more clubs and more kids and we want to spread the word about this up and coming program so we get more people in the stands.

CR: Coach, excuse my ignorance, but I noticed stats being taken for "corners" and "yellow cards". What do those mean?
BS: A corner kick is a kick taken from your offensive side of the field. It gives you an opportunity to serve the ball in the 18-yard box and try to finish the serve off a header or volley or shot of some kind. It is a free kick from the corner of the field.

A yellow card is a warning for a nasty tackle from behind, for pulling a shirt, for swearing. If a player receives two yellow cards in one game then she is kicked out of the game, the team has to play a player short, and the player must sit out the following game as well. It is a referee's rule to keep the game safe.

CR: We are predicted to finish 6th in our conference, is that about right, in your opinion? Or is Soccer like baseball, where any team can win any given day?
BS: I like where we are predicted to finish right now. It gives me a lot to talk about when it comes to motivation and respect. Obviously we want to make the Conference Tournament and in order to do that we need to finish in the top 8 teams but I believe we could be in the top 3 this year if things fall into place and the right players step up.

CR: Coach, Cincinnati is the team to beat in CUSA; how strong are they? We played them hard last year, losing 1-0 at their house.
BS: Defensively they are always very organized and very big strong kids. Unfortunately we do not play them this year in the regular season. We would love to get them on our home turf. They will again be very strong this year. Charlotte, Cincy and Marquette should all be very strong this year. But don't leave Houston out of the mix!

CR: Tell us a little bit about Nikki Hawkins and Alison Sinclair...they are both projected as being 1st team All C-USA.
BS: Nikki Hawkins is the Chandi Jones of the soccer team. She is a natural leader. Her drive, passion and competitive nature are incredible. She is the shortest player on the team yet she wins headers over opponents 6-12 inches taller than her. Nikki was an All Conference 2nd Team selection as a sophomore last season and we expect her to step up and lead the team in goals and assists and be a 1st All Conference Selection this year. I can't say enough good things are Nikki. She is setting a higher standard for this program. She has stayed in Houston over the summer and worked out at 7:00am every morning to make sure our program goes where she wants it. She is worth making it to a Cougar Soccer game just to see how talented and passionate she is about Cougar Soccer and the product we are putting out there for fans! (Nikki also maintains a 3.75 GPA)

CR: Coach, thank you for your time. In speaking to people who know you, they say you are a great Cougar. Is there anything you would like to tell Cougar Fans today?
BS: Everyone has been very supportive of our program. We have yet to have a losing regular season. I'm very proud of this program and will continue to do whatever it takes to take this program into the national spotlight. The inaugural class that started this program needs to see that their effort has paid off. We want to keep the winning tradition going, because that's what these girls deserve, that's what the alumni deserve and that's what this university is all about. I am extremely proud to be a part of the Cougar Coaching Family and hope to remain a Cougar for many years to come!

CR: Coach, good luck this season. We will try to get as many fans as we can out there to see you and the Lady Cougar Soccer Team!
BS: Any support would be greatly appreciated. Those that have never been to a soccer game, take a chance, I think you will be extremely impressed with these soccer athletes. They are passionate about being a Cougar. They know that when they put that uniform on that says "Houston" on the front it is a privilege and an honor to play for UH!

Go Coogs!


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