Monday Press Conference: Dean Duerst

Women's soccer coach discusses team's 4-0 start, the team's top players and Olympic soccer

Opening Statement

"The one thing I want to say is I want to congratulate (former UW women's soccer head coach) Greg Ryan. He actually was with the Olympic Team and won a gold medal with that team in Greece. So kudos to him.

"This is our best start in a long time, and it's just an indication that we've been building, I think, a couple of very solid recruiting classes in a row, and we have the leadership in this group right now. I think we played one game, Ohio, that wasn't a very tough, tough match, but the other three, especially yesterday's, Baylor put us into a lot of adversity, showed some weaknesses in our defending, which at this point our defense has been a steady part of our game and very consistent. Yet we find ourselves down to nothing, partly due to kind of the really tough-knocks play that I think Wisconsin stands for in terms of the way in which we need to play in our conference was not there, the bite was not there. And what turned the game was a couple freshmen came in and a senior, Marla Froelich, came in and she ended up scoring two goals, turned the game around for us, and we got the game winner in overtime with one second left in the first overtime. And it was an indication that through adversity this team can still win.

"This past weekend, beating Missouri and Baylor, two Big 12 teams that are very good was very similar to what we'll face down the line in terms of Big Ten play. And so two tough matches. We also were without two of our top kids. One, Kara Kabellis, was back here (in Madison), was out during the week with an ankle sprain. And then Taylor Walsh, a new incoming freshman that starts for us up top was just out with a bruised ankle on Sunday's game.

"So we've had some great impact of our freshmen, two Madison-area kids, Ann Eshun from Edgewood, Taylor Walsh from East High, have really made an impact for us, I think, in our lineup as well as a top goalkeeper from Atlanta, Ga., Lynn Murray. And we fortunately have Amy Vermeulen back. The scouting reports on us are if you stop No. 6, Vermeulen, you'll stop the Badgers. I just don't believe that because we're scoring from many different areas this year. We have 14 goals this season, which is a great start in terms of four games, most productive start since 1989."

It seems like the men's team in some of their pictures and ads have some slogans, that their goal is like back to the NCAA, kind of the Super Bowl or . . . for you, what's the realistic goal? What is the slogan and goal for your team this year?

"Our kids are hungry to be in the NCAA tournament, knowing last year, I think, we were just right there on the edge. We were, 2002 we made it. We got to the second round, lost to Pepperdine in overtime. Last year, we had a better team overall and just didn't find a way to get there. This year's team has the leadership to drive us there. We also have what I would say is more of a complete defense, more solid goalkeeping, somebody that's just a large presence, and like hockey, that can turn a lot of games. But it's also just offensive production. We're getting the production. That's what you need to make NCAA tournaments. And certainly, our conference, there's so much parity, you just have to get through your conference with a winning record and usually that gets you into the tournament."

I know you want to get this program into the NCAA every single year. Do you feel that pressure, that you need to do that? Do you think you should?

"Yeah. You know, we've had that sort of the odd-year syndrome right now where on the even years, we're making the tournaments, but again, just last year, I felt our team was, was better, and that's what you're building, to be a better program with each new recruiting class. This year's class I think really complemented last year's. And it's trying to get the personnel in the right positions, trying to get key players making key plays for you. And that starts, we have what I would say is, the vertebrate of a soccer team is that a lot of our strength is right down the middle. We have a senior leader, Jess Ring, in the back, and a senior in front of her, Molly Meuer. Kara Kabellis is probably our best overall player right in front of them with another junior, Marisa Brown, and Vermeulen up top, complemented with some other players that are playing their roles. That is what we've done, I think, over the last two years in recruiting is really added to the strength of some of our other personnel. We didn't have Vermeulen last year and that kind of hurt our production up front."

What do you expect this weekend in your home opener?

"Yeah, just for the players, winning two consecutive weekends on the road is just a compliment to their preparation and our preseason. Coming home is a relief. In that sense, we get to show, I think, our Madison crowd what we're about. We should be able to handle, and never overlook a team, Friday night's game is a first-year program [North Dakota State], we should be able to sort of dominate them. But nothing's for certain and we take each game at a time. But we've got Boston College coming in, first time we've ever played them. It's another different opponent from a different conference, a different region. That's what gets you into NCAA tournaments is to beat a Baylor, to beat a Kentucky, teams from different conferences, teams from different regions. Boston College will be our big game on the weekend. So, it's Sunday at 1 p.m. It will be a great, great time to show what we've got."

Do you figure in the Big Ten race this year?

"Oh, yes. I think that Penn State and Illinois are the top two teams right now. And we get Penn State at home the first Big Ten match. But our kids really came off of some momentum from last year's defeat of them here at home. You look at ways in which our team gained confidence. That was a huge game for just our players. And for them to believe that we can beat anybody in the country, any given day in this sport, women's soccer, it just can happen."

Dean, women's soccer was big in the Olympics. Have you noticed any surge in interest or anything since then?

"I think that it's, you know, with the retirement of some of these key leaders of that program and then the kind of on comings of some of the youth players and the recognition they're getting throughout the country, we've sort of felt that on the youth levels and just, more people are just aware of, I think, that team's success and those players. Mia Hamm obviously is the one that shines, but you've got those other ones that are much like the basketball program and just that that, you know, we followed the softball program because of their success and their domination. But you see that the success of women's soccer on a national scale and on an Olympic scale and on a world scale is, I think, definitely something that Madison kids are following here locally. You know, they're talking about those kind of things when we're doing camps and clinics. They understand who these ladies are that are so successful."

Does their success over the last four to six years translate into better women's soccer? I mean, are you getting a better player or are there much more good players?

"I think, Tom, a combination because there are definitely, we're getting better players, which is a credit to maybe some of the coaching, some of the development at the youth levels, but there's many more better players, which is now adding to all these different conferences like the Big Ten, it's solid from (11th place to first). And there is, in the Big 12, in the SEC, in the Big East, they're very solid now, where before it was maybe, you know, three solid teams out of the conferences. Now you got eight to 10 solid programs with depth in their programs, and that's kind of where we're at, is our bench won us the game the other day. And that comes from just better players coming through."

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