Steve Holeman, above, has led his soccer teams to three straight NSCAA Academic Team nods at Georgia.
Nov. 19, 2012
By Matthew Pearce, UGA Sports Communications
ATHENS, Ga. --- Georgia head soccer coach Steve Holeman didn’t want to be sitting behind his desk in November. He didn’t want the season to end in Knoxville, Tenn., on October 25. But even after concluding one of the most difficult seasons of his 15-year career, Holeman is still able to draw positives from the Bulldogs injury ravaged season.
“Certainly you can take positives out of this season,” Holeman said. “Some players got a chance to play that, had we been 100 percent healthy, they probably wouldn’t have. We had players that didn’t make our travel squad early in the season that were getting significant playing time by the end of the season. When you have injuries like that, you rely on the players to step up and make a difference and that experience will certainly come in handy down the road.”
Georgia lost four key players to long-term injuries with midfielders Alexa Newfield and Laura Eddy both suffering season-ending knee injuries, freshman midfielder Andie Fontanetta breaking her collarbone and missing the majority of her rookie season and freshman forward Cara Smith dealing with lingering shin pain that ultimately led to surgery.
Along with those four major injuries, 10 other players missed playing or practice time with injuries. These ranged from a concussion to a high ankle sprain.
While this removed players like the Hermann Trophy candidate Newfield, it did allow several players an opportunity that would not otherwise have been presented to them. Holeman recognized the work of those players that saw more time than they expected in September.
“I think you look at Chika Ibiam who was one of the players that didn’t play early on, towards the middle of conference play she was one of the first players off the bench,” Holeman said. “We had to shift some things around. Tori Patterson, who’s typically a center back, found time in the midfield and up front. Certainly players are going to reap rewards later on, they’ve improved now they’ve played significant minutes in college soccer.”
While it has been difficult to fully appreciate the benefits of such a difficult season, with the Bulldogs finishing 7-11-2 (3-8-2 SEC), Holeman has been able to look forward to next season and believes the struggles of 2012 will only serve the Bulldogs well in 2013 and beyond.
“It was a very humbling experience going through this,” he said. “I think any team in the conference that lost a core of their team probably suffered the same consequences. It’s motivation for us to work harder in the offseason. I think the number one thing I can say is we’re going to be back. Our staff is very confident, our players are very confident but we know it’s not just going to happen, we know we have to work hard and we will. We’re just going to have to outwork people. We know we’re going to get our players back from injury and we’ll be a much different team next year than we were this year.”
The Bulldogs are currently working around NCAA limitations and university holidays to work on preparing for the spring season. Despite being limited to only eight hours with the players, Holeman said that everything is in place for Georgia soccer to have a successful short-term and long-term future.
“We’re going to put a lot of work into our offseason and our team will be prepared. We’re not going to be a top-five team to watch [like entering 2012], expectations probably won’t be that high for us based on what happened this season. But our expectations for ourselves will be very high,” Holeman said. “I think from the outside they’re going to look at this past season and think that’s a reflection of who we really are, but it wasn’t. I think we’ll surprise some people, I think we’ll be a much different team, we’ll have a different team dynamic, we’ll be very deep and anyone who takes us likely based on the fall of 2012 will be in for a surprise.”