Aug. 16, 2004
WITH LAST SEASON'S SUCCESS, HAVE YOU CHANGED YOUR APPROACH TO THIS SEASON?
We really haven't changed much. If anything, we have narrowed our focus and continued to set standards for our program. Two years ago, one of our main goals was to take one game at a time and try not to look ahead. We have continued to build on that, and with the success of last season, we decided to narrow that goal down not only with the games, but now we are going to take practices one day at a time. There is not much difference between the No. 1 team in the nation and No. 150. No matter how good a team is or how much better it may be than its opponent, one mistake can sometimes lead to a loss. That's the given nature of the game and it makes it very important to take one game and one practice at a time. Last spring, we started putting more emphasis on preparation and starting better. We had to come-from-behind too many times last season, so this season we want to start better. I believe it starts with practice and preparation.
WHAT ARE THE TEAM'S GOALS THIS SEASON?
Even with last season's success, our goals, or "prizes" as we call them, have remained consistent. We want to win a conference championship and an NCAA title. I believe we are better equipped to achieve both of those prizes this season than we were a year ago. This team has improved from last year and our expectations are getting higher and higher. We expect to win every game this season, but with our schedule as good as it is there can be no letdowns. We will have to play well in every game this season if we want to be successful.
WHAT ARE SOME OF THE STRENGTHS OF THIS YEAR'S TEAM?
One of our biggest strengths is the leadership of our upperclassmen. Our seniors serve as good examples for the rest of our team. This is a very mature and seasoned team in terms of experience and competing at such a high level. Our senior class has been to the NCAA Tournament second round and defeated the top-ranked team in the country, which not a lot of teams can say, but they've also lost games they shouldn't have. I think the latter continues to drive this team and make them even hungrier for success. As I stated before, we have high expectations as a team, but the senior classes' expectations for this team are even higher.
Obviously, our other strengths are the return of seven starters and 15 total returners, and we also have the nation's second-leading scorer in Ryan Pore and the fourth-ranked scorer from last year in junior-transfer Daniel Wasson. Lawson Vaughn is another player who should have a big impact on our team. He transferred to us during the spring semester. Along with our returners, we have a 10-member recruiting class that is ranked 24th in the nation.
WHAT ARE SOME OF THE KEYS FOR THIS TEAM TO HAVE A SUCCESSFUL SEASON?
The biggest key for us, as it is with any team, is to stay healthy. We need to get better defensively, which we worked on that extensively during the spring. We gave up way too many goals last season. I think it's important for every player to understand that we need to defend as a collective group. We also need to get better in goal. We have one returning goalkeeper in Terry Boss and we signed three more to compete for playing time and perhaps a starting position.
HOW WILL THE PRESEASON NATIONAL RANKING AFFECT THIS TEAM?
I don't think our preseason top-25 ranking will change how we approach and play our type of game. We dealt with this situation last season when we were nationally ranked for a majority of the year. A ranking is great for publicity and recruiting, but it is also a sign of respect. A ranking doesn't guarantee a postseason bid, but it's great recognition for your players and program. We want to be ranked and have been many times over the last two seasons. I believe we play high quality soccer here at TU and we've gained a lot of national respect on the national level over the past two years.
YOU ARE BEGINNING YOUR 10TH SEASON AS THE HEAD COACH AT TULSA. DOES IT FEEL LIKE YOU HAVE BEEN HERE THAT LONG?
It's really hard for me to believe I have been the head coach here for nine years and this my 10th season. My 10th year has come a lot faster than I thought. I never thought I would be here for this long, but we've built a quality program. We play a very competitive schedule every year and I believe we have one of the best collegiate soccer facilities in the nation. We are successfully competing at the highest level of Division I soccer and consistently winning against top teams, and those are goals we have built toward ever since I was hired as the head coach.
WHAT ARE SOME OF YOUR PERSONAL HIGHLIGHTS FROM THE PAST 10 SEASONS?
I think the biggest accomplishment has been the construction of our facility and the growth of the program. Another highlight would be the top-25 rankings we have received during my past nine seasons. We have been ranked among the top teams in the nation during five of my nine years.
Since I have been the head coach, we have successfully competed in two conferences. We played in two Western Athletic Conference Championship games in 1997 and 1998, and finished second in the Missouri Valley Conference last season.
One of my greatest memories as a the head coach at Tulsa came in 2002 when we played top-ranked Stanford in Palo Alto, California. We beat them 3-1 and it was a huge win for our program. That victory really jumped started us in terms of respect on the national level.
The 2003 season was a very special year. We were ranked most of the season and gained a lot of respect with the way we played and the success we had. We not only reached the NCAA Tournament, but also won our first game and advanced to the second round.
Another highlight during my nine seasons has been the fact that we have been successful with more than one class, or group of players, and I am very proud of that. Some programs are only good with one class for a couple of years and then have to rebuild, or never reach that same success level again.
WHAT GAMES HAVE BEEN THE MOST EXCITING FOR YOU?
There are two games that stick out in my mind and they both came when we were part of the WAC. In the 1997 WAC Tournament semifinals, we trailed Fresno State 1-0 in the final seconds of regulation. We were literally in the final seconds of the game and on the brink of being eliminated, when Donivan Bradshaw scored the game-tying goal with 0:01 remaining in the game. In the second overtime, Donivan scored the game-winning goal as the clock expired and it was unbelievable. What was even more amazing was the fact that one of our players was ejected in the second period and we played the rest of the game and nearly two overtime periods with just 10 players.
The second game was also against Fresno State, except this time it was in the `98 WAC Championship game. We had already beat two nationally ranked teams (San Jose State and SMU) to get into the finals. We played Fresno State through 90 minutes of regulation and through four overtime periods before we went into penalty kicks, and they advanced, 5-4.