As far back as the 2008 season, maybe longer, girls’ soccer at Mt. Zion hasn’t been anything to brag about.
But four years later and in spite of youth, the Lady Bulldogs are headed in the right direction. Currently, they are 7-2 overall and enjoying a three-game winning streak.
“Structure has been part of turnaround,” Mt. Zion first-year girls’ coach Earl Simmonds said. “Knowledge of the game as far as the coaching perspective and changing the culture—at least towards soccer because it has been nonexistent.”
The structure Simmonds is referring to centers around discipline and effort.
“The attitude is you’re going to come in here and work hard,” he said. “Regardless of the record or the outcome of the season, you are going to work hard and it starts on the practice field.
“My thing is if you don’t practice you don’t play,” Simmonds said. “If you don’t practice hard you don’t play. The expectation is what you do on the practice field is what transcends into the game.”
Because of Simmonds’ philosophy, the Lady Bulldogs bounced back from an opening season loss to Forest Park on Feb. 13 with four straight wins.
“I think we’ve been doing awesome,” said freshman Lauren Smith, who leads the team in goals. “The first game we lost 8-0 to Forest Park but we came back and beat them 2-1. We are working as a team and progressing.”
“I’m just proud of the hard work. Going from 1-8 last season to 6-2 right now is a big accomplishment for them,” said Simmonds before Mt. Zion defeated Tri-Cities 1-0 last Friday.
Even though the Lady Bulldogs are enjoying their newfound success, they understand there is still room for improvement after a 10-0 setback to Lovejoy on March 1.
“They caught us off guard with their speed, skill set and we were pretty much just overwhelmed,” Simmonds said. “It was a learning experience and a chance for them to see what a really, really good team looks like. It gave them a wake up call.”
Today, Mt. Zion visits Riverdale.