By Croyance Nakirindo, staff writer.
With a winning streak of 11 games, Daemen’s women’s soccer team has positioned themselves to potentially secure their first-ever regular season championship and No. 1 seed in the ECC tournament with a win against Mercy University on Saturday, October 28th. By their fifth won game in the streak, the team was ranked No. 10 among Division II teams in the East Region, for the first time since 2019. Their streak, which already is the longest in program history, didn’t start that way, however, with a starting record of 0-3. We sat down with head coach Daniel Dolan about the season that’s already breaking records.
What are the key focus areas during the early matches of the season, and how do you ensure the team is performing optimally?
“In the early stages of the season, our primary focus revolves around solidifying our formation and honing our style of play. Simultaneously, we are actively assessing which players perform optimally in our starting lineup and who excels in a substitute role. It’s important that the team is applying what we’re teaching in the classroom and out on the field.”
What strategies do you employ to motivate and inspire your players to bring their best performance in the season?
“Throughout the season, we set various smaller goals in addition to our primary objectives of winning a championship and securing a spot in the NCAA’s. While these goals undoubtedly serve as motivating factors, the most profound source of motivation lies in our love for the sport. Each one of us is intrinsically driven to excel, both individually and as a team. Each player is different and motivated in different ways. I’m there to help positively push them to become their best versions, knowing that we’re not going to be excellent every time out, but it’s important that we strive to be.”
How do you manage the pressure and expectations associated with ending a season off strong when you had such a promising start to the season?
“Honestly, we never talk about pressure. The pressure should be to work hard every day. If you practice and play hard each day, then what’s the pressure? You should be used to always grinding and giving your best. It becomes an ingrained part of your daily routine, and you become accustomed to always giving your utmost effort. The objective is to leave the field with no regrets…Furthermore, I have a deep conviction in the power of emotional control. If you’re nervous, then turn it into excitement. You are in control of your emotions, how do you want to feel when you step on that field? I have faith in you, your teammates have trust in you, but most importantly, it’s crucial that you believe in yourself and go enjoy the moment! The results will take care of itself.”
How important is mental preparation and psychological readiness for your players during the beginning of a season, and how do you address this aspect?
“We have a lot of talks and actively practice visualization throughout the season. We also set time aside for them to be by themselves, meditate, journal, do what you need to do to get away from life for a short while, and just concentrate on yourself. I think it’s important to reflect and give gratitude for the moment and situation we’re all in. Reset, focus, and be ready to put all your energy into the next classroom, the next practice, the next game.”
How do you handle setbacks or losses early in the season, and what measures do you take to keep the team focused and determined for future games?
“I wholeheartedly believe in the saying, ‘You’re not failing, you’re learning.’ Although we started with an 0-3 record, the crucial part is our players leaving the field with our heads held high because they’ve poured their hearts and souls into the game. When you give your all, what else can I ask from you? Setbacks are an inevitable part of our journey, and the way we deal with them defines our character. Do we whine, complain, and blame others, or do we take responsibility and take constructive action? What truly matters is our ability to extract lessons from our setbacks…Our focus remains on continuous learning, working diligently, being exceptional teammates, being good people, and giving our all. The past is behind us, our attention shifts to the next game. We prepare, applying the lessons we’ve learned from the previous game. We embrace the challenge of continuous self-improvement, striving to be better every time we step onto the field.”