The Jackson State Sports Media Office recently caught up with head soccer coach Dean Joseph to talk about the upcoming soccer season.
Q: What are the 2014 Soccer team goals and expectations, having to defend the Southwestern Athletic Conference Championship?
A: Our team has shown improvement in my two seasons here. Now that we have won the title, we know that we have the potential to excel. It is now time to take this program to a new level. Our expectations are to win some non-conference match-ups. This is something we have not done well over the past 10 years of the program. Last year, we played some teams really close, something we did not do the season before. We tied Louisiana Tech for the first time in program history. (We lost 4-0 the year before). Also, this spring we tied Louisiana-Monroe and McNeese for the first time. We are showing a better mentality against these teams now. I want to see this mentality turned into results. In SWAC play, I want us to not lose a game and try to get the No. 1 seed. I feel we have the potential to do that. We need to set our expectations at that level to give ourselves a good chance in postseason play.
Q: Which players will you look to for leadership going into this season and why these players?
A: Everybody played well towards the end of the season. I expect all the seniors to lead by example. I expect nothing but the best from that group because this is their last season. Taylor Emerson had a great run, but needs to keep that same mentality she ended last season with, as we head into this season. Kimberlie Hernandez was exceptional in the last half of the season. I'm expecting her to take her game to another level. Rayana Speight, Eroncia Berry, Jalana Ellis, and Elexis Rice all ended well by scoring goals and/or assuring goals. I expect them all to lead us offensively. I feel we played really well towards the end while being rewarded with winning the SWAC Championship. I hope this reward helps all the players lead in some way. If we can do that, we could be exceptional.
Q: What will it take to repeat winning another SWAC Championship and what are you doing as a coach to prepare?
A: We will need to come into preseason fit. If we are not fitter than last year, then it is going to be hard. I feel if we are fitter, we will win some games on the front end of the schedule and this will give us confidence. We have so much potential, but potential can only be maximized if we come in fit. We also need to be humble and willing to want to work hard and learn something new daily. If we have the mindset that we can get better and stay focused by being humble, then we will do well. My job is to manage the players emotions. We can not get ahead of ourselves emotionally nor lose sight of how tough other teams are going to make it for us. I need to continually teach them new things and show them new ways as well as keep them focused. If I do that, then we will be ok.
Q: What can the team do to position itself to have a better outcome in the NCAAs throughout the season, going into postseason play?
A: We need to have a better winning mentality in non-conference match-ups. This is getting better, but it is a process. We also need to be hungrier to convert easy chances when we get them. It's about individual and team growth through these things. If we keep improving mentally then I know we can improve in the NCAA tournament . Our team knows their potential. They just need to utilize it every single day.
Q: What are you looking to change or do to better for self as a coach this season? Whether it's communicate better with the players, do more team bonding, etc.
A: I want the players to keep working hard and trying to learn the game. I don't think I want to change a lot. I just want them to evolve as players and people. In order to do that, players have to be open to input and willing to train and learn outside their comfort zone. I feel our mentality, game knowledge, and technical game has improved. It is my job to keep making players see how much they can improve. If we can get their learning curves steeper than last year, then I think our team will have changed a lot.