Thank You Salem College Soccer

Dear Salem College Soccer Team,

I said during our last game that “I love everything about this team,” and I meant every word of that statement. I love my coaching staff and wouldn’t trade them for any coaching staff in the country. I love the determination and relentlessness of all twenty-six members of the team this Fall. I love the quirkiness of each member of the team and how each member, through their differences, fit together like puzzle pieces to make a dominant team.

This team wasn’t perfect, no teams ever are perfect. All teams have their ups and downs, but one of the best parts of this team was how easily you put the imperfections of the team behind you to merge together to have a stellar season.

The first husband of Salem College, Bert Lain, told you all that through his journey to nine different institutions, including two of the best athletic departments in the nation, UNC and Stanford, this version of the Salem College Soccer team was his favorite team ever to watch. Bert is one of the most intelligent people I have ever met, and he knows what he is saying when he talks about the guts this team stepped on the field with every game.

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There were some doubts at the beginning of the season how a team with only one senior that was joining a new sixteen-member conference would handle a season. Anchored by Morgan and the leadership of this team, everybody came together after a couple rocky pre-season games to put together the best season in school history. You can read this article to see all the great accolades this team has received so far (ARTICLE).

Players on the Salem soccer team don’t get the exposure you all deserve. Being in a city where one of the top men’s soccer programs in NCAA Division 1 doesn’t help, but you all continue to play hard for each other. We don’t have the same facilities as many programs in our conference or in the nation, but you all continue to play hard for each other. There isn’t a big crowd besides your families at the games, but you all continue to play hard for each other.

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We have had great teams before in the history of Salem College Soccer that have achieved incredible accomplishments. Better than all of those accomplishments, we have great people that played soccer here and they paved the path for this season.

Salem College as an institution has the one of the brightest histories of any institution for women in this nation. What you all did this season is one of the greatest accomplishments a group of women has accomplished in the 245 year history of Salem.

This team defied all odds. You joined a new conference with sixteen members and won the regular season championship, which, to me, is harder than winning the tournament. The conference didn’t make it easy on you at all. You traveled more than twice as far throughout 2016 conference play as the team that traveled the second most in the conference, and over three times as far as most teams, but you still prevailed.

This program had never beaten Maryville College in our history, but you did it this year, and not just once but three times. Maryville was the New York Yankees of our old conference, the Great South. Nobody in the former Great South had won a game at Maryville since the early 2000’s until you all did it in one of the most exciting games I have ever been a part of as a coach or player. This team came together to put on a stellar performance in your first ever USA South playoff game to defeat Maryville and move to the USA South Semifinals.

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We don’t get huge crowds as I mentioned earlier at home, but you all continued to be valiant soldiers protecting your home turf. Once again, we went 10-0 at home this season. This program now is riding a twenty-five game home win streak protecting the Salem soccer field. In fact, our last home loss was in 2014 to the number one team in the country and eventual national champions of Lynchburg.

In the USA South Final Four, once again, you all had the odds against you and you defied them by having to go on the road as the number one seed for the semifinals and championship weekend. Playing on turf was a bit like kryptonite to Superman for us this season and you had to do that during the Final Four weekend. We didn’t play our best game this season in the semifinals, but you never let your guards down and once again you pulled out an exciting overtime win.

Even though, we lost the championship game, the last twenty minutes were the best twenty minutes you all put together all season. Falling behind, 2-0, with 20 minutes remaining, would cause most teams to buckle, but you all stepped it up. We got one goal back with 12 minutes left.

Life is a game of inches where mistakes can be made, and our season ended that way. You all battled to the very last second of our season, and you scored the goal that should have tied the game and sent us to overtime, where there is no doubt in my mind that you all would have prevailed. Unfortunately, the referees made the mistake of missing the clear goal, which ended our season.

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You can clearly see the white goal-line, then green grass, and then the ball with the goalie deep inside the goal.

Even without the tournament trophy, you all are true champions due to your character, your effort and determination, and your hearts. I am truly privileged to be a part of what you all did this season, and I can’t wait to see what you all can do together as you continue on your path as soccer players, tremendous students, and great people.

Thank you from the bottom of my heart,
Jay

 

Winston-Salem Difference Makers-President Lorraine Sterritt and Bert Lain

In addition to celebrating Winston-Salem natives that have moved on to do significant things outside of Winston, this blog will also celebrate local people who make a difference currently in Winston-Salem. 

I have had the pleasure of working with three great presidents during my decade at Salem College. In 2014, President Lorraine Sterritt was hired as the 20th president of Salem Academy and College. In our two hundred and forty-four year history, it is hard to imagine that this historic institution has only had twenty presidents!

When President Sterritt first walked onto campus, you could feel a breath of fresh air right off the bat. The Ireland native immediately made her mark on Salem and the Winston-Salem community as she was named one of the Triad’s Most Influential People by Triad Business Journal (November of 2015). President Sterritt and Salem are in the middle of The Women of Purpose campaign to help with faculty support and academic programs, infrastructure and technology, scholarships, and financial stability (Women of Purpose website). She also travels the country on the Salem Ever tour, where she meets with alumnae and friends who have committed themselves to Salem’s success. During her short time at Salem, the department of admissions has welcomed the largest class in school history and a new apartment style residence hall, The McHugh Sisters Flats, has been constructed.

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Twenty eight and a half years ago, President Sterritt met Bert Lain in Chatham, Virginia. The two have worked at prestigious colleges all over the country together like Princeton, Penn, Stanford, and most recently, Harvard.

In the soccer world, famous players like Pele and Messi are just known by one name. Bert has made such an impact that you can simply say Bert to anybody on campus and their face will light up. It is impossible to walk through campus without seeing him talking to a student or faculty/staff member. He is also one of the biggest supporters of our athletic department. In fact, our new tennis center is named the Bert Lain Tennis Center.

Below you will find out why President Sterritt and Bert have enjoyed their time so far in North Carolina, and some of their favorite parts of Winston-Salem:

 Winston-Salem Questions:

Before I ask any questions about Winston, I have a pressing question that I have always wondered about: You two both have a history of teaching Latin. Do you ever find yourselves speaking to each other in the classical language?

Occasionally we lapse into Latin!

You two have lived all over the United States. What are some things that are unique to Winston-Salem that you two have really enjoyed?
Knowing so many people everywhere we go in Winston-Salem; being in a city that has so much and is so easy to get around.

What is your favorite season of the year in Winston-Salem?
Spring

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Did you ever imagine that you would live on a street that literally feels like you are two hundred years back in time? What is your favorite part about living in Old Salem?Absolutely love the history. Love being in a quiet area within a vibrant city.

President Sterritt: Is there anywhere in Winston-Salem that reminds you of Ireland?The Salem soccer field.

Bert: Besides any Salem athletic event, is there a sporting event in the area that you would really like to see?
A Carolina Panthers game and a Duke vs. UNC basketball game

You all have worked at prestigious schools such as Princeton, Stanford, Penn, and Harvard. What are some areas of Salem College that stand out from where you have worked together before?
A smaller institution gives you a very strong sense of community. We love that we know so many people.

If you two were on a stranded island and could just have one breakfast for the rest of your life, which Winston-Salem delight would you choose: Moravian sugar cake, Bojangles biscuits, or Krispy Kreme doughnuts?
Moravian sugar cake

What are your top three Winston-Salem restaurants to go to together?
Mozelle’s, Noble’s, Rotisserie Chicken Factory

What would be your ideal date night in Winston-Salem?
Movie at a/perture, dinner at Noble’s.

Would you two rather go to Hanes Mall or to Thruway?
We like both.

Where is your favorite day trip outside of Winston?
Chapel Hill

Have you been on any vacations in North Carolina during your time here? If so, where was your favorite North Carolina trip outside of Winston? Is there anywhere in the State you two hope to visit?
Asheville, Chapel Hill, Pine Knoll Shores, Duck, Wilmington, Boone, Blowing Rock, Highlands.
Loved all of them.
Hope to see more of the coast.

My Decade at Salem

 

Growing up in Winston-Salem, I really didn’t know much about the hidden gem of Salem College that was just a couple miles from my house. My mom had some good friends like Mary Ann Davis and Joy Van Zandt that went to Salem. Some of my classmates from my middle school went to the Academy for high school.

When I returned from college in 2002, my former high school coach was working with a very small club team at Salem. In 2005, he gave me a call and told me he was leaving Salem and that I should apply for the job. That call changed my course and set the path for my last decade. I love several things about working at Salem and here are the most important:

Family

Both my biological family and my soccer family are at Salem College. My wife, Katie, and I get to raise our young family (McKinley-5 and Hudson-2) in our hometown with each of our great families nearby. My second family, consisting of young women from all over the country and my assistant coaches, is the soccer team at Salem.

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I started my family at the same time as I started the Salem soccer family, and I won’t ever be able to do that anywhere else. When Kim Fierke had the guts to hire a twenty-five year old with just a little bit of experience, she essentially hatched a new family for me.

When I went to my first soccer meeting in August of 2005, only five people showed up. Luckily a first year from Wisconsin and one from Alabama were two of those five and they helped me forge the path of the program, just by helping me get through that challenging first year. I had to literally go into the Refectory at Salem and find players to fill a team that could compete in our first year of games.

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In just ten short years, the soccer family at Salem has grown exponentially. One of my favorite times of the year is Salem Soccer Alumnae Weekend. I see pictures of alumni games at other schools and there are only a handful of players there, and their NCAA programs have been around for decades. We are just a decade old (as a NCAA program) and we had over twenty alumnae at our last game. I am proud to see former players that are now forging careers as doctors, teachers, accountants, coaches, dentists, mothers, etc.  It gives me pleasure to answer questions that I still get from former players in several categories including jobs and relationships (even though I really have no idea what I am saying most of the time in this area).

There are several small traditions that have been established here at Salem. Katie (a nurse) gets frequent questions about injuries and health from members of the team. We have gone on two international trips to Italy and Costa Rica as a team. The plan is to go every three years. Currently we are 4-1-1 against international competition.

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I have had several of my good friends help me as assistant coaches like Jon Hoban and Graham Lyles. My more recent assistants are now going advancing in the coaching field like Thomas Moore recently being hired at our alma mater, Reynolds High School. I get to have my dad help me every year. I had another mentor, Mike Hollman, help me for several years. I can’t get that anywhere else. We get to put my sister’s movie theater (a/perture) on the back of our warm-up shirts every year. During preseason each year, one of our long runs goes by the house where I grew up and we stop by so my mom can give the team water.

History and Location

Imagine being able to walk out your office door and being transported back 250 years. Where else can you do that besides at Salem? Maybe William and Mary, but I can’t think of anywhere else. As a fan of history, it is great to just be able to walk out the door and walk around campus to see buildings that George Washington visited over two centuries ago. Every time you walk through our campus you can learn something new about its history. There are only a handful of schools in the entire country that are as historical and beautiful as Salem College.

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As I walk through our majestic campus, I can turn north and see the skyline of my favorite city. Along that skyline is a building that my dad designed. I can walk downtown and meet my mom for lunch on Fourth or Trade Street where my dad had a vision twenty years ago of a revitalization project. I can catch a movie there at my sister’s theater, and then meet my family for pizza at Mellow Mushroom.

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I can take recruits and players around Winston-Salem and show them the stomping grounds of my youth. I love telling them stories about different places in town. I drive them around and tell them about my memories like when I took a date to Reynolda Village and got us locked out forcing us to walk a mile to her house, or where I hit my first home-run at Miller Park, or where I used to hang out at the President of Wake Forest’s house.

A Winning Tradition

Every coach wants a winning program, and they aren’t being honest if they say they don’t.  The NCAA has a record book that contains the best win-loss turn around as a category. Due to a silly rule, Salem’s 2007 team doesn’t qualify since we did this in the final two years of our NCAA DIII provisional membership trial, even though we did it against NCAA schools and were considered a NCAA member. Our 2006-2007 turn around not only would rank as the best ever turn around in women’s NCAA DIII soccer history, it would be the record across all three divisions. We went from 1-15 to 15-1-2 in one year, which is a turn around of 14 games and almost every team we played beat us the year before.

teamhuddle1We have won three tournament championships, four conference regular season titles, and advanced to the NCAA Tournament twice in the ten years of the NCAA program. We are the only women’s college in the country that has been to two NCAA Tournaments in the past five years. We are the only North Carolina DIII women’s soccer program that has won at least ten games each of the past seven years. We have one of the best winning percentages in the entire South Region over the past four years (64-14-2).

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We aren’t where we want to be yet, but we get better each year thanks to the legacy of the players that have already worn a Salem jersey. We are entering a much more competitive conference next year, and we won’t be happy unless we win the entire conference. We have shown that we can compete with almost any school in the entire country in Division III. We also have shown that we can compete with and beat several NCAA DII programs.

The Challenge

I love a challenge. I feel like I can always be challenged at Salem. Some things come easily here. When recruits step foot on campus, they are going to be hard-pressed to find a more serene campus. We have one of the best admission’s departments in the nation, and they make my recruiting job a lot easier. We have an excellent President (and President’s husband), and a faculty that helps to push our players in the classroom. We have excellent alumnae at Salem that make my life easier.

My players do much better academically than I did in high school, and you have to be a quality student to get into Salem. I have no problem telling them that I don’t just expect a NCAA qualifying 2.0 from them, but that they should shoot for a 3.0 or better every semester. Having the quality students we tend to get at our soccer program, helps to ease the academic worries other coaches might have at other institutions.

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There are definitely challenges here. Some of the challenges would be experienced at any school. As a coach, you are always going to have players upset over playing time, your rules, and the way you run your program. That is part of the job. Recruiting to a small all-women’s school can be a challenge though. I always say that I would love for some big time coach to come try to recruit at a small school to see how good they actually can recruit. Recruiting is one of my favorite aspects of the job. I love the challenge that every recruit gives me, and it’s a tremendous feeling every time a prospective student commits to Salem.

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My Coaching Goals 

Striving to match or best our goals at Salem is something I always talk about with our team. It is important to set goals and once you achieve them to set new and more challenging ones.

We are entering a new conference that will soon consist of eighteen schools, where the majority of the schools have women’s soccer programs that have been around for much longer, with bigger budgets, better athletic facilities, and that are from co-ed schools. We don’t just want to go in and be an average team in the conference. We want to go in and win. The goal is not just to be one of the best, but to be the best team in the conference. We want to advance back to the NCAA Tournament and not just settle for making it there, but also to make a statement there.

I have personal goals as a coach as well. I want to get to 200 wins in the next six years. I have had All-South Region players, and now I would like to get some All-Americans. I want to continue to see our soccer facilities grow to match the top facilities in our region and for our game attendance to keep growing. We are about as diverse geographically and culturally as any college women’s soccer team you will find. In our first ten years we have had players from twenty-nine different states on the Salem Soccer roster. It would be great to continue to raise that number of represented states.

A lot of great things have happened for me here in my first decade at Salem and I owe a huge thanks to my players and assistant coaches. Hopefully my next decade of coaching can be just as satisfying.

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