The feelings at the end of the 2011 and 2012 seasons couldn’t have been more different for Todd Bramble.
Two years ago, Bramble and the University of Alabama women’s soccer team were rejoicing in the fact that the program earned its second bid to the NCAA and appeared poised to become a regular on the national stage.
Bramble’s desire to build on that promise went unfulfilled last season, even though the team transitioned to a style of play that stressed possession and it dictated the tempo in most of its matches.
Still, the end result was an 8-9-2 (3-8-2 in the Southeastern Conference) record that left them on the outside looking in at the 10-team SEC tournament in Orange Beach, Ala.
“Last year was going to be all about continuing to move forward and establishing consistency and demonstrating we were a team that belongs in the NCAA tournament year in and year out,” Bramble said. “It’s a results oriented business and we didn’t get the results that we wanted to and needed to to sustain that momentum from a pure soccer standpoint.”
This season, Alabama returns nine starters and its top six scorers from a squad that lost seven games by one goal and wasn’t that far off, according to Bramble. An undefeated spring season buoyed the veteran coach’s confidence, as does the arrival of 10 freshmen. Instead of focusing on redemption after missing a chance to build something last season, Bramble wants the players to focus on implementing the lessons the team learned last season. To do that, Bramble will look to forward Pia Rijsdijk, midfielders Merel van Dongen, Theresa Diederich, and Molly Atherton. He feels it would have been wrong to revert back to the old style of play the Crimson Tide used before last season’s change. By sticking with the system, Bramble feels the players recognize the coaches have confidence in them this season.
Alabama will get a chance to put that confidence into action at noon Aug. 25 when it plays No. 15 Wake Forest University in Winston-Salem, N.C. Bramble feels the incoming class of players fits well with the Crimson Tide’s style of play. he said his goal is to recruit technical players who want to play an attractive brand of soccer.
With the reputation of the SEC and the championship pedigree of Alabama behind him, Bramble believes he has the resources to make it happen. Now is the time, he said, to put it all together and realize the program’s potential.
“It is only going to get easier and better as we go forward with this recruiting class and the group we have coming in for 2014,” Bramble said. “We have recruited with that in mind to play that style. We’re convinced we can play a really attractive brand of attacking soccer that is aesthetically pleasing for the fans to watch. It is a great way to bring young players in and develop them by telling them we’re going to play through you, not over you or past you.”
Adam Minichino is the former Sports Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.