Before taking over this season as the girls’ soccer coach at Carrollton, Tricia Taliaferro was an assistant for the U.S. national team at the FIFA Under-17 Women’s World Cup in Azerbaijan.
Coaching at that tournament, which ended Oct. 13, caused Taliaferro to be one week late to Carrollton’s tryouts.
In the meantime, the Carrollton girls were nervous.
“Oh God,” junior midfielder Samantha Hoadley remembers thinking, “she’s coming from the national team and then she’s going to coach us, just a bunch of Average Joes.”
Hoadley’s fears, it turns out, were unfounded because Taliaferro was supportive and humble.
“She didn’t address herself as a U-17 coach,” Hoadley said. “She said she was here to help us.”
Taliaferro, who served as the head women’s soccer coach at the University of Miami from 2002 to 2010, certainly has helped so far, leading Carrollton to an 8-4-3 record with two games left in the regular season.
Carrollton already has clinched second place in the district playoffs, which begin Jan. 14. Last season, the Cyclones finished fifth in the district with a 7-7-2 record.
“We’re playing a more attack-minded style this season,” Taliaferro said. “We’re trying to get them to go forward and take chances.”
The Cyclones are getting the message, which is more than can be said for some of its previous teams.
Hoadley, who has been on the varsity since the seventh grade, said her first two years at the school were spent with a coach who didn’t speak English.
“It was a disadvantage for gringas like me,” Hoadley said. “He would be yelling: ‘ a la linea,’ and I didn’t know until later that it meant ‘down the line.’ All I could say was ‘ si.’
“It was horrible.”
Things got better last season, when Vernon Croft took over. Croft spoke English — which was a good start — but he left in February to the University of Akron, where he is now the Zips women’s soccer coach.
“When [Croft] left, I was really upset,” said Carrollton senior forward Claudia Campano, who leads the team with nine goals. “But when I heard that [Taliaferro] was going to be our coach, I was excited. We had never had a girl coach before.”
Campano said that as a female, Taliaferro understands more fully what girls can — and cannot — do on the field.
“She has never shown anger to us,” Campano said. “When we are not playing well, she will pull us aside and tell us individually what we have to do better. She’s very patient. If we do a drill wrong, she will go over it again until we get it right. She’s just more open. I can talk to her as a friend and a coach instead of just as a coach.”
Carrollton lost 5-0 to district champion Gulliver this season, which is actually an improvement over past beatings administered by the elite Raiders.
Taliaferro said there is “an established gap” between the programs but said it could close in the next couple of years. She has about 60 girls in the school’s soccer program in varsity, JV and middle school, and all are learning the same attack-minded 4-3-3 formation.
“We took a page out of Germany’s book,” she said of the continuity that now exists in the school’s soccer program. “You can’t recruit in high school, so you are at the mercy of who comes to your school. But because of the success we’ve had, I think we are going to start to attract better players. If we get an impact player and continue to improve, we can close that gap.”