Ever since Angelina Pane took the helm of the Universiy of Dallas women’s soccer (UDWS) program in spring 2013, one element of her approach to preseason has become one of the team’s most beloved traditions.
Every preseason, she brings in an assistant. Kristy Haines-Stark is a former teammate of Coach Pane’s who now works as a trained facilitator in group initiative course (GIC). Her training sessions do not include fitness or ball-handling, although she helps with those as well. Instead, players are more likely to encounter an afternoon of trust falls and a massive rock-paper-scissors tournament.
“The UDWS girls go through a series of group initiatives that challenge them physically, mentally and emotionally,” Haines-Stark said. “The initiatives can look like anything from playing ridiculous games of tag to handling mousetraps while blindfolded. Something new is always thrown at them in the process.”
Though the initiatives may look silly or pointless to an outsider, they are bearing fruits of positivity and camaraderie for the girls.
“We are so close [to each other] already,” junior forward Mackenzie Vasile said. “I see great things for this season.”
Her teammates echoed her sentiments of ambitious anticipation.
“We are all very excited to play together,” junior goalkeeper Elena Naccari said. “We expect to play well as a whole and end the season with a winning record.”
Coming on the heels of a 2015 season that was rife with challenges and punctuated with a difficult loss to Southwestern University in the first round of the Southern Collegiate Athletic Conference (SCAC) tournament, the players’ confidence is inspiring, and it will take them far if they keep their word.
“Our ultimate goal is the SCAC championship,” junior defender Lauren Hood said.
Haines-Stark believes that they will achieve that goal if they stick to the things they have learned in preseason and use them to become a strong and unified group.
“The one constant that comes from all this is their growth,” Haines-Stark said. “These young women push themselves to stretch out their comfort zones, put trust in one another and discover potential in themselves as individuals that then lead them to be successful as teammates.”
The Lady Crusaders look to begin their success at home on Sep. 1 against Howard Payne University. Kick-off is at 5 p.m., following the men’s home opener.