Schmidt Takes Over Lady Horn Coaching Reins

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First-year Lady Longhorn softball coach Joe Schmidt accepted his new position knowing he would head a sport that is unique in its make up.

"Soccer is designed to be a player's game rather than a coach's game," he said. "There are no timeouts and few breaks in play. Most of my effective coaching will be accomplished in practice."

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When Joe Schmidt took over the coaching duties for the Lady Longhorn soccer team, he did so with a player's knowledge of the sport. Schmidt (above) is a member of the 35-years-and-older men's team.

Schmidt was appointed by the head coach last spring following the resignation of Randy Wilcox who headed the program for two years.

Schmidt said he took the job with "a strong sense of commitment to the game and to this team; I want to help them be good players and good citizens."

The coach said his priority will be to help them understand they must be unselfish, respect one another, show initiative and be able to communicate.

"If the player can apply those concepts on and off the field, we will be successful," he said. "I also hope players have fun because it is a game."

Schmidt said a huge challenge facing him will be to build camaraderie and trust within the team.

"I have a lot to learn about the girls, how to develop them as people, players and leaders," he said. "I also have some younger players who I must get ready for starting positions."

Under Schmidt, the team will operate out of a 4-4-2 offense that features flexibility on the attack and is defensively strong.

The Lady Horns' goal this season, Schmidt said, is to reach the state tournament and erase the ugly memories of last year's gut-wrenching, season-ending 3-2 loss to the Page Sand Devils. That defeat, at Mingus in the consolation finals of the Grand Canyon Region tournament, ended the team's dreams of advancing to state.

Some of the veteran players on this year's team probably remember the clash well.

The Horns were up 2-0, but the Sand Devils came roaring back to tie the contest 2-2 at the end of regulation.

In a pair of 10-minute overtimes, both teams were scoreless; a shoot-out was called for, during which Payson converted its first goal attempt but missed the next three when two were blocked and one ricocheted off the cross bar.

Page was able to score on two of its attempts to nail down the victory and the trip to state.

At the time, Wilcox called it the toughest defeat he's had to deal with in his career.

If the players can overcome the nightmares of that loss and battle their way into the postseason, Schmidt's strategy will be to play one game at a time and "see how many teams we can surprise."

The coach

Schmidt takes over the Lady Horn program with years of playing, coaching and officiating.

"I've refereed (Class) 2A-5A soccer for seven years and was fortunate enough to work a state championship game last year," he said. "I coached youth soccer for 10 years as my daughter and son moved through the age groups."

The coach also plays in a Scottsdale-based, 35-years-and-over league and was a basketball coach at Tonto Basin school for five seasons.

Schmidt is a science teacher at Payson High School.

As preseason practices continue in preparation for the Nov. 29 opener at Scottsdale Coronado, Schmidt said he's itching for the campaign to get under way.

Almost poetically he looks to the future, "This is going to be fun; perfect give and goes, the ball clicking off of feet, the attacking weaving fluidly through a defense, back side cuts for a clear shot, hard tackles, off-side traps, last-second saves and one goal victories ...

"I love everything about this game."

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