Andrew Post is entering his seventh season as head soccer coach at Greenwood High School, but the 2020 campaign will be his third as a girls’ only coach. Obviously, the workload and responsibilities are more manageable.
In fact, coaching soccer is probably easier than trying to teach civics to class after class of ninth graders distracted by social media and pop culture, not to mention puberty and all other facets of early teenage existence.
But Coach Post isn’t complaining. He loves both of his jobs as a teacher and a coach. He began his career at Union Christian in Fort Smith before coming to Greenwood in 2013.
“I was a volunteer assistant with Chris Young for years, so I’ve been around for a while,” said Post. Recently promoted to head football coach, Young also coached boys’ and girls’ soccer for 13 years.
Asked to recap last season’s results, Post said, “We finished strong but missed the playoffs by about half a game. It was very frustrating. Looking at the numbers, we improved our record. We had a winning record. We scored more goals and allowed fewer goals than the last three seasons, and we [still] missed the playoffs. They played their hearts out.”
The Lady Bulldogs were 9-11 in 2018, improving to 11-8-1 last season, but battled injuries and have the misfortune of playing in the state’s toughest 5A conference. The 5A West has produced the last six state champions.
But hope springs eternal at the start of any sports season, and it’s no different for Post and his youthful Lady Bulldogs. “This is one of the younger teams I’ve coached at Greenwood,” he said.
There are six seniors listed on the team roster, but one (Molly Odell) has already been lost to a knee injury. Odell would have been a starter and key player before her injury.
The five remaining seniors will be expected to set the right example and carry the leadership load for their younger teammates. Those girls include Bella Mora, Amber Frye, Ella Austin, Erin Fowler, and Veronica Vargas.
“We graduated three or four seniors, but we lost more [players] from that team. I’ve lost a three-year starter to injury (Odell). I’ve lost another starter to a concussion. I had a couple more that didn’t come back out. So we’ve been hit by the injury bug, and we lost one to a transfer that would have been a starter.
“We started out with seven [returning starters], but now we’re down to about four,” said Post. “[But] it’s an opportunity for younger players and new players to step up and fill the void.”
Post’s senior starters are all quality players, led by Bella Mora, who’s already signed a letter-of-intent to play collegiate soccer at the University of the Ozarks in Clarksville.
“I’ve got two seniors coming back that have been with me since their freshmen year and have a ton of playing time,” said the coach of Mora and Ella Austin.
“They’ve played a major role since their freshman year,” he added. “They are both club players with a ton of experience.” Both are also two-sport athletes. Mora played volleyball and Austin played golf.
“Bella has the right height and is very fast and causes a lot of problems for defenders,” said Post of his prized senior and team leader.
“I’ve got another senior, Erin Fowler, who earned a starting role last year,” he continued. “So I’ve got a lot of experience on the back line. Senior Amber Frye has also been a four-year contributor and a two-year starter.
“We do have a good core of girls returning that are going to help us out with leadership and experience,” said Post, referring to his seniors and a handful of juniors who are expected to mature this season.
As with the seniors, there are only half-a-dozen eleventh graders on the roster to go along with six sophomores and eight freshmen – 26 in all. That number is down a little from what Post would like, but not enough to be of great concern.
“Our numbers are down, but we’ve got junior high girls actively playing soccer. It ebbs and flows with each class. I think [the program is] healthy. A lot of schools don’t have enough players to field JV teams, so we still have plenty of girls.
“Ideally, I’d like to have 30 to 32 girls,” said Post. “Soccer is growing in popularity, [though] Arkansas seems to be a little behind. I think getting junior high soccer would be huge, but that’s a tough sell right now.
“The Boys and Girls Club has added fall and spring soccer this year. There seems to be interest at the younger levels, but as [kids] get older, they seem to branch off into other sports. We have a lot of sports that are pulling at kids. [Soccer] is a tough sell. We do a lot of running. It’s a very physical activity,” he added.
Post is counting on significant contributions from several juniors. “I’ve got four or five that have a lot of games under their belt, and that’s going to be very helpful with a team that’s on the younger side.
“Emory Brewer is a goalkeeper and she’s battling for a starting position,” said the coach. “Kylie Gonzagowski has been with us since her freshman year. Madison Philpot will be battling for a starting spot. Kassidy Powell will be expected to play a bigger role than she did last year.”
The coach also mentioned returnees Olivia Walker and Sami Stilley as “juniors that are going to have to step up and play a larger role. I’ve [also] got some sophomores who are hopefully going to give us some [playing] time and help.
“Kayla Rogers is a sophomore who started some games last year. She’s moving to a new position this year, but I think she’s going to have a good year.
“Abby Summitt is going to tryout at keeper. She’s athletic, and she’s determined to try her hand at soccer, and we’re glad to have her,” said Post. A two-sport athlete, Summitt also plays basketball.
“Anna Maner and Chaise Hanna are a couple [sophomores] that are going to help us out,” he continued. “They have some experience from last year.
“Molly Denison is new this year, but she seems to be a pretty hard worker. Bree Steinfeldt is transitioning from keeper last year to more of a defensive role this year.”
The coach then turned his attention to his freshman class, a group that may be asked to mature sooner than normally expected.
“Ava Thomas is a freshman that’s played quite a bit. Her dad is a club coach and she’s going to be able to step in and help us on defense. She’s got some height to her and some good skills.
“Mattyx Allen is playing soccer for the first time. I think we can turn her into a tough defender. She’s feisty, aggressive, fearless, and quick. Those two (Thomas & Allen) are probably going to have to step in and contribute as freshmen.
“It’s going to be an interesting year to start off, but I think by the third or fourth game we’ll settle in,” said Post.
As for foreign exchange students, the Lady Bulldogs don’t have any this year. “Coach Woods stole them all,” said Post with a grin. “He’s got three of them. [But] it seems to ebb and flow. Next year were could have three or four.”
Asked about the 5A West conference, the coach said, “For the sixth straight year somebody from our conference has won the state championship, [either] Siloam Springs or Little Rock Christian last year.
“We have the toughest conference in the state. Everybody knows that. Little Rock Christian has three state championships. Siloam Springs had five or six in a row. Russellville has been to the finals. We compete at a high level. The best soccer in 5A is played in our half of the state.
“I still think it’s Little Rock Christian,” said Post when asked to survey the league race in 2020. “They graduated some good players, but they had so much talent from top to bottom. Siloam Springs is still going to be up there. Russellville is going to be good, [and] Greenbrier still has some talent.”
Fortunately, the Lady Bulldogs play a lot of matches at home early in their schedule. “I think it’s good. We’ve got some young players, and being able to play at home will get them more comfortable early.
“There will be some [tough] road trips to Little Rock Christian and Siloam Springs. It will be nice to get some experience under those younger player’s belts before we [tackle] conference play.”
One area of his team that gives Post confidence is the speed of the Lady Bulldogs, especially on defense. “I’ve got some speed, but where I’m going to put it on the field is still to be determined,” he said.
“I think Bella [Mora] is one of the fastest girls in conference and the state. Ella Austin is another very fast player. Erin Fowler is very quick. Mattyx Allen is very, very quick. So I’ve got some speed on the field.
“I’ve got speed in the back and some speed at the top, but I don’t have a lot of offensive speed right now, but that could change as the season goes on,” explained the coach.
Asked about the importance of strength in soccer, Post said, “I pay a lot of attention to hitting the weight room in the off-season. It’s important for us to prevent injuries and to recover quicker, and the explosive factor based on our quickness and strength. We spend a lot of time in the weight room.
“[But] skill is probably still the most important factor in soccer. There’s only so much we can do with strength and speed. We’ve got to have the skills behind it.”
The coach is hopeful that his 2020 team has the requisite skills to make a serious run through conference play and earn a spot in the state tournament.
“They want to get to the playoffs and extend their season,” said Post. “That will be our #1 goal, and if we achieve that we’ll set new goals. Every year our goal is to be playing in the state finals.”
Post is assisted by Steven Thessing, who was a head soccer coach for many years at Fort Smith Southside. Thessing is also an assistant football coach.