Sophomore midfielder likes Centre's new offense

September 23, 2004|MIKE MARSEE

Changes are afoot for the Centre College women's soccer team, and Clay McCollum is right in the middle of it all.

As a midfielder, she is at the heart of the action in the new offense implemented by first-year coach Jay Hoffman.

As a sophomore, she is excited about the enthusiasm Hoffman has brought to the program and hopeful he'll take them to the proverbial next level during her college career.

"Jay has really raised our level of expectations," McCollum said. "We've come out ready to train, we're working a lot harder on getting mentally focused this year, and we want to do good things this year. We want to be ranked nationally, and we want to win. I won't settle to lose."


Centre has lost twice in its first four games, but McCollum, a Prospect native and transfer from North Carolina-Wilmington, said the Colonels have already made great strides in their time under Hoffman.

McCollum certainly has. She has been an important part of the Centre offense, scoring three of the Colonels' four goals.

She and fellow midfielder Maggie Ray are at the heart of Hoffman's offensive system.

"It's a system that was basically created for this team," Hoffman said. "We try to target the forwards, and with that we need our support coming to Clay and Maggie in the middle. Now we're able to get our midfielders up a little bit to play dangerous balls to the corners and make quick swings to the forwards."

"They lay back on me at center mid, and I look to distribute to the corners or to take a shot," McCollum said.

Plenty of opportunities for shots

There have been plenty of opportunities for shots so far. McCollum has taken 17 shots in the Colonels' first four games, six more than Ray, the second most active shooter. But the rest of the shots have been spread out among a number of players.

"With Jay's new system of play, it's giving us more options for opportunities," McCollum said.

But McCollum said the plan has taken some getting used to.

"It was difficult for a player like me, because I'm used to having control of everything," she said. "It changes what's been drilled into our heads all these years. But it makes a lot of sense."

McCollum said the new offense is not the only good thing Hoffman has brought to the program since he was named this summer to replace longtime coach Gina Nicoletti. McCollum said she was sorry to see Nicoletti leave the team, but she said the change has been good for the program.

"I was sad to hear Gina was leaving," McCollum said. "I think where she had been here 12 years, it was time for a change. We needed somebody who could bring in a lot of recruits and raise the energy level."

That won't happen overnight. Centre is restrained by a lack of depth, the freshman class consists of only two players and the Colonels will lose six seniors after this season.

But Hoffman said it's important to stay positive - "I don't think we have the time and space to be negative" - and he said he wants to project that to the recruits he hopes to bring to the program.

"I love my job, and I love being part of Centre College," said Hoffman, a 1996 Centre graduate. "I just hope my attitude will reflect in the players that want to come play for me."

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