The Cardinal Newman girls had a long road back to the 2012 SCISA soccer final, but on May 12 at South Carolina’s Stone Field, the Cardinals finished their journey, defeating Porter-Gaud to win their second consecutive SCISA Class 3A title.
First-year coach Kathleen Pollard talked to The State about setting the bar high.
So, what was it like taking over an already successful program?
I felt a lot of pressure. I had been the junior varsity coach the year before, but I didn’t know any of the varsity girls or their parents really. It’s only my second year coaching out of college, but everybody was really supportive. When I first started, I was pretty strict. I wanted to get a point across that I was serious, that I may be young but I know soccer. I was just trying to push it to another level, giving them a perspective they’ve never had before from a coach, especially as a female. Once I felt like I had earned my spot and respect and the players were buying in, some of that pressure went away. It was a great opportunity.
What was the most important thing you wanted to bring to your team?
I just wanted them to know that this was serious and just really making sure that they were pushing themselves every practice. To get them all on the same page at the same time; it’s a big challenge. More than anything it was their work ethic and making sure we were all working together.
Which players stepped in as leaders while you were establishing yourself as coach?
One girl that really helped me throughout the year was Mary Katherine Hall. She’s one of the captains on the team and just an overall leader. She really helped me figure out the girls. You really have to learn how to talk to each of them differently, and she really helped me with that.
When did the team start to jell?
Losing the Ben Lippen game was a huge wake-up call to us. We can buy into the system or play like every other team and win or lose. From then on, you could see the progression.
I feel like we really learned something from it anytime we didn’t play well. We didn’t just say, oh well, we’ll play better next time. We really did go work on things to improve.
How valuable were the seniors?
I couldn’t ask for a better senior class. They were definitely a huge part of the team. We’re losing some talent, with almost all of them being on the team since eighth grade. They really played well for me, responded well. So we’re losing some leadership, as well.
When did you know you were working with a championship caliber team?
When I took this team over, I knew that this team had so much potential. When I got all the girls together a few weeks, I knew that we should win the championship. … And going into the first round of the playoffs, you could feel the championship atmosphere out there.
How did you feel going into the final?
I was nervous all week, waking up thinking about soccer, going to bed thinking about soccer. During the game, I was nervous, but overall that game I was probably a little more relaxed because we had gotten there. I felt like we had taken control of that game, and I felt good. They scared me a few times, but overall I felt like that was our game.
What was it like to win the state title?
It still hasn’t really hit me yet. There’s a little bit of pressure, with people saying you know you won in your first year, what can you do in your second year? It’s definitely exciting to know that this is my first year and this is what we’ve done, what the girls have done.
What did you learn from this season?
This was my first year with the varsity, and I really did learn a lot. Sometimes I caught myself in moments being more like a player than a coach. One thing I learned was about finding a happy balance between being overbearing and being in a place where you are allowing them to help make decisions on the field. It was just about finding that fine line.
Have you started thinking about next year?
I have thought about next year, with some of the players that we’re going to lose. I’m going to lose players straight down the middle of my field. It’s just going to have to be a lot of filling holes, and also I have a solid core coming back and there is still lots of talent in this program. So I’m not stressed out about next year.