“We’re looking to bring it up”
When Logan Fleck took control of USF’s women’s soccer team, the program was a club sport, on par with rugby, lacrosse and roller hockey.
Now, Fleck, in his 11th year as head coach, is preparing his team for the Big East, arguably the nation’s top conference for women’s soccer. It’s a long way from the intramural fields.
The Oracle caught up with the outgoing coach to get his take on the big move to the Big East.
O: How’s your summer going? Been busy?
LF: I would say I’ve been busier than most people would consider safe. Everything’s been extremely heightened. Everyone is fully aware that not only are we going into the Big East, but we’re going into one of the highest levels of soccer in the country. Not that we didn’t work hard before, because we surely did, but I’d say there hasn’t been a weekend since September when we haven’t been recruiting or coaching soccer.
O: What’s going to be the biggest challenge in the Big East?
LF: It’s going to be trying to get us to compete at a level that’s very, very high. You’re talking about the national champions in Notre Dame. You’re talking about UConn, who was No. 2 in the country two years ago. The top five teams in the Big East legitimately have a shot at winning a national title. I would put the Big East above the SEC, and it has no fear of the ACC. The challenge is just going to be making sure we’re mature enough to take our lumps and keep playing.
O: Is Notre Dame the game you’re looking forward to most?
LF: No. Every single Big East game we play is going to be heightened with competitiveness. They are all going to be growing experiences. Every one of those games is going to be so good. It’s almost like you have to say it’s a super league. It’s like any game you win in Big East basketball, you go home and you go, ‘Yeah, baby, there it is.’
O: What kind of season are you anticipating?
LF: We’re going to go in there and try to stir things up. We have a very tough schedule, and I know you hear that every year from coaches, but the way the Big East is drawn up, we get the three best teams. We’re looking forward to it.
O: Are you excited to play the national champions at home?
LF: Yes. You get excited because of them. As a player, I know what it’s like to beat UCLA, to beat UVA. You remember those games. So I think that’s something you can really feel good about. I remember when Marquette came here, ranked 15th in the country, and everybody said they were going to beat us 8-0 and I said, ‘Yeah, that’s good.’ And then we went out there and tied them and then beat them.
O: You’ve lost five key seniors from last season. How’s that going to affect the team this year?
LF: We’re going have to replace five very deep players. You’re losing 50 percent of the players on the field. A big question mark is going to be the goalkeeper position. Breck Bankester took a lot of good stuff with her when she left. But I believe Casey Garrett (junior) will be a fine replacement. She’s a big kid and she’s been training very hard. I think she’s going to get in there and really go after it.
O: Are you counting the days until practice starts on Aug. 10?
LF: Yes. We have to sort out a lot of things with a lot of new kids but that’s what makes it exciting. We have some players that are going to come and play well. Erica Lewis (three goals last season) is returning, you got Katie Reed (led team with four goals) returning, you got Michelle Buskey (two goals). These are kids that are going to do some good stuff.
O: It seems like there are reasons for optimism.
We’re looking to bring it up. There hasn’t been a conference that we’ve been in that I didn’t win. That’s a tall order and I know it sounds like a lot, but you have to shoot for that. Competitive athletics is not about going out and just participating; you go out there and try to beat the big ones. That’s how you become one yourself.