Eagles women’s soccer in healing phase

The players were hanging their heads a little on the field, doing more than their share of huffing and puffing.

There’s no doubt the Daniel Webster College women soccer players were totally exhausted. After all, they had suffered a couple of injuries in the game, depleting their bench and leaving them without any healthy reserves to give the regulars a breather.

It was hot and humid. DWC’s opponent – Massachusetts Maritime – had a healthy bench, about five players deep, and used it extensively.

The result was predictable, a 4-1 defeat for the Eagles. The participation numbers game for smaller Division III is so critical, and right now, it’s where the focus is to improve a program that a year ago didn’t win a game.

“This is going to be a building season,” Eagles coach Marco Genee, now in his second season, said. “We’re going to be out there, we’re going to be watching all the high school games in the neighborhoods. And hopefully with our Facebook site, everyone will be able to see what’s going on.”

Bolstering women’s athletics has always been a challenge due to low female enrollment at DWC, but some programs, such as women’s basketball, have managed to overcome that.

Not women’s soccer, which didn’t have enough players back in 2003 to even field a team. It appeared to perhaps be turning the corner under former coach Tom McGuiness (six full seasons) with a winning (4-3-1) New England Collegiate Conference record in 2010. But the numbers weren’t there in terms of recruiting and the school and McGuiness parted ways just beyond the start of last season’s 0-12-1 collapse.

Enter Genee, a former German professional who has a base in the international game plus coaching experience on the staffs of the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill, Virginia Commonwealth and Gardner-Webb. He’s also spent several years coaching in the Olympic Development Program.

“I think he came in at a difficult time,” Eagles athletic director Robin Seidman said of Genee. “There hadn’t been many recruits the last two or three years, and recruiting for soccer is really a full-year task.

“He was kind of a year behind. It’ll take a year or two to build the numbers up.”

Genee said stepping in after a few games wasn’t as difficult thanks to his experience.

“I’m experienced in the college programs, so I know what to do,” he said. “My first priority was to make sure everybody was happy. I can’t go in there with difficult technical (schemes). I didn’t need my technical board.

“So far, I’m happy. I know it’s going to be a tough, long season, but the girls are ready.”

Genee said that another aid is looking at other successful women’s programs on campus, such as basketball and volleyball, to see if those models can be followed.

“Our coaching family is outstanding,” he said. “Everybody (on campus) is working hand in hand, together. I’m looking at not only women’s basketball – they’re successful, and they’re bringing in (good athletes). Every kid who is looking at the wins and losses, if they see a good program they want to be part of it, and that’s our goal too.”

The Eagles did record a season-opening win over Pine Manor on the road, but recently lost in the rematch at home.

“We didn’t win last year, and that was tough,” co-captain Kaylea Parkin said. “It gives us the confidence, shows us that we can go out there and we can play with these teams. That’s the most important thing, just give us some hope that we can get out there and play with them.

“It’s tough, we play with a lot of heart. It’s a real mental game for us. We’re tired at the end, but we know if we give it our all, that’s all that matters, really.”

With his international background, Genee tried to go more international in recruiting, but those dollars would have been too costly and plans fell through.

“As of now, we decided no, we wanted to go the domestic route,” Genee said. “But we don’t need to go to California.

“I need to go to Nashua North and Nashua South. … We’ll build with local soccer players who are soccer players , not just athletes. … They might not be able to get on to any other programs, but we are happy to have them here.”

Genee right now is trying to patch things together with athletes from other sports – Parkin admitted she was recruited to play basketball but wanted to help out.

Predictably, the Eagles were picked to finish 10th in the NECC, based on the problems the program has had.

But that has served as a motivating factor, as Genee called that “good news.”

“There’s no pressure on us,” he said. “We don’t have to prove anything.”

“The one thing I want to say to all the teams in our conference and the teams we play against,” senior transfer Ema Donlagic, of Belmont, said, “is that when you play Daniel Webster, you’re going to play a team with a lot of heart.”

It’s not the present Genee and the Eagles are looking at.

“Three years from now,” he said, “we want to have a solid soccer program.”