Freshman finds comfort in net from keeper assistant
Entering the 2014 season, head coach Mike O’Neill had just about everything in place in terms of his staff and players.
After being promoted in late July, O’Neill scrambled to ensure the Rutgers women’s soccer team did not miss a beat, for the urgency of increased preparation as the inaugural Big Ten season moved closer.
Although the Scarlet Knights capped their preseason on two promising wins in scrimmages against West Virginia and Villanova and went 3-0 record to start the season after defeating Seton Hall on Sept. 3, a piece was still missing.
At that point, O’Neill only had two assistant coaches: associate head coach Meghan Ryan, a former Rutgers defender in her seventh year on the coaching staff, and Tricia DiPaolo, a volunteer assistant.
While O’Neill’s staff managed to work with the goalkeepers on the roster throughout August, the head coach wanted more extensive and individual work.
With that in mind, he hired Lubos Ancin.
One of the factors that led to the addition of Ancin to the staff on Sept. 4 was his ability to work on the players’ development on and off the field. O’Neill voiced player development on and off the field as his primary mission as head coach, making the Ancin hire a nice fit.
“What makes a good coach is the good understanding of people, the good understanding of a position. And it was important for me to have someone on staff that was not only good at their position, but he also has a very good knowledge of the game in general,” O’Neill said. “… His number one goal of the development of our goalkeepers on and off the field gives [goalkeepers] the specialized attention they deserve, and he’s doing a very good job of it.”
Overseas in England, Ancin received an email from O’Neill asking if he was interested in working with the goalkeepers on the team.
Ancin was playing professional soccer at the time, but a battle with a nagging shoulder injury combined with an offer for what he called his “dream job” had him packing his bags and booking a plane ticket back to the U.S.
As a goalkeeper for the Rutgers men’s soccer team from 2003-2005, Ancin became acquainted with O’Neill, who was then the assistant coach, and Ryan, then a team captain.
“To be able to come back to Rutgers — it’s great,” Ancin said. “It’s something I always wanted to do, and it’s the path I wanted to take. When Rutgers came knocking … an opportunity like that you just cannot pass.”
Ancin has wasted no time working with the goalkeeping corps upon his hiring. Based on his first impressions of the goalkeepers on staff, Ancin said he was impressed with the group’s collective talent level.
“I think, overall, the group of goalkeepers here at Rutgers is special,” Ancin said. “They all have been working hard with me since I’ve been here, and I can just applaud them for that because they’ve been working their tails off in here.”
Freshman Casey Murphy, who holds a 4-1 record as the team’s starting goalkeeper with three shutouts and a .824 save percentage, has taken advantage of finally having a goalkeeper trainer on staff.
“Lubos has been awesome so far,” Murphy said. “Not having a goalkeeper trainer for the first bit of preseason was tough, but he came right in and made an impact on our training level and really has helped the goalkeepers a lot.”
Ancin admitted that while playing in a talent-laden Big East during his time at Rutgers was appealing, the draw of the Big Ten takes his excitement as a collegiate coach at his alma-mater to a whole new level.
“It’s just great to experience all the schools, the conference overall and all the fans and everything,” Ancin said. “I feel it’s a great opportunity for not just us as a coaching staff, but for the players mostly … to enjoy that and take as much from it as [they] can.”
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