Women’s soccer season gets under way as head coach Tony Economopoulos begins his first season as the head coach for the team.
While Economopoulos is new to Mercer’s soccer team, he is no stranger to the sport.
Now in his twelfth year of coaching, Economopoulos has previously worked with the Georgia Southwestern and Oklahoma State women’s soccer teams.
As a coach, he brings experience, talent, and intensity to the field, and he promises an exciting season.
The Cluster: What is it that drew you to soccer, both playing and coaching?
Economopoulos: I would say my father is the first one. As a little kid, I always had soccer balls instead of toys and gadgets. We had soccer balls.
So that was my first love, and I started playing at a young age and started watching at a young age and then I went onto college and I loved it.
In college is when I really felt that, okay, I enjoy this, what can I do with it?
I worked a few camps at our college, and it stuck with me. Ever since then it’s been my passion.
C: Did you always want to coach soccer?
E: No, well growing up I wanted to be an obstetrician and then I wanted to be a broadcaster.
Once I got to college is kind of when a light came on. I said, you know, you’re good at this, you like this, you like being around this sport, so can you make a career out of it?
I saw my coach and I thought, okay, this is something I could do, and I enjoyed it. So ever since college I would say is when I decided that, you know, this has been my drive.
C: What is one of your greatest memories as a coach so far?
E: As a coach? There are two. One, as an assistant, was when I was at Oklahoma State and we upset Notre Dame and broke their, I think it was 45-game home winning streak.
As a head coach, up to date, was at GSW and us getting our first conference win in program history. That was a neat feat to have.
So those are the two biggest things, I think. Hopefully there will be many more here at Mercer.
C: What attracted you to Mercer’s soccer program?
E: You know the history here. They’ve been successful over the past several years.
Location, close to the Atlanta area, get some top level kids.
It’s also a prestigious university and a private institution with a good academic standard.
I felt that we could get kids in from across the country to help us compete at the next level.
C: Now that you’re here at Mercer, what goals do you have for this program moving forward?
E: I want us to be a team that competes in every match and then I also want us to get to the next step where we’re consistently in the NCAA tournament and making some damage.
I don’t want a team that gets in and gets out and you forget about and it’s a one hit wonder.
My goal ultimately—and it might be five years or ten years, if it needs to be—is where we’re consistently a threat to the NCAA tournament and making a push to get to that level.
C: What existing strengths do you hope to build on?
E: The strengths of the players that we have. There’s, I wanna say nine or ten girls who are remaining from the team that won the conference tournament in 2010.
So they’ve tasted success. I’m hoping they can feed off their memories of that success and the feeling to the girls who haven’t tasted success yet at that level.
So that, along with the support of the department. You know, the strength we have here at Mercer and the reputation of the university as a whole. So those are the strengths I’m leaning on to help me get through this.
C: How would you describe your coaching style?
E: Intense, especially in practice. Game day I’m a little bit different…You can’t just pull a kid out and talk to her and put her back in, in college, you know, there’s a rule as far as substitution, so I have to be more patient with certain things.
My goal is in practice over the course of the week to prepare them for the match and make minor adjustments that the team can handle and watch them play the game that they love to play so much.
C: Coming out of pre-season, how is the team looking for the season this year?
E: Good, with the exception that we’ve hit an injury bug within the last week or so. I’m happy with where the team is at.
In any program across the country, they’re gonna have a few injuries. We’ve just taken a few, I think, more than I was hoping.
So it will be a true testament to the girls who need to step up—the girls who weren’t expecting to play a lot that will need to step up and play early in the season until we get some girls healthy.
So, it’s been good. It’s been spirited. It’s been competitive, and it’s just a matter of if we can get through healthy.
C: Are there any top players that you would like to highlight?
E: Being new, I would say that the team in general just has all been on the same page.
I’m hoping by, you know, mid-season to have some girls to step up and elevate their playing on the field.
There hasn’t been one person that I’ve said has been by far head and shoulders.
As a group they’ve all done really well with stepping up, so I’m hoping people start separating themselves four, five, or six games in.
C: Speaking of pre-season, I heard there has been a pretty intense schedule. What does a typical day look like for the team?
E: Breakfast at six am, training at seven, shower up and then do lunch around 11.
After practice they will shower and get ice treatments, ice baths, and therapy. T
hen they will do lunch. There’ll be a couple of hours of down time then they’ll go back out at four o’clock.
They’ll do dinner at about seven o’clock at night. Then they’re in bed usually about nine, because it’s up early again.
C: Is there anything else that you would like for people to know about this upcoming season?
E: Just come out, give the girls a chance, you know. We’re gonna play an attractive style of soccer. We’re gonna play. It’s gonna be nice to watch.
We’re gonna create a lot of chances, and I think it’ll be exciting. So just give the girls a chance, support them, and hopefully we’ll be successful and that’ll lead to more people in the stands.
In the opening game on the Bears battled it out on Bear Field to start the season with a 1-1 tie against Southern Mississippi.
They followed with a win at home against South Alabama. The Bears are 2-1-1 so far this season, with 15 games left to play.
Come out and support the team at one of the six home games left in this season.