November 5, 2008

W. Soccer’s Stich Has Seen Team Evolve Since First Season With Red

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The women’s soccer team will play its final game of the season this Saturday when it takes on Dartmouth at home. This game is also Senior Day, an event in which fans and fellow teammates will recognize the lone senior on the Red’s roster — Whitney Stich — in her last collegiate match.
As one the team’s three captains, Stich leads the squad alongside junior Eva Dixon and sophomore Lena Russomagno. She is responsible for organizing and motivating the team, and helping the new freshmen to become more comfortable playing college soccer.
Stich got involved in the sport at a young age, and played soccer for Poudre High School before coming to Cornell. She earned four letters for her high school team, and was the team captain during her senior year. Stich was named a second-team all-conference pick in 2003, and was first-team all-conference. In her senior season, she was named MVP and second-team 5A all-state player.
Originally from Fort Collins, Colo., Stich chose Cornell for the opportunity to play at the D1 level and for the renowned engineering program. She has contributed to the Red’s defensive line in her four years on the team, and has seen several changes in the program since her freshman season.
According to Stich, some of the biggest adjustments that the team has been through have been changes in the coaching staff. Stich had three different coaches in her four years here, and each of them had different attitudes toward the direction of the team. Most recently, the reins were handed over to head coach Danielle LaRoche last year. [img_assist|nid=33291|title=Ball control|desc=Senior defender Whitney Stich has anchored the Red’s back line with her leadership style.|link=node|align=left|width=|height=0]
“It’s changed a lot,” Stich said. “My freshmen year, I feel like the team was more laid back…the coach knew a lot about soccer but wasn’t that intense. My second coach was a little bit more intense, and then we hit Danielle, and she’s fantastic but she is a very intense coach and definitely demands excellence 24/7.”
Stich has not only witnessed the team change as a whole in her time here, but she’s also seen herself change as a player. For Stich, staying positive in the face of hard competition and tough luck was as important a skill to develop as improving her skills on the field. She learned to motivate others and deal with the mental games of soccer.
“I think I’ve improved a lot mentally,” said Stich. “I think that’s been my biggest barrier to overcome individually and I think that’s something the team is learning to overcome as well.”
On the field, Stich helps to block the opposing team’s advances while keeping the defensive line solid. What she does off the field has a great impact on how the team plays as a whole, and her leadership as captain strengthens the team.
As the only senior on the team, Stich is up on the ins and outs of Cornell soccer. Along with the little things, like making sure everyone on the team is wearing the right colors on the right day, Stich guides the team to perform their best each time they step onto the field, and her two main duties as captain are to organize and motivate the team.
While her two co-captains are more geared toward readying the team as a whole, Stich provides individual attention and support for each of her teammates.
“We each have different roles and I think one of my main roles is more of individual leadership, because I work better one-on-one with people than with the whole team,” Stich said “Some people just need to be encouraged a lot and other people I feel like I need to demand them to be better and that’s what motivates them to play. So learning to motivate people based on individual styles what works for them.”
Stich’s leadership has been especially important this year to show the way to the eight freshmen newcomers. According to Stich, each player reacts to criticism and advice differently, and realizing this has helped her chose the best way to communicate with each new freshmen player.
“Sometimes when you come down on a play or something and you say ‘hey that needs to be a better ball’ some players will be like ‘ok I need to play better next time,’” said Stich. “With some players you do that same approach and they just totally shut down and have this internal turmoil because they let someone down and they’re playing worse for recognizing that. So with a lot of freshmen it was a lot of learning how to motivate each of the freshmen individually.”
While the end of the soccer season might mean less stress and more time for studies, this weekend’s game isn’t just the last one until next year for Stich. After dedicating so much of her time and her interest into soccer, her last collegiate game is sure to be an emotional one that she will remember.
“I have mixed emotions,” said Stich. “I’m excited for the game. It’s the end of my soccer career, which is hard. This is something I’ve done almost every day for over 10 years, so that’ll be hard.”
Not only will Stich be done with this phase of her soccer career, but she will also be leaving the group of teammates she has grow close to in her years at Cornell.
“The biggest thing is that I’m going to miss my teammates more than anything,” said Stich. “I think that’ll be the hardest part. I feel like I’ve been through so much with the girls who are on the team now, and that’ll be really hard because now it takes not a whole lot of effort, because I see them every day at practice so I know what’s going on to knowing that I won’t be around them very much it will be difficult.”