A Change in Style, a Change in Coach
It is a common occurrence — when a new coach joins a team, they like to enforce their own playing style. That usually means acquiring different players and people that can bring the values of the coach onto the field. In professional soccer, a coach can just sell the players that they don’t like and buy a new team. However, in the collegiate world, a new coach gets the team they inherit, which is a squad recruited by their predecessor.
For this year’s seniors, it was an unusual experience four years ago when they joined the Big Red. This group was recruited by the old coach, yet they showed up to preseason to begin their rookie season just to find someone they had never met or talked to before at the helm. For Brenna Mockler, it was an unusual experience, “I liked the point of view of a program striving to improve that the old coach talked about, but, because of Coach Farmer, that has been something that actually happened.”
When a new coach shows up, they usually try to impose their will on a team. The Cornell program has not been strong for a long time, as, before Coach Farmer, they lost many games and did not play the most entertaining soccer to watch. However, after taking over, he built the team that he wanted by changing the style and the personnel. “ In general, having been here through the transition of coaches, the seniors have been putting in a lot of work and being an example of his philosophies,” said Mockler.
As it turned out, this year’s seniors developed into invaluable players and became the ones that Coach Farmer needed. Brenna Mockler and vice captain Shanay Fischer were entrusted with crucial positions in Coach Farmer’s system, as the squad counted on them to shield the back four and distribute the ball out the back. “I definitely try to implement the things Coach Farmer stresses in practice, such as switching the point of attack from defensive center midfield and focusing on winning all the second balls” explained Mockler. Therefore, it wasn’t necessarily that she was the player Coach Farmer was looking for, or that he altered her playing style and ability. In fact, she transformed as a player, while Coach Farmer changed his style to best suit his current group.
Although she was a transfer, Amanda Gaggioli was also part of this senior leadership that Coach Farmer looked for on his team because, despite coming to Ithaca as a junior, there was still a substantial role waiting for her to fulfill. “My love for soccer and love for the game played a part in my decision to come to Cornell,” stated Gaggioli.
With that passion toward the game, it was only a matter of time until she became a key player for the Big Red. As a winger, Gaggioli fulfilled a position that embodied the crucial factor of Coach Farmer’s team: hard work. “For Farmer, someone willing to put in the extra effort is exactly the type of player that he is looking for,” Gaggioli said.
While it is clear that Coach Farmer has affected his players, it is also apparent that his players have given back to him. Gaggioli is a pacey wide player who can run at her opponents with speed, but is never shy in getting back on defense. Other wide players Coach Farmer has recruited, such as Meera Dheer and Jessica Ritchie, a sophomore and freshman respectively, are similar athletes. Coach Farmer seemed to learn what players he wanted to recruit from those that he inherited.
Other players transitioned into integral roles on his team. For example, vice captain Charlotte Tate became a mainstay during her junior year under Coach Farmer, personifying his style of hard work and strong defense. She scored one goal and assisted on the other in Cornell’s final game. Mockler became so crucial to the defense that Farmer only substituted her with another senior, Fischer. While Coach Farmer might have expected to have to build a new team, he was surprised to find his senior’s more than capable of not only adapting, but also thriving in his system.
The women’s soccer team endured a disappointing senior day, losing a 2-0 lead in the second half to fall 3-2 in extra time. The players couldn’t believe it and walked off a pitch slick with rain in shame and disbelief. However, when they look back over their years in the Cornell program, they should feel proud about how they turned the it around. Regardless of how their journey ended, the players Coach Farmer did not pick were still the ones that started a revolution that changed the way this team was built. Mockler captured it perfectly when she said, “The culture has changed. Instead of going into games hoping to win, we go into games expecting to win.” The way this group performed, there is every reason to suspect that the seniors have left that expectation on the team for years to come.