New soccer coach cool, calm and collecting wins

By Brandon Wright
Published December 7, 2007

Newsome High coach Kelly Townsend stood near the edge of the field, watching the action unfold. With hands in her pockets and a quiet, calm presence about her, the first-year head coach said little.

No screaming.

No barking orders.

Always in control.

"That's just my personality," Townsend said. "I'm pretty laid-back ...always have been."

It wasn't always that way with Townsend's predecessor, Kathy Dodd, who built Newsome into a burgeoning girl's soccer power. Dodd, who quit after last season, was known for a fiery sideline presence.

As for Townsend's style?

"Not nearly as tense," senior defender Rudi Rodriguez said with a chuckle. "Not even close." - Townsend's coaching demeanor may be more Tony Dungy than Jon Gruden, but it's hard to argue with her results so far. The Wolves, coming off a trip to the 5A state semifinals last year, are off to a 7-1 start.

"It's much quieter around here this year," junior midfielder Ana Cate said. "If there's yelling going on, it's because something is really wrong."

And so far this season, those situations have been few and far between. The Wolves have outscored their opponents 34-1.

"I think I have the best defense around," Townsend said.

"I'd be completely comfortable putting them up against any state champions. They are absolutely amazing."

Led by a backline of Kayli Kishel, Sam Simpson and Rodriguez, Newsome has managed to make goalkeeper Kendall Graham's job relatively stress free.

"Sometimes we look back there and it's like she's picking daisies," Cate said.

Cate may be exaggerating, but Graham has been forced to make just 23 saves in seven starts heading into tonight's match at Tampa Bay Tech. While Graham was away for a club tournament, backup goalie Hannah Rainey had a shutout against Brandon.

"One thing that is big is that we have a lot of options," Townsend said. "My backup defenders are amazing."

On the offensive end, Jaime Smith leads the team with seven goals. Cate runs the midfield and with ball skills to spare, she is the attack's catalyst.

"My job is easy," Cate said. "All I have to do is find them up top."

One player Cate won't be finding anytime soon is Megan Foley. The senior striker, Newsome's second leading scorer last season, broke a bone in her foot during the season's first match and likely won't return unless the Wolves make another run deep into the playoffs.

Newsome missed Foley's scoring punch Tuesday against Bloomingdale, suffering their first defeat 1-0.

Shaping up as the top girls soccer rivalry in the county over the past few years - the Bulls beat the Wolves 1-0 in overtime of 2006's region final and Newsome returned the favor in penalty kicks to reach the state final four last season - the combination of Foley's injury and the loss could have been enough to set a first-year head coach off.

Instead, she spoke for about 15 seconds and dismissed them.

"Everyone wants to win," Townsend said. "But am I going to stress them out over a game nobody is going to remember in two months? No. There's a lot of soccer to be played."

Perhaps Graham summed it up best, "She's just pretty cool."

Brandon Wright can be reached at b21wright@yahoo.com.