Lesle Gallimore has been head coach of the University of Washington’s women’s soccer team for nearly two decades. In that time, she’s coached and developed the likes of Hope Solo, Tina Ellertson and Veronica Perez. She has also experienced the peaks and valleys that come with a long tenure.
Coach Gallimore caught up with AWK about the new season, the Huskies’ current crop of talent, the World Cup, and getting a good start against BYU this Friday.
Washington made a deep run in the 2010 NCAA Tournament and progressed to the Elite Eight. Has the team elevated its expectations going into this year?
I don’t know that we’ve elevated our expectations, we always have high expectations. If anything we want to improve from where we were on the whole last season. There are things each game that we can do better and learn from and that’s how we’ll approach this year. At the end of 2011 we’ll look back and hopefully be really proud of how we played and what we achieved.
Washington has experienced a major turnaround as of late. The team went winless in 2005 and reached the Elite Eight five years later. What’s been behind the recent success?
I’ve been here 18 years and all-in-all the majority of those years has been relatively successful. 2005 was a product of a perfect storm: 2004 Elite Eight Team graduate nine starters (85% of our point getters) and we had two highly touted freshmen that year medically disqualify. In 2005 we had 15 new players and played a brutal schedule…including opening on the road vs. the then #1 team in the country Penn State. We lost by a goal in overtime! It set the tone for a very, very young team, we had a difficult time holding leads, scoring goals and believing in ourselves..we lost 14 games by one goal…it was no easy task : ) We then built on that team for two more years before we could get back into the tournament…it was some of the toughest and best work we’ve done as coaches and I’m proud we’re here to have seen it through to our recent success. The lesson was “don’t ever graduate a group that big!” You really do need balance on your team, carry over from year-to-year, and a great blend of veteran and young players. We’ve become very particular about the type of player, student and person we recruit and it suits us and helps us be successful.
The Pac-12 has undergone expansion this offseason. What does that to for the competitiveness of the conference?
I think it adds to it. There are going to be two more quality teams that are fighting for the title every year. The Pac-10 was arguably the best conference in the country the last couple of years and always one of the toughest…this just makes it even more exciting and puts a new twist on things. For someone that’s been around as long as I have I prefer conference expansion to adding an end of the year conference tournament. It’s an exciting new dynamic.
Senior midfielder Kate Deines has just been named to the Hermann Trophy Watch List. How would you describe her style of play and unique qualities?
Kate is strong and athletic. She can play multiple positions and is as skillful as they come. She understands the game of soccer and makes others around her better. Kate does on her own what it takes to be the best in every facet of her life and it shows when she arrives at the field. She is great at helping a team possess the ball and at winning the ball…and is an extremely dangerous player in front of goal.
Jorde Lafontaine-Kussman has emerged as one of the top goalkeepers in the country. Can you talk about her development in the position?
Jorde’s story has been pretty well-documented: her cancer survival, her transfer, her year having to sit out when she first got here. Jorde’s development as a goalkeeper has as much to do with her character development as anything. Her game is always improving and she’s worked hard physical to get where she is today. I think it’s her perspective and her attitude that have taken her game to an entirely different level.
The Huskies eliminated Portland in the NCAA Tournament last season. Does the budding rivalry between the two teams add a sense of intensity?
Oh, it’s not a budding rivalry. It’s a rivalry that’s been around for more than 20 years. Portland has won two National Championships and we want one. The late Clive Charles was a very good friend of mine and Amy’s and we have so much respect for what they do at Portland and how they play the game and how they’ve carried forward with Clive’s legacy. They have definitely had our number over the years but we will feel confident that we can swing that momentum. They are our neighbors and there’s a LOT of Purple Pride between the two of us. They play great soccer and so do we, so it always makes for a fun and competitive match up.
A new pitch has been installed at Husky Soccer Field this offseason. How important is that heading into the new season?
The field has needed some work and it was long overdue frankly. It’s now level and the grass is great, so we’re pumped to be able to be confident and comfortable on our home surface this year.
You’ve coached players that are now high-level internationals and pros such as Hope Solo, Tina Ellertson, and Veronica Perez. What’s it been like watching their post-collegiate careers blossom over the years?
It’s been a ton of fun. It’s great to watch them continue to have a passion and love for the game and to work hard to represent themselves to the best of their abilities and to make their former coaches and their alma mater proud.
You went to Germany with associate head coach Amy Griffin to watch the Women’s World Cup. Is there anything you learned from watching the tournament that you’re planning to apply in your coaching?
I think that I learned that no detail is too small when preparing your team for competition. We’ll talk a lot about leads and how to hold them late in periods…that was a glaring thing in this World Cup. So “situational” coaching should always have a place in training.
What will always stand out for you from the 2011 FIFA Women’s World Cup?
Wow. It was amazing on so many different levels for both Amy and I. From a personal standpoint we were so overjoyed to be able to share that amazing experience and trip with our families. From a professional stand point it was just so fun to see up close how far the women’s game has come internationally. And from a UW coaching standpoint, the pride I felt when I saw V and Hope take the field each time. I get goose bumps typing that sentence; really just overwhelming pride. If I had to pick one thing: USA/BRAZIL…everything about that day and game!
The Huskies’ season will open with a tough match against BYU on Friday. What will the team need to go to start off on the right foot?
Our team needs lace up their boots on Friday and put on their uniforms knowing they have done everything possible from the end of last season until now to prepare for opening day. They need to find their confidence from their preparation and they need to stay even-keeled. It’s the first game of a 20 game season. Opening with a formidable opponent like BYU is great because it will show you where you are immediately. The season will be about learning to handle to curves that get thrown our way, the bumps in the road so to speak. Survival, resilience and then hopefully late in the NCAA Tournament some redemption.
Thanks to Coach Gallimore and Alyssa.