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Saturday, May 27, 2017

Soccer

Years of struggle are paying off for soccer head coach


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Head coach Chris Pfau has his team on the right track as they’ve jumped out to a 5-1-1 start to the season. | Justin Tijerina/The Cougar

If fans of Cougar athletics have learned anything over the last decade, it’s that when a team has the right coach and philosophy all it takes is patience to see results.

Tom Herman and the football team saw it, so did Todd Whitting from baseball and basketball’s Kelvin Sampson. Head coach Chris Pfau and the 5-1-1 soccer team are next.

The hardest thing for fans is to wait and they have done in the last four seasons. Pfau came to Houston with a plan to turn the program around, but it hasn’t always been easy.

Like most coaches, it took time for him to get the players who align with his system.

“Most of the players when I came in decided not to play anymore because the level of soccer required more work and commitment then they wanted to put in,” Pfau said. “After my second year we lost about 16 players either to graduation or players deciding not to play anymore.”

He was undeterred, however. After recruiting players and implementing his tactics over the years, Pfau finally has found the one thing that was missing: experience.

Pfau said that this year’s juniors are his first true recruiting class.

“The last two years we have been playing a lot of freshman and sophomores,” Pfau said. “No matter how good these players are — they are young. There are times they are good and times they are bad. With young players there is usually no in between. This year, they are juniors and sophomores and have learned how to be more consistent and mentally tougher.”

Although Pfau’s recruits have had to endure some of the worst seasons in program history, this has only strengthened their mental fortitude.

That mental toughness was on display after the Cougars suffered their sole loss of the year against UC Riverside.

“The mood in the locker room was disappointing,” said sophomore forward Desiree Bowen. “We felt like we lost the game because we didn’t work hard enough, but we know we just have to move on and work hard in practice to get back on track.”

That mentality carried over to the pitch and helped the Cougars close their non-conference schedule with two more victories that gave them their highest win percentage for the non-conference in school history at 0.786.

“The bad is over,”  Pfau said. “These last couple of years we have taken our lumps but it is starting to pay off with these younger players now having that experience.”

Pfau and company will need that experience now as they head into arguably the toughest part of their schedule.

Their next two games are on the road against the University of Central Florida and the undefeated University of South Florida before returning home to host Temple University and the University of Connecticut.

“We’ll find out very quickly where we are,” Pfau said. “We’re in a better place. I think if we can weather the storm and continue to play the way we are, who knows.”

The season is still young, and Pfau thought that his program is on the right path to becoming a powerhouse.

He has the blueprint — all that’s left is to turn the potential into top-line production.

“I do believe that with what will return over the next couple of years and what we have coming in, the sky is the limit,” Pfau said.

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