As one might anticipate, the anointing of a new head coach has led to some changes at Hood.
Brad Barber, an assistant coach under Jeremy Mattoon who was promoted in July after Matton and the school parted ways, is careful not to criticize his predecessor. But Barber did say that the players’ attitude is different thus far.
“This is a new year, and one of the biggest things we did this fall in fall ball was we really understood the type of athletes that we have,” he said. “We tried to put in a new mentality, and everyone’s bought in. Everyone’s on the same page, everyone’s accepted their responsibility, we’re getting out in the community more. There’s more of a team bond, and it’s fantastic to see, and I think part of that is going to correlate to the field this year. I see a lot more intensity in practices, and I see a lot more guys putting in the extra work.”
One positive sign occurred in the fall when the Blazers, who went 3-14 overall and 0-8 in the Middle Atlantic Conference last season, scrimmaged with Northern Virginia Community College, a program that had not lost to Hood in previous meetings.
“It was 7-2 before we started rotating people, and we ended up winning that game,” Barber said. “It was only a scrimmage, but it was a step forward as we won, 9-7. That was a positive note. Last year, we averaged mid-20s in shots per game, and in our two scrimmages, we had about 40-plus. We struggled to put the ball in the back of the net last year.”
The offense hasn’t finished averaged more than six goals per game in the last two seasons. Enter offensive coordinator Mike Russo, a former midfielder who graduated from Goucher last spring and has been tasked by Barber with reorganizing the unit in an effort to make it more productive.
“We focused on the mechanics and the movement and walking them through the fundamentals of plays, and they really picked it up,” Barber said. “They really found a niche, and their ability to run it is fantastic. Their ability to get shots off is fantastic. … We’re always going to be growing and trying different things here and there, but I think for the most part, we’ve found a really good system that we’re happy with offensively. Defensively, we didn’t have to change a lot. We tweaked some things, and we tightened some things up, but we really just found a system for the whole team that I think at the end of the day, we’re going to look back and say, ‘Hey, this was very successful.’ Now, going into next year, we’re going to take another step forward. We’re going to continue this positivity and take another step forward.”