Source: Hometown Life
Author: Dan O'Meara
After four years as an assistant coach, Gene Pulice takes charge of the Mercy High School varsity soccer program as head coach.
He replaces longtime coach Butch Babler, who stepped aside last year to concentrate on field hockey. He coaches the Marlins in that sport and is involved with the international game, too.
Pulice, who also is the Catholic Central varsity head coach, brings 30 years of high-level experience as a soccer coach to his new position.
He hopes to have the same success with the Mercy girls that he has with the CC boys. The Shamrocks went to the state semifinals last fall for the first time in nine years and finished with a 20-3-3 record.
“At the end of the day, the girls have to buy what I’m selling,” Pulice said, adding everybody is thus far. “We’re not building players; I’m building a program.
“You get them for such a short time. I have to get them to understand what I want and get them to play for me. That’s what my job is.”
The Marlins, who were 6-3-5 last year, lost some top-notch talent in all-area players Taylor Babcock, Maria Pulice and Alex Griffin. Marge Terhune and Annalise Sala were key players on a perennial basis, too.
Mercy always has good players moving up, however. Senior tri-captains Missy Hunt, Maddie Erdman and Allia McDowel are ready to assume key leadership roles.
“Collectively, we’re going to do well together,” Pulice said. “I think our leadership is going to carry us a long way. In just a short time, the girls know what I’m looking for. That line of communication is clearly open.
“I think our strongest asset will be our unity. That’s something, even in a short time, I can see is a huge strength. We’re all looking out for each other, playing as a unit already.”
The captains have each area of the field covered. McDowel is a forward, Erdman a midfielder and Hunt a defender. All are returning starters and local club players.
Senior Angela Lindow and junior Maggie Shrader will be back on the defensive line again, too.
Three sophomores who started last year will figure prominently in this year’s lineup. They include goalie Chloe Russo, midfielder Rebecca Heaman and defender Emily Engler, who plays the center-back position.
Freshman midfielder Chloe Woodbeck could have an immediate impact, being a Vardar Elite Clubs national player who chose to play high school soccer.
The Marlins have just seven seniors on their team, the others being forwards Miranda Konja and Brianna Woodbeck and defender Zoe Menard.
“We’re generally a young team,” Pulice said. “A lot had a significant playing base last year. We’re young, but I think we have a very promising future.”
Mercy begins the season Thursday, April 7, at defending Catholic League champion Birmingham Marian. The next game is at Garden City on Monday, April 11.
“We’re going to be fierce competitors,” Pulice said. “First, we’re students; secondarily, we’re athletes. We’re not going to lose sight of the sportsmanship and student-athlete part of this.
“We’re coming right out of the gate against Marian. Obviously, they’re our biggest rival. It’s going to be a good barometer how the rest of the season goes. I think we have a lot of good, positive aspects in store.”
In four years at CC, Pulice had great success and is planning for the same at Mercy.
“We’re looking forward to a similar reaction, but nothing happens overnight,” he said. “We’re looking forward to a very competitive year.”