Cartersville overcame an 0-4 start to make it to the state playoffs, and Sean McDermott hopes to lead the team back to that promised land. McDermott has been hired as the Lady Canes coach, replacing Lowe who retired two years ago following nearly 30 years at the high school — including many as the boys soccer coach.
McDermott had a special appreciation for what Lowe was able to do with the team this season, in a tight spot no less.
“I thought coach Lowe did a great job with the team this year, picking it up right at the end. I was actually terrified ’cause my daughter’s a senior and I’m thinking, ‘Oh man, don’t let her have a bad senior year,’” recalled McDermott, whose daughter is Kaeli, a Young Harris signee. “But that turned out well.”
Cartersville ended the season 10-7, losing in the first round to fifth-ranked Oconee County in a 4-3, overtime thriller.
McDermott, a former Gordon Central coach, believes the Lady Canes return enough talent to be right back in the thick of the playoff hunt.
“You’d have to start at the top of the list there, you got Sydney James. Coach Lowe said it best: ‘She’s the best goalie in the region,’ no doubt about it. She’s the best goalkeeper that I’ve seen, even in the region that [my former team] played in,” he continued. “That’s gonna be, I guess, the foundation for the team next year. We’re gonna have to build a team basically around her, which is difficult to build around a goalie because you usually build it around a goal scorer.”
Apart from James, Cartersville also should have other returning players like Stefanie Will and Rachel Webb in the fold next year.
“She’s a good, knowledgeable forward,” McDermott said of Will. “Then there is Rachel Webb — and I believe she’s gonna be a junior next year also — and she can provide some scoring punch as well. And then you have Victoria Everhart, and she’s a very good defensive player. I think with the experiences she learned this year, that’s only going to add to that defensive support that she can add to the team.”
Anna Phillips, a left wing, is yet another player the Lady Canes will be glad to have for the 2013 season, their coach noted.
“She scored a goal in the last playoff game,” McDermott added. “She provided a lot of scoring last year for the soccer team also.”
He doesn’t expect one player — or two or three — to bear the brunt of making the team a success, though.
“It will be one of those things where you need the team to really play together … ” McDermott said. “I think if everybody works together as a team, it’s really gonna be a good thing.
“I’m not really looking for one or two standouts. I’d rather have a really solid team,” he continued. “A lot of great teams don’t have really one standout because you end up relying just on that person so much that it really hurts if they don’t play or if they get hurt — I’ve had that happen in the past on some of my teams as well. I think if we can make everybody really good and work on our fundamentals, I think that would be the best scenario for everybody. And, it would also help the program from year to year … I’d rather be strong every year and build on that.”
McDermott, an ex-player at the University of Missouri-Rolla, has coached for more than 25 years, including stints at Excel Christian Academy and Gordon Central in Calhoun. He helped begin a stretch of three league championships while at Excel from 2007-09.
“We started with middle school and actually produced three back-to-back-to-back NAML champions, which is North Atlanta Metro League — it’s basically all the Christian schools. They won that three years in a row; I was a coach for the first two years,” he added. “In fact, the second year they went undefeated. So, the interest was there, but it was more from a girls standpoint — my daughter was there. My daughter was playing on the middle school team. She was the only girl on the team. … They didn’t have a girls team, so she got to do that. We started a varsity team for the girls. That was a first-year varsity team and they finished 5-5-1, which [was good] for a first-year team — especially at a really small school like that.
“I was told by you guys actually — by the paper, not you, but whoever was there — that I’d be lucky if I won two games. I’m like, ‘Well, let’s see what happens.’ That turned out to be pretty good.”
A year after starting the Lady Eagles varsity team, McDermott left due to job cuts, landing at Gordon Central where he coached the girls program.
“We made the playoffs for the first time in nine years at Gordon Central for the girls,” he said. “I coached them for two years, and then the boys coach quit and they asked me to be the boys coach. And so I coached the boys team last year, and I think we finished like 9-7, something like that.”
The St. Louis native acknowledged that soccer has been a part of his life since he started playing at 4 or 5 years old. He has served in a number of roles, including as a high school and college referee with the Missouri Soccer Association as well as coach of St. John’s High in St. Louis and of club teams like the Fort Collins Arsenal in Fort Collins, Colo., and the Cartersville Clash.
“I’m hoping to bring a lot of my experience to the team,” McDermott said. “I concentrate a lot on fundamentals and playing soccer the right way, or what I perceive to be the right way. And everybody coaches different.”
The Cartersville coach looks forward to once again working back in Bartow County, and not just because of the reduced travel time.
“One good thing is I actually get to come back and work and serve the community I live in, versus driving up to Calhoun. Not that that was bad, but it’s a better feeling of knowing that I’m helping people around my area, so I think that’s a good thing,” McDermott said.