Off and on during her 14-year tenure as the head women’s soccer coach at LIU Brooklyn(w), Tracey Bartholomew would keep an eye on the Columbia women’s program.
Part of it was the local connection, and part of it was the intrigue of the Ivy League. She liked where she was but kept tabs on the team.
So at the end of the 2013 season, when the position opened, Bartholomew applied for the job, and shortly thereafter she was announced as the new head coach of the Ivy League program in December.
This spring, she is fervently working to get up to speed with everything about Columbia soccer, with an eye towards making a splash come the fall season.
“Right from the start, I want to shake up the Ivy League,” Bartholomew told TopDrawerSoccer.com. “What that means, I’m not quite clear on that – we have eight new freshmen coming in that should help boost the team’s level – but the girls know that in every single game we’re going to fight as hard as possible and battle as hard as possible in those games.”
Bringing 14 seasons of head coaching experience with her to the Lions, Bartholomew’s to-do list is a lengthy one. Since taking over the role, she’s set out to learn the basics off the field: get to know her team, learn the ropes on the admission and financial aid side, work on alumni connections and get used to Ivy League rules.
Then of course, there’s working and coaching a team to prepare them to take a step forward in the Ivy League this fall. She brought in her long-time assistant Amphone Keovongmanysar, who’s worked with her for 14 years, and together they have been implementing a new style of play and tweaking things tactically.
“Traditionally, Columbia has played in a three-back system, whereas I feel more comfortable in a four-back system,” Bartholomew said. “That’s a big change for these girls and is one of the things we are focusing on. They have always been an attacking minded team. It’s actually been a lot of fun to organize them defensively, but also win [the ball] and get to goal very quickly. There are a number of very talented players, and it’s sort of getting used to the way we want to play. We want to keep the ball, move it through the midfield as well.”
The Ivy League rules are another new aspect of the job for the Northeast Conference mainstay. Athletic programs are limited in the amount of practice hours they are allowed to work with teams during the offseason, hampering Bartholomew’s ability to get to know some players at the pace she had in mind.
That hasn’t been a deterrent of course, rather just another challenge for the coach to try and overcome.
Looking ahead, Bartholomew is also optimistic about the returning talent. A senior-laden crop will be relied upon in the fall, including midfielder Torie Goode, forward Pho Browne and Coleen Rizzo, who missed the 2013 campaign with an ACL injury. Four goalkeepers are competing for the starting role in net, while nine newcomers will be added as well.
Regardless of who is on the field, Bartholomew’s main goal is to have the team’s mentality ready, as she heads into the Ivy League fray for the first time later this year.
“I’ve always been a coach who takes it one game at a time, and whether you’re winning or losing you have to learn from those moments,” she said. “[At LIU Brooklyn] we’ve played some Ivy teams over the years, some of them I’m familiar with, some of them I’m not, but for ourselves here we’ll be new to them. Even though some of the players are still there, they haven’t played against our style, what we want to do… maybe we might not be as talented as those teams but we’re going to be in those games because of the little things we’re doing.”