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Q+A with Kelly Anderson, Richmond Hill girls’ varsity soccer head coach
Kelly Anderson
Kelly Anderson

Editor’s note: Sports correspondent Zane Rowland spoke with Kelly Anderson, Richmond Hill High School’s head coach with the girls’ varsity soccer team, ahead of their next playoff match against North Paulding High School on April 23rd. 

Q: You have had great success at Richmond Hill High School in the last couple of years. What would you attribute that to?

Coach Anderson: Going into this season with an undefeated record last year, other than the loss to Denmark in the playoffs, we knew we had to make some changes. I added harder competition to this year's schedule, held summer practices, my captains ran pre-season, and we found flaws early and worked on those first.

Last year we graduated seven seniors, six of which were starters. We also lost our entire backline aside from my senior Madison Haldeman this year, who now plays a midfield position. We knew after the tie with East Coweta, that we had to make some changes with the formations. 

We completely changed our formation to allow less pressure on our back line but also allow us to get attacking quicker. Our biggest asset is that a lot of teams don't know how to defend our formation which is outdated and I haven’t seen another high school team play it to date. 

Making changes early on, and recognizing where we need to put our strengths has played a large part in our success. The girls ability to adapt to this new formation, and their eagerness to try new things, has enabled them to trust in each other, and work together to make it their own. All props go to the girls, because they have been a workforce and have come out and impressed me time and time again.

Q: What has allowed this team to go undefeated this year?

Coach Anderson: I feel like I could write a novel on where our success has come from this year. If I had to narrow it down, it is chemistry, teamwork, dedication, and hard work. Every year I ask our team to come up with a goal. If they tell me their goal is to win the state championship or to go deeper in the playoffs then I expect a champion mentality. 

By that, I mean we show up to every practice, and we give 100%. Not only us as coaches holding them accountable, but they also need to hold each other accountable. The past two years, these girls have shown so much strength and work ethic, and their hard work has paid off for them.

Q: Last year, your team went undefeated in the regular season but unfortunately took a loss in the playoffs. What can this team do to get over that stumbling block this year?

Coach Anderson: A loss is just an opportunity to learn. Losing that game has allowed us to learn from our mistakes. To be honest, we were not the better team in that game, but It allowed me as a coach to notice that we have to get these Atlanta teams in our regular season schedule. so we are more prepared when we see that caliber of a team in the playoffs. 

I adjusted the schedule and I have constantly talked about the mistakes we made in that game and how this year we are coming out differently. We have a very young team this year, and our main focus is to prepare them for what is to come. A loss is just an opportunity to win. I constantly remind the girls that it is just a soccer game. The bigger lesson is how do we adjust, how do we get better, and how do we move forward. They are a resilient group of girls and they deserve it all.

Q: How do you set to maintain that level of success from the past two seasons as you move on to next spring (2025)?

Coach Anderson: My main goal is to keep consistent both as a coach and as a mentor. If the girls want to win a championship, I need to hold them accountable to that goal. That means we work hard 100% both during season and off season. 

Sometimes, hard decisions are made during tryouts, and a player's position is not secure unless they can uphold their team goals. I always tell the girls that there are going to be younger ones coming in hungry. In order to stay on top, you can't stop working for it or they will catch up.

Q: Are they any players on the team you want to give a shoutout to or otherwise mention?

Coach Anderson: A player that has really stepped up this year and shown some leadership both on and off the field is sophomore Iris Turner. She is our leading goal scorer with 19 goals, and plays in the midfield. I see her going far in the soccer world, and one day a college team will be lucky to have her.

We also have a senior, Madison Haldeman. She started the season as the only senior on the team and has been a true leader for the younger classmen. She is committed to go play soccer at Emory and Henry and she has been an incredible player and starter for our Varsity team the last 4 years.

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