Former player Woolard steps in to lead soccer program

Alese Woolard enjoyed a stellar soccer career playing for former Missouri Southern women’s soccer coach Trevor Wachsman.

 Since her playing career ended, Woolard has spent the past four seasons as Wachsman’s assistant. During that span, Missouri Southern won 33 matches and made an NCAA Division II Regional appearance after the team went 11-4-5 in 2006.

 But, after a disappointing 5-15 season in 2009, Wachsman’s seven-year coaching career at Missouri Southern came to an end, announcing his resignation in July in order to take a job at Utah State University.

Southern began a national search and, at one point, hired Dwight Burgess to the post. But Burgess, after rethinking his situation, decided he no longer wanted the job and school administrators went back to work in search of Wachsman’s successor.

 Enter Alese Woolard.

 Although it took some convincing — and rightfully so after originally being passed up for Burgess — Woolard agreed to become the Lions’ new head coach, ending a “hectic” summer for everyone involved.

 “Southern is very fortunate to have coach Woolard step into this critical coaching role,” Missouri Southern Director of Athletics Jared Bruggeman said in a release. “Her loyalty, dedication, and passion for Missouri Southern is second to none. We are excited to watch her lead our soccer program to new heights.”

 Woolard, along with assistant coach Christina Kleekamp, quickly went to work in preparation for the team’s first preseason practice. Woolard inherits a young, talented team, which possesses tremendous athleticism.

 “I am very excited about this upcoming year,” Woolard said. “We return a number of players that got significant playing time the last few years, and who have experience against our conference teams.

 “We have also added a number of players who will fill gaps, and others who will give us more depth in most areas.”

 The Lions will have to replace Stephanie Heines, who led last year’s team in goals, shots on goal and points. The good news is, Alicia Vonderheid, who started as a true freshman last season, returns to help anchor Missouri Southern’s offense. Goalie Randi Russell also returns after totaling 1,700 minutes in the net last year and led the MIAA with 118 saves.

“I feel like we possess all the tools we need to be competitive within the conference as long as we stay healthy,” Woolard said.

 The Lions, who finished eighth in the MIAA after posting a 3-13 record, return eight starters from last year’s team and 14 lettermen.

 “We are a very versatile and talented team, and I plan to utilize the depth that we have to try and get the program back on a winning track,” Woolard said.

 The Lions open the 2010 campaign at 5 p.m. today on the road at Northeastern State.