When Winthrop women's soccer coach Melissa Heinz said she wanted to make a change this season, she meant it. Her team struggled to score last season. So she went on the recruiting trail looking solely for women who could put the ball in the back of the net.
More goals will give Heinz and her Eagles a better shot at their goal of winning the Big South tournament this season.
They play at home at 1 p.m. today against Georgia State.
Heinz brought in Courtney Durbin, Christine Isabella, Chelsea Tidwell and Nichole Smith to help implement the new style. All played forward prior to their arrival.
Heinz also changed the Eagles' offensive system going, with three forwards up top instead of two. The set-up is a trade off. It should provide for more offensive opportunities but could also mean giving up a few more goals.
Winthrop played more traditional 2-4-4 set last year -- two forwards, four midfielders and four defenders.
The 2-4-4 gave Heinz decent results in her first five seasons at the helm. But the scoring production fell off dramatically in 2007.
The 2006 Eagles won the regular-season championship by scoring 39 goals. Last year, the team tallied just 23 goals and finished with a 7-8-4 record, prompting her to making changes, bold changes.
"I recruited four forwards because we were changing the system. We are going to play bold this season," Heinz said.
"The idea is, hey, let's go for it. Put some goals in the back of the net. We may give up some more, but if we allow one goal for our three, I'm okay with that. When I say we are going to play bold, we'll play bold."
The move is easier to make with senior goalkeeper Dimi Poulos in place. The 2006 Big South Player of the Year led the league in saves last season with 98 and is Winthrop's career and single-season leader in saves and goals against average.
"Even if we make a mistake, Poulos can use her skills and bail us out," Heinz said. "In the 3-4-3, we'll allow some shots outside 18 yards and let Dimi make the stops."
Durbin and Isabella will stay at forward. They'll play along side senior Chelsea White, who led the team in goals (eight) and points (22) last season, and is the school's all-time leader in both categories.
Tidwell will play center-midfield and some forward.
Smith is transitioning to defense.
Heinz, a sweeper in her playing days, said she can teach anyone to be a defender. "It is nice to be able to relieve the defenders with some speed, like Smith has."
Smith is always quick with a smile and said she is all for the change in position.
"I'm fine with it. I never played defense before. It is so new to me. I like that I have so much time to be able to see the field," Smith said.
The team has embraced the freshman and the new tempo.
"I know they will make freshman mistakes. But we all support each other and take care of each other," Heinz said.
That is comforting to Isabella, who admitted to being a little nervous at the start of the scrimmage. "Playing bold means to just play hard and not be afraid to take chances," she said.
Durbin, out of Perrysburg, Ohio, liked the idea of being part of Winthrop's push for the BSC title. She made an impression on Heinz the first time they met.
"When we brought her down here, she had such a driven attitude," Heinz said. "We wanted her here for her character alone. She sent me a text message over the summer saying how much she was looking forward to coming in and getting a (championship) ring. That speaks volumes for an incoming freshman."
Tidwell has already picked up a nickname. The 5-footer out of Oxford, Miss., is going by "Polly," a reference to the Polly Pocket toys that came in pocket-size cases.
Heinz described Tidwell as "a pistol with a little bit of a bite."
Tidwell is having no problem getting herself ready for games.
"We are all used to playing in tournaments with club soccer," Tidwell said. "Here, you have that one game to prepare for, so all that aggression builds up. So playing bold is something I already have. I'm like the Energizer Bunny."