Catching Up with Nellie Pineault (Babson College Women’s Soccer Head Coach)

By Matt Noonan 

The Babson College women’s soccer team is off to fast start. They’ve compiled six wins, two of which have come in double overtime, as well as watched roughly six players contribute to game-winning goals.

“It’s been a complete team effort,” Babson’s head coach Nellie Pineault said. “There’s 11 players on the field and these plays and goals start in the back and everybody in someway contributes to these goals.”

Yet, while the Beavers remain atop the NEWMAC [New England Men’s and Women’s Athletic Conference] standings, Pineault also credited the impact of her coaching staff, which has also been a major reason for Babson’s success.

“We’re a balanced coaching staff. We have three phenomenal assistant coaches who all bring different things to the table and I think that’s also a huge part of our success. I think we all have our values and all bring something to the table, so can’t forget them,” Pineault said.

Here’s our conversation with the coach about the season, as well as her experience coaching the Beavers the past year too.

Last season was your first year as the head coach for Babson. What are some things you learned last year or were impressed by overall?

“Last year there was a combination of things. Everyone on our team [contributed] and every player on the team were committed to the team. They played for each other, [which] is really what I think is so special about our team and they just have this will to get there. We have some great leaders on the team, [who] carried us along the way. We got some great momentum at the end of the season. Almost everybody was healthy and just ready to go. They prepared a lot over the summertime, so they came in fit and prepared to start the season off right away. We had a couple good wins, late wins against a few of the teams we played early on and I think it helped gain our confidence throughout the season.”

What have been some tools or successful coaching methods that you’ve carried over from last season to this season?

“We graduated three [players] last year, so we had the bulk of our veterans back and so they already kind of came into this season with this mentality that they just want to compete and I think having the success that we had last year certainly has set the tone in terms of their commitment to working over the summer and working right away. We had a really productive preseason and it’s carried over into our regular season. In some of our games, we’ve come from behind to win and that’s just their determination, and their team mentality. I think they’re in it for each other and they want to collectively as a group – it’s just more of a matter of total team effort”

How did you team respond so well after dropping it’s first game of the season?

“I would have to say, definitely it prepared us for having to play against a very good team and William Smith is nationally ranked. We had a comparable game last year against Ithaca [College], who was nationally ranked at the time we played them and it was around the same time of the year and it certainly helped [with setting] the mentality that we need to be organized as a team and everybody needs to be plugged in and everyone needs to contribute and we played deep on our bench as well. I think playing such a high standard team certainly set the tone and helped us early on realize that if we played our potential we can get there and achieve our goal.”

Senior goalkeeper, Lisa Wojnar has been terrific between the pipes this season, but what’s been the secret to her success?

“Well, I don’t know if you about the story about Lisa last year, but early on in the season, our only goal keeper had an almost season ending injury. I actually called Lisa one morning, she was a junior center-mid on the team and told her that we’re going to be playing nationally ranked Ithaca today and she’s playing in goal because she played in high school. She wasn’t trained at Babson as a goalkeeper and I literally had to call her in right before breakfast and say, by the way, you’re playing in goal today and she’s never looked back. She continued on and she was all-conference last year and this year she certainly sets an example in terms of a confidence level and the team is completely confident with her in the back and I think her statistics only scratch the surface of the impact that she has of a leader on the field. She absolutely is so driven, works so hard and cares about every single teammate and she’s our captain as well. She’s a sole captain right now and she absolutely sets the tone for the team and it’s not just statistically, she’s come up with big saves in every game that we’ve had. She came up big in the [penalty kicks] we had against MIT last year in the semi-finals of the NEWMAC and I can’t tell you how much impact she has just not only as a player, but just on the field and off the field. Her personality is unique.”

According to the recent polls and rankings, Babson isn’t receieving any national recognition, so is that motivation for you and your team?

“I think you can take it from both sides. This week I did let them know that – I typically haven’t concentrated at all on certainly ranks or whether or not we’re there or not. Information is everywhere and so of course I am sure along the way the team took notice of whether or not they were there, but I also think I don’t know what goes behind all the decisions behind who the top teams are because I am not in those meetings, but all we can focus on is just being consistent and going out there and playing the best that we can every day. The next game is just as important as the last game and we take it one day at a time. One of our goals as a team is to improve every day, so even though we have a [6-1-1] record, there’s things we take away from every game that we try to improve on moving forward and we talk about that as a team after every game and talk about it during pre-games, so I think from the ranking standpoint, we don’t put a whole lot of [thought] in it from that standpoint, but coming from the conference level, it’s great to see the amount of NEWMAC teams that are in there at least from the New England standpoint because it speaks a lot for the quality of our conference.”

So far this season, you’re team is [2-0-1] in double overtime. How has your team been so successful late in games?

“One of the challenges last year was just creating scoring opportunities. Our team’s defense certainly has been one of the biggest strengths of our program and that’s not only Lisa, but also obviously the defenders working all the way forward through our offense, so one of the challenges has been creating offense and we’ve had some veterans that have been able to contribute this year and some new fresh bodies that are playing up top as well, so I think the reason we’ve been winning in overtime is because we’ve been there before. [In fact], just a couple years ago, we actually almost tied a NCAA record for ties, so I think we had ten overtimes, [but] my point is that we’ve been there before, we’ve had some overtime games last year and I think the Salem State overtime tie probably left a little bit of a sour taste in their mouths, so they just have this will to win now and I feel like they’ve been there before and our goal is to keep our composure and play all the way through the end. I think they’ve – especially against Endicott [College], we were down one-zero at halftime, Endicott is a respectable team and they just are able to keep their composure and keep their eyes on the goal and they just believe that they can win and that goes along way for sure.”

Starting this weekend, you kick-off your conference play against Smith College, yet, do you feel that there’s certain teams or challenges that’ll impact your squads effort to win?

“We look it at that every team can give us that challenge. It’s the game of soccer, it’s a quirky game and anything can happen. We’re not even looking at the Springfield-Wheaton-MIT’s right now, we’re just looking at Smith [College] and WPI because they’re our next two games, so one of the approaches we took last year, which we’re taking this year again, it’s just one game at a time and we need to focus on who we are as a team and like I said, improve every day and the next game is the most important game, so I think every team has potential in our league and like I said, it speaks volumes [that] there is a lot of parody. A lot of times it comes down to the last game of the season, deciding whether or not you’re going to make the tournament and I would suspect that’ll be the case this year because it’s just a lot of teams [want] to beat each other and it’s going to happen, so like I said, we’ve jut got to focus on our next challenge.”

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