March 27, 2009

Can Soccer Coach Turn Richmond's Season Around?

by Justin Feil | Special to Lacrosse Magazine Online

It's a new season for Mandy Friend and the Richmond women's lacrosse team. Following Sue Murphy's abrupt resignation as head coach amidst an 0-7 start and two more losses since then, the Spiders open Atlantic 10 conference play this weekend.
© Richmond

UPDATE: Spiders Get First Win

Peter Albright is one week into what could be a little more than a month-long job as Richmond's interim head coach.

Allison Nuzzi is one week into a tryout, in effect, to replace him after this season.

"She is running the whole lacrosse end of things," said Albright, who was named head coach when Sue Murphy resigned last Friday after Richmond started the season 0-7. "She's knowledgeable. She's incredibly hard working. She's bright. She's taking care of all the on-the-field activities."

Nuzzi won't deny that she will apply for the job, though this is just her second year as an assistant at her alma mater after graduating in 2006. Richmond will begin its search for a new head coach following the season.

"My No. 1 priority is to this group of young women, these student-athletes," Nuzzi said. "As an alum, I have tremendous pride for this program. I want to see it get up to where it was when it was built.

"I've had great mentors, like Sue Murphy. That's why I got back into coaching in the first place. I have high ambitions. I'm in for the long haul. I love coaching. I love this team. This team makes me want to come to work every day. This team wants to prove itself this season. I'm going to do everything in my power to help them win games and repeat as Atlantic 10 regular-season champs."

Richmond has dropped another pair of games since Murphy left, but the Spiders are optimistic that the end of their season-opening, nine-game losing streak will come this weekend. They host St. Bonaventure on Friday in their A-10 opener at First Market Stadium and welcome Duquesne on Sunday in their second game of league play.

Said Nuzzi: "The first win is the hardest to get."

The Spiders believe it is coming, even after being forced into an unusual arrangement. Albright is a soccer coach. He has no prior lacrosse experience, other than watching a handful of games.

"Almost every other coach that takes a job hopes to keep it for a long time," Albright said. "My first job is not to screw it up. The second job is to take a very high striving group of young women and do some things in the margin to help them."

Albright knows NCAA regulations, knows the A-10, and understands balancing Richmond's practice and academic schedules. He also knows how to win. He is the 18th among the nation's winningest active soccer coaches with close to 300 victories.

"It can only help to know people who know how to win, regardless of what sport it is," Nuzzi said. "Peter has a strong desire to win games and has been in a lot of high-pressure games."

Albright is juggling his spring soccer schedule as well, but says he's putting "90 percent" of his energy into his new lacrosse post.

"I have a great assistant coach in soccer," Albright said. "My team's in great shape now. My biggest challenge has been for me to try to establish myself in a team that already has a strong identity and strong leadership. It's got a strong culture. It's a very self-sufficient team. I'm coming from the outside and trying to impact that in a very positive way."

The players have been welcoming and working to make the best of the mid-season change.

"I'm proud of the fight in this team," Nuzzi said. "They're not letting their record get in the way of their confidence and knowing they're capable of beating teams. They know if they show up and do the right things and stick to the game plan, they're capable of winning the next eight games this season."

Known as a creator out of the midfield in her playing days at Richmond, creating an A-10 winner would be quite a performance for Nuzzi. It's something that could ultimately help create something else for her -- a head coaching job with the Spiders.

"I've been a head college coach for 28 years," Albright said. "She's a great young coach and has a great future in the game. We'd be lucky to have her."

For now, Allison Nuzzi will settle for a few Richmond wins.

Make that one to start.

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