Georgia soccer’s 2020 regular season will come to a close Friday night when the Bulldogs host Missouri before the SEC tournament. The final home game of the year will feature different faces both on the field and on the sideline as Georgia tries to end its three-game losing streak.
Following the news that head coach Billy Lesesne tested positive for COVID-19, assistant coach Robert Lane will take over as head coach against Missouri.
“We treated it just like one of our players went down,” Lane said. “It's the next man up and how can you be involved and take responsibility for what you can control.”
Lesesne is currently in isolation and is expected to return to the team in time for the SEC tournament in Orange Beach, Alabama.
Lane will have to coach Missouri without centerback Kayla Bruster who is still unavailable due to an injury suffered against Vanderbilt on Oct. 25. Replacing Bruster in last week’s 4-3 loss to Ole Miss was junior defender Hale Otto who played the full 90 minutes.
“[Bruster] was always a player I looked up to,” Otto said. “And even before the game she sent me a long paragraph saying ‘You got this, you know what you’re doing, you’ve been playing soccer forever.’ She’s just a big role model.”
Following the loss at Ole Miss on Saturday, the Bulldogs got a day of recovery the following Monday and were off Tuesday due to the NCAA mandate that student-athletes have Election Day off. This means that Lane only has two full days of practice before the match against Missouri.
Lesesne is staying involved while away from the team using a program called Spiideo, which gives him a live view of practice as it happens. He then is able to talk to Lane on the phone who can give messages to the team.
“He can see what we're doing in real time and give feedback and I can certainly relay those messages to the girls,” Lane said.
Georgia is coming off three-straight losses after opening up the season with its best ever conference start in program history. The most recent loss was a 4-3 defeat at Ole Miss after the Bulldogs had a 2-0 and 3-2 lead.
Despite the defense allowing four goals, both Otto and Lane said the defense performed well. Lane said the defense stayed organized but failed to track runners on set pieces. Only one of the Rebels’ goals was from open play, with the other three coming from freekicks.
In the three-player backline, Otto was joined by veteran defenders Cecily Stoute and Caroline Chipman who have both started every game so far this season.
“[Chipman and Stoute] were part of the reason I was confident in that position,” Otto said. “They made me feel like I was there for a reason and I should be there.”
Missouri is currently tied with Vanderbilt in fourth for the most goals in the conference. Both the Tigers and Vanderbilt have scored 10 goals so far this season.
In her current role as the center of the three-player backline, Otto can see the whole field and how teams are going to attack Georgia’s defense. Because of her responsibility in this role, she has to fill the leadership role vacated by Bruster in the regular season finale.
“I think their attack is really good,” Otto said. “So, knowing when to step and when to drop and being kind of like a vocal leader in the back since Kayla was that and she's out.”