“Finish!,” soccer coaches constantly exhort their players. “Finish!”
Translation: “Put the ball in the net.”
Cal Lutheran University sophomore forward Taylor Will has done plenty of that. The St. Joseph graduate scored 19 goals for the Regals her freshman season and 18 her just-completed sophomore campaign.
“She’s led our conference, the Southern California Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (SCIAC), in scoring both years,” Cal Lutheran coach Frank Marino said by phone recently.
“Taylor was the conference Player of the Year as a sophomore. She was the conference Newcomer of the Year as a freshman. She is a Second Team All-American as a sophomore, one of only two Second Team All-Americans we’ve had and the only sophomore we’ve had to earn that honor.”
Will helped the Regals to their third consecutive SCIAC championship under Marino, who just finished his fourth season as coach. Cal Lutheran finished 18-5 overall.
The Regals went out in the second round of the NCAA Division III playoffs this season after being eliminated in the first round last year.
Will said by phone that one thing that helped her transition to Cal Lutheran’s style of offense was that there was not much transition to make to Cal Lutheran’s style of offense.
“Our team is very attacking-minded because we have a strong defense,” Will said. “The system of play here is the exact same system that we used at St. Joseph — a lot of ball control, a lot of touch passes.
“I think going from the same formation from high school to college was helpful. The play being faster and more physical in college — that was an adjustment.”
Will said that the quality of defenders she faces in college has helped make her a more creative player.
“I have to make my plays unpredictable,” she said. “I have to adjust on the fly during games. Every defense is different.”
Some forwards have a knack for punching in short shots under pressure. Others are money on breakaways. For others, the long shot is their forte. Still others love shots off throw-ins, corner kicks or crossing passes.
Will, Marino said, can score on any kind of shot.
“She has great composure to finish, great composure in the penalty box to finish,” said the coach “She can finish off volleys, long distance shots, re-directed shots. She can finish off crosses. Taylor can finish on every kind of shot.”
Soccer coaches are typically intense on the sidelines. What Will appreciates about Marino and his staff is that there is plenty of instruction to go with that intensity.
“The coaching staff here has been great,” Will said. “They’re all so knowledgeable. They try to encourage as much as they can.
“They’re really good at giving instruction. They don’t just leave you to figure it out.”
Will said, “At halftime we talk about the defense’s strengths and weaknesses.”
The St. Joseph grad is majoring in exercise science. “My emphasis is the health profession — I want to become a physician’s assistant,” she said. “The curriculum here is very good.
“College academics are really tough coming out of high school. St. Joseph really helped me prepare for college. I came in fully prepared. I think nothing more could have been taught to me at St. Joseph that could have helped me.
“Classes are going great. Finals are over next week, so I’m happy about that.”
Will said part of what drew her to Thousand Oaks-based Cal Lutheran was “just that fact that I could play soccer there.”
Besides, “I think since I’ve been to a private school my whole life, a small school my whole life, the smallness of it drew me.”
Marino said, “What drew our interest in Taylor was her athleticism more than anything. She used to play for a soccer club, the Camarillo Eagles, and my assistant coach at the time, Josh Parker, coached her in club ball. I was able to see her play at St. Joseph.
“We were able to build a relationship with her and her family.”
Marino said he has plenty of players coming back for next year. He relished the thought of Will being one of them.
“She’ been everything we’ve hoped for and then some.”