first_imgSUNDEEP MALLADI/Herald photoChoosing to leave a remarkable career of 13 years behind, Paula Wilkins is about to embark on a new beginning. The launch point: Madison.Wilkins took the position as head coach of the Wisconsin women’s soccer team last month — replacing the recently resigned Dean Duerst — despite having so much success as the skipper at Penn State, perennially a top-ranked program nationally. During her six seasons there, she compiled an impressive 119-19-11 record (.836) and coached the team to six NCAA berths and two College Cup appearances.Yet, even with all her accomplishments, Wilkins wanted a change. She wanted Wisconsin.”I always loved Madison, it’s a great area, and the university here I think is doing a great job with their athletic department right now,” Wilkins said during her first UW press conference Monday. “I thought it was one of the best places that I had visited in all my journeys.”Not lending the city or university as her only reason for wanting to coach here, Wilkins also desired a challenge.”I had great success at Penn State,” Wilkins said. “But [I] want to come here and see if I can do it in another place and prove to myself if I’m a really good coach or not. I think that’s the task ahead of me right now.”While Wilkins coached her former team to a 18-5-3 finish last season and the Big Ten regular season title, Wisconsin finished just 7-9-3. Still, with the attitude and style Wilkins brings to work everyday, she envisions the women’s soccer program developing into a perennial powerhouse once more. Back when she played in the early ’90s, UW was extremely talented. Her first goal in that direction is to compete for a Big Ten championship.”I think if you’re competing for a Big Ten championship, you’re putting yourself on the map nationally to be a soccer power,” Wilkins said.In order to become a top team, the players need to respond to change and what Wilkins referred to as a different culture with regard to what she is trying to do.”I think it’s very important that they embrace change and the different atmosphere and the different culture that I’m going to bring with me in the sense of work rate [and] competitive attitude, and that’s what we’ve started off with,” Wilkins said.When asked about a timetable for her goals, Wilkins said the attitude and culture begins the moment the team begins practice. She also stressed to her players that they were the only people who can do anything about Wisconsin’s success. They need to take ownership.”I tell them every day, ‘I can’t score a goal,'” Wilkins said. “No coach can change and be a magic pill. … We lose sleep about it, but they have to be the difference in what we’re doing right now. And these are the players I have, and I’m going to give them that challenge.”According to the coach, in just the week since she has arrived on campus, the players have already bought into this system and seem up to the challenge. For that, the former Nittany Lion is pleased.”They’ve been very receptive and I’m very excited about them,” Wilkins said.Not everything has gone as smoothly as the players’ acceptance of her, however. Due to the unexpected resignation of longtime head coach Dean Duerst, a gap formed in the recruiting process. Wilkins is working tirelessly to try to get the 2008 recruits in order. “With Dean resigning, there’s been a little hiccup there, but that’s why I’ve been in the office really late, trying to call people and get them organized,” Wilkins said. “So recruiting is a focus right now along with the team. … Those are two of my biggest focuses right now.”Additionally, since she only recently arrived, Wilkins doesn’t have a complete staff, something she hopes will be addressed in the coming weeks.last_img

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