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Napoli steps up to replace retired Rudy

Napoli1For the first time in 21 years, the Massachusetts women’s soccer team will head into the season with a new face as head coach.

Two months after Jim Rudy announced his retirement from coaching collegiate women’s soccer, former UMass standout goalkeeper Angela Napoli was appointed head coach for the 2009 season.

“I’m so excited and honored. I honestly never thought I would be in this situation. Of course I dreamed about it, but I never thought it would come true,” Napoli said.

Director of Athletics John McCutcheon announced on July 21 that the replacement for Rudy would come internally – Napoli spent the past four seasons as an assistant coach after joining the staff in 2005.

“We are very pleased to hire Angela Napoli as our head coach for the 2009 season,” McCutcheon told UMass Athletics at the end of July. “As the pre-season is just three weeks away, we feel that it is in the best interests of our program to move forward and give this leadership opportunity to Angela. We are fortunate to have an individual of Angela’s experience and skills to provide direction to the program at this challenging time.”

The experience that McCutcheon refers to is Napoli’s coaching tenure at various schools. After earning a degree in Sport Management from UMass, she became an assistant coach at Colorado for the 2001 season. In 2002 and 2003, she served as assistant coach at William & Mary. In her two seasons there, the Tribe made two appearances in the NCAA tournament as well as winning the Colonial Athletic Association title in 2003. Prior to joining the staff at UMass, Napoli was also the assistant coach at Albany for the 2004 season.

Though Napoli has been at UMass for four years, she knows the transition from being assistant coach to replacing a former three-time Atlantic 10 Coach of the Year winner will take work.

“Just like any transition, there will be some difficulty, but I think with me being here and knowing the [players], it’s going to be easier,” Napoli said. “There is no one really like Jim Rudy. He’s great with tactics; he’s very charismatic and he has one of the largest vocabularies of anyone I’ve ever met.”

Serving under Rudy, however, has made Napoli prepared to take on her first head-coaching job.

“I learned a lot from him, so I think his knowledge is going to help me, but it’s just going to be coming from a different personality.”

Personality won’t be the only difference between the two as Napoli looks to implement a different strategy. Last season, the Minutewomen struggled offensively, often going scoreless in games. So this season, instead of the offense always trying to keep possession of the ball, Napoli wants to be more direct by looking for the first option forward instead of the easy square ball.

She will look for the players to be thinkers out on the field and move the ball forward with a quick connection.

Napoli won’t be making many drastic changes, though; she feels the current team has a good chance to succeed this season.

“My goal is to get the [players] more disciplined, hit the recruiting trails as hard as I can and try to build off of our solid core and what we have.”

Jay Asser can be reached at jasser@student.umass.edu.

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