INTERVIEW: U/19s boss optimistic with progress

Box Hill United U/19 ladies’ head coach Stefanos Sakalis has given a lowdown on his charges’ progress, and remains hopeful of a strong finish.


After Round 16 of NPL VIC (U/19 Girls), they reside 6th on the ladder, with seven wins, seven losses and two draws.


The youthful squad has given a good account of their abilities, more so on display during their 3-1 comeback victory over Heidelberg United in Round 16, which arrested a four-match slump.


Reviewing the season so far, Sakalis said, “We are a very young team. Our average age is 15 years and 11 months, and we are playing in the U/19s’ competition. When we have tough and strong players [in the opposition], it is a bit of a problem, because we are young.


“We are skilful, but at the same time, going into one-versus-one against older and stronger players [is difficult]. We have had 16 games and we are middle of the table. We have another 11 games, and we think we can go through into the top-four.


“We focus on development. That’s our job, so that we can produce players from Box Hill’s [junior ranks] to the senior level. We have had players for four or five years with us, and they have progressed so much, that they are ready for the seniors.”


U/19s goalkeeper Gabriella Eggleton, midfielder Melanie Martinez and wide player Laura Pickett have already excelled during multiple senior appearances this term. Several others, including the likes of striker Erin Keyt, are on the fringes, looking to make an instant impact when called into action for the senior women.



Pleased with their motivated displays, Sakalis highlighted the importance of learning from senior role models, saying, “When they are going there (seniors), the intensity is higher, and they have good players like Asuka Kakazu, who came from Japan and is very skilful. Looking at those [types of] players, that is fantastic for them, so they can learn more.”


“There are three or four from the U/19s who are coming to the senior level soon, and maybe play some minutes there. They are very young, 15-16-year-olds. It’s good to see these young girls becoming senior players.”


Moreover, five of the U/19s will be representing the club’s U/16 girls in the Gothia Cup in August 2019 (11-16th), in Qingdao, China.


Further drawing attention to Box Hill senior women’s head coach Brian Roberts’ approach of handing deserving reserve players a taste of senior football, Sakalis said, “Sometimes, we are training together [with the seniors]. We have had five-six friendlies with them.


“So, for Brian, he can have a look at the [U/19s] players and [monitor] their progress, and obviously he comes to the U/19s' games before the seniors’ matches and watches the players [as well].”


Sakalis has been within the club’s coaching ranks for the past six seasons, tutoring our junior boys’ and girls’ squads prior to his role at the U/19s’ hotseat.


On his coaching philosophy to focus on the basics and deliver attractive football, the 51-year-old said, “My philosophy is if you have the touches, you have the possession; and if you have possession, you have chances for [scoring].


“If you have the ball in your feet most of the time, you have [those scoring chances], and obviously you are playing well. You can then produce some good combination play [on the pitch].”


Image courtesy: Kick It Pics



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