When women’s soccer coach Eddie Radwanski begins his third season at Clemson next fall, he’ll welcome 11 freshmen he regards less as emergency additions to the Tigers’ roster, and more as products of a full and detailed cycle of recruiting.
Radwanski expects the highly-rated class, which includes a pair of players with U-17 Women’s World Cup experience, to bolster his team both in terms of depth and numbers, as well as overall skill and talent.
“It’s a little bit across the board, and a lot of effort went into recruiting this group,” said Radwanski. “I’ve never really paid attention to how people rate classes. I’m more concerned with how I rate them, but it’s been nice to see that some people have rated this class as high as fifth in the country, or sixth or seventh. So it’s a talented group and we were able to address a lot of different areas.
“That’s in regards to things that are positional, or bringing in a particular talent, or a particular mentality. And there’s some strength in numbers to help improve the quality of depth and lift the standard. The best form of getting players to be better is through their own peer pressure. So, hopefully, you’re bringing in talented players who are going to lift everybody’s game.”
Radwanski said that the sheer size of the class is important to a program in process of rebuilding.
“Because there are eleven, that’s a pretty influential group, and it just so happened that’s the way the class worked out,” he said. “We’re not planning on recruiting ten or eleven kids every year, but we felt like we needed the numbers and needed help in a lot of different positions, and we were able to address those needs.”
Radwanski considers recruiting to be one of his strengths, and his effectiveness in that crucial arena is reflected by the landing of higher-profile players like Kailen Sheridan and Claire Wagner, both of whom recently competed for their National Teams in the U-17 Women’s World Cup.
“Kailen Sheridan (Whitby, Ontario) comes from Canada and is an outstanding goalkeeper, one of the best youth-17 goalkeepers in the world,” said Radwanski. “She’s recently been called into Canada’s youth-20 team in camp and has been training and so forth. She’s a kid with a very bright future.
“Then you have Claire Wagner (Cary, NC) from CASL Chelsea Ladies, who’s the center-back on a club team that’s probably been the best club team in the last ten years in U.S. youth soccer. She played on the National Team, as well, in the youth World Cup in Azerbaijan back in November. So we’re real pleased with what we were able to do, recruiting.”
From a restructuring perspective, Radwanski believes that those recruiting successes will strengthen what he regards as the “spine” of the team.
“That’s goalkeeper, the center of the back, and the center of the park,” he clarified. “You build your spine, and then you kind of go out from there. So we feel good, and I know for a fact that we’ve absolutely strengthened our spine. Now the question will be, ‘How much did we strengthen it, and how do we move forward?’”
As Radwanski sees it, the answer to that latter question isn’t reducible to talent alone.
“The ability to attract players is critical, and we were fortunate to not just get a very talented group of players, but a group who can basically help us rebuild a family,” he said. “We’re laying a new foundation and we want people to be together and to care for one another. Families are tight-knit units and we’re not just going to let anyone join our family.”
While tempering what should be expected of first-year players, Radwanski still thinks he’s turned a corner with this particular class, and especially in terms of reestablishing the Clemson brand.
“I’m excited that this group’s coming in and I think they’re going to do very good things over their four years,” he said. “Still, it’s also a little unfair to expect that freshmen can save the day. It’s different than basketball, where four or five freshmen can come in and take a team to the final four.
“That’s not going to happen in our sport. But we’re definitely going to get a lift, and we’ve already seen that in recruiting. It’s just the buzz where people are talking about Clemson again. ‘You’ve got her coming there? She’s going to your place?’ So the vibe is good.”