The transition to a new head coach this fall wasn’t an easy one for the Indiana Wesleyan University women’s soccer team.
John Bratcher, the Wildcats’ head coach of 12 years, retired last spring and turned the squad over to Tim Strader. Strader implemented a new 4-4-2 formation and other strategic changes on the field this season, and the Wildcats finished the fall campaign with an overall record of 4-13-1, including a 3-5-1 mark in Crossroads League play.
“The transition [to a new coach] has been harder than we ever imagined it would be,” Midfielder Jordan Harris (jr) said.
Through it all, however, Defender Kerry Devney (jr) has been a rock for the team.
Strader said Devney has taken leadership in making sure the Wildcats are receptive to his new system, although it is intense and demanding.
“I’ve seen Kerry step up in that role and own it, pushing her teammates and holding people accountable,” Strader said.
Defender Susan Anthony (jr) said Devney’s attitude toward playing for a new coach was never negative.
“She was very open-minded and was, like, ‘let’s embrace this’ and not be frustrated with it or be negative about it,” Anthony said. “That helped others have a good attitude about the change.”
Harris describes Devney as the squad’s “staple” for the steadfast commitment she showed during a tough season.
“She’s remained consistent, she’s stayed positive. She’s been there for people to laugh with, to cry with,” Harris said. “Her remaining consistent in all this change has been great for the team.”
Devney said she enjoys meeting with her teammates one-on-one to talk about soccer, academics or any other aspect of life.
“I see myself as someone who girls are comfortable coming to talk to off the field,” Devney said. “Listening to people off the field helps you get to know them better and improves our communication on the field.”
On the field, Devney is just as important as she is behind the scenes. She and Anthony start in the two center defender positions on the Wildcats’ four-woman back line.
Strader utilizes Devney as a communicator on the field, calling her “our traffic director.” He also praises her athletic abilities and remarkable work rate.
“She’s got an ability to use her body well on the field, to shut down some of the best attackers we’ve played this year,” Strader said. “Not only that, she can drive a ball 40 yards with no issues. She typically gets assigned [to defend] the opposing team’s best forward.”
Strader’s praise wouldn’t mean much if Devney’s teammates didn’t feel the same way about her, but they do. Harris said she appreciates Devney’s soccer knowledge and her ability to teach in the middle of games.
“I’ll have a question in the middle of the game, and I’ll say, ‘Kerry, what do I do if that happens again?’” Harris said. “And she’ll tell me exactly what to do.”
Devney and the rest of her teammates believe they can improve next year with more experience in Strader’s system and with some rigorous training. Strader had the Wildcats meeting at 6 a.m. three times per week for offseason training sessions just one week after their season ended.
Harris also sees her team starting to embrace Strader’s desire to get better.
“His leadership has trickled down to Kerry and [the other juniors] and hopefully will continue to trickle down so we have more success next year,” Harris said.
If the Wildcats do bounce back next fall, expect Devney’s all-around leadership to be a key piece in the team’s resurgence.
“She’s the type of person who will do whatever it takes to help her team win, and that’s what makes her special,” Strader said.
This story is a part of Co-Editor-in-Chief Jared Johnson’s “Stars in the Background” series on overlooked stars in IWU athletics. For more information, click here.