BIRMINGHAM — He arrived knowing what had to be done.
This was a solid program with some good athletes, but, as Manuel Rodrigues saw it, a little bit of fine-tuning could make things great.
So he tuned — with a new style and a new direction.
Nine games in, and, the results speak for themselves.
“I’d love to say it’s all coaching and all my doing, but these kids are great,” the Birmingham Seaholm girls soccer coach said last week. “They just needed a little direction.”
A “soccer nut,” as Rodrigues described himself, he implemented a scheme that focused more on ball possession and composure.
He integrated the entire program, practicing and training the freshmen, junior varsity and varsity squads at the same time.
“We’re here to create a system from the freshmen on up that is consistent for every team,” Rodrigues said.
The sample size isn’t huge, but it’s certainly impressive.
Following a 5-0 May 2 victory against West Bloomfield High, the Maples were 8-1-1 overall and atop the Oakland Activities Association Blue Division with an 8-0-0 record.
None of which surprises Rodrigues.
“I watched them during the indoor season, and you could see the talent level, so I knew we’d be good,” he said. “Maybe I didn’t think we’d be this far along this quickly, but it’s all on them. They’ve put so much work into this and are so committed.”
“I wouldn’t say we’re surprised, either,” senior keeper Lisa White said. “I think we all thought we could be right up there. But, I think it’s happened a little quicker than maybe we thought it would.”
The Maples’ dominance has been up and down the field.
White, who Rodrigues called a “phenomenal talent,” had allowed six total goals in the first 10 games, while picking up five shutouts.
Meanwhile, up front, Rodrigues has five shooters who have done plenty of scoring.
Forward JBess Ruby has 12 goals to lead the team, while fellow mates Jen Kendall (10) and Lily Slavin (8) aren’t far behind.
Center midfielders Jackie Mee (4) and Allison Loeffler (3) have also found the back of the net.
As a team, Seaholm has scored 53 goals while allowing just seven.
“I didn’t know if the offense would click the way it has. I thought scoring would be an issue,” Loeffler said. “But we’ve worked so much with the forwards and the midfield together, the chemistry is there.”
It will be needed down the stretch.
Sitting on top of the Oakland Activities Association Blue Division right now, Seaholm still has two games remaining with Beverly Hills Groves, and single games with Troy High (crossover) and Farmington Hills Harrison.
“The primary goal is to win the division and move up for next year,” Rodrigues said. “Beyond that, we like our district and feel if we get there with some momentum, we’ll have a chance.”
However the rest of the season plays out, there’s a feeling that Rodrigues has brought about some consistency to the program.
“He’s the third coach in the past four years, but you could tell how passionate he was to be here and pumped to get us going,” Loeffler said.
“He’s been so dedicated and supportive. He gives the perfect amount of support and coaching, and he gets us,” White said. “He has kids our age, so he can relate. We love him as a coach.”