Pibulvech has planted the seed, but will it grow?
It will be many, many years before the University of Nevada will find out if Dang Pibulvech was the right person to run its’ women’s soccer program.
Pibulvech is a short man of Hawaiian ancestry. He doesn’t have the arrogant demeanor like other American soccer coaches. He doesn’t have the calves of a former soccer star, although he does have the frame of an accomplished jockey. He talks in soft tones and he smiles a lot, although I’m sure why yet.
Pibulvech’s office in Legacy Hall, across from Mackay Stadium, isn’t exactly his second home. It looks more like a 10×10 chamber for a coach who has gone 4-31-1 in his first two seasons. The walls are bare, unlike most coaches’ offices, where posters and plaques of all conference players are everywhere. There is one desk and three chairs, two of which were probably bought at a garage sale in Stead. There are papers scattered all over the place. There wasn’t even a flat soccer ball lying around.
On Thursday, Pibulvech was leaning back in the one chair not from Stead, squirming about and trying, in the simplest of ways, to explain why it’s so hard to build a program, especially one in Reno.
His biggest obstacle is recruiting. Northern Nevada is a soccer infant. And while Pibulvech admits that Las Vegas has better overall talent because of its more established club soccer scene, he takes pride in that the Wolf Pack has more Nevadans on their roster than UNLV does.
Pibulvech desperately wants local players, but he wants difference makers. He would’ve liked to have signed Carson’s Allison Kop but she went to play for Saint Mary’s, a top-25 team last year. Pibulvech is very happy with the one local girl he did sign–Carson’s Ali Banister, who played on his club team, Reno-Sparks United.
Banister joined sophomores Amy Jackson and Annie Baxter, both of Galena, as his three recruited local players on the 2002 roster.
“These were girls that were sought after,” Pibulvech said. “Ali Kop would’ve fit perfectly here, she would’ve been the missing link. But she went to Saint Mary’s and that’s a good sign. We’re not a soccer state, even though we’re close to one. When other colleges want players here, that’s what we want. If nobody wants our players, then I don’t want them.”
But instead of mocking, criticizing and complaining about the local soccer talent, he’s helping produce it.
“When I first got here, I was as ignorant to the local talent as the local soccer community was to what I wanted to do here,” Pibulvech said. “I got involved (in local club soccer) because I didn’t want to just criticize. Anybody can critique. This is my community. I want to be involved with it.”
His second obstacle is that since there aren’t enough local players to field a starting 11, he wants to recruit out-of-state, especially in Northern California, one of the most talent-rich regions in the country. Good. Every successful program needs to expand its recruiting base. Pibulvech signed five recruits last spring, three from Nevada, one from Hawaii and one from California.
“Since we are in the WAC, we have to get girls from Texas and California and Idaho,” Pibulvech said. “Some players don’t want to go to college in their hometowns. But they would love to go back home and beat their friends at schools like Rice, Tulsa and Boise State. We need to get those players.”
Pibulvech hopes recruiting comes naturally now that Nevada doesn’t play its home games at Mendive Middle School in Sparks. Even though Mackay Stadium has artificial turf, something soccer players aren’t fond of, it’s an on-campus facility. Any serious soccer player would never choose to play at Nevada over another school with its own field, even if that school was Tufts.
“That has helped tremendously,” Pibulvech said of playing at Mackay. “Now we can recruit. Before, we didn’t have anything to show them. Now, we can showcase our facility and that’s important. We feel things are getting in place (for the program).”
Now comes the hardest obstacle–winning. Any serious soccer player doesn’t sign with a school that its only wins ever have been over Southern Nevada C.C., University of Pacific, Portland State and Western Baptist.
And, Pibulvech cannot add Cal-State Northridge to that list. The Wolf Pack lost to the Matadors 1-0 in the season opener on Friday.
Maybe Pibulvech can someday hang up a poster on his wall.