It’s all about timing for Jeff Hayes, the new Alton High girls’ soccer coach.
The timing was right for him.
Hayes, 37, a Granite City High graduate, recently was named the Redbirds’ head coach. He replaces Laura Ridolfi, who resigned after guiding the Redbirds the past two seasons. Hayes served as Ridolfi’s assistant and now will guide the program.
“I’m very excited about the opportunity,” said Hayes, an assistant boys’ soccer coach at Collinsville High this fall.
He added, “Coach Ridolfi got a great opportunity to work for the Scott Gallagher Club in St. Louis and I’m happy for her.
“When the position at Alton was posted, I was hoping to come back as an assistant coach. I put my name in the hat (for varsity coach) and it’s a great opportunity for me.”
He will try to rebuild a Redbirds’ program that hasn’t posted a winning season since Greg Nasello coached them to a 14-8-1 record in 2009. Alton finished 4-12-1 last season and the Birds were 9-9-2 in 2013.
“I’m a student of the game and soccer is a game that is forever evolving,” said Hayes, a guidance counselor at Granite City High School. “I want us to stress team play and focus what you can do as a team.”
He said that style paid off handsomely while Hayes played for legendary soccer coach Gene Baker at Granite City. It’s a similar format in Collinsville, where the Kahoks started the season with four consecutive victories.
“I get to work with coaches Clay Smith and Robert Lugge at Collinsville, and that’s a great chance for me,” Hayes said. “I got to play all four years for coach Baker at Granite City and that was very special.”
Hayes added, “When I look back at that time in Granite City, it was coach Baker not only helping me to grow as a player, but as a young man. Other than my father, he had a bigger impact on me than anybody. He stressed character development, taking responsibility and doing things the right way.”
He figures to incorporate those life lessons into the advancement of the AHS players and progress of the program. Hayes served as the Granite City boys’ head coach from 2010-13.
“We have a lot of talent,” he said.
“It’s not deep, so we have to be creative,” he said. “We’ll take more of a direct approach and put a lot of emphasis on our defense. And we’ll want to have an aggressive, pressure kind of style with our offense.”
He cracked, “Some coaches want to win and look pretty doing it. I just want to win at all costs within the rules.”
The Redbirds graduated eight seniors from last year’s squad, so Hayes has some work to do in retooling them.
“Monica Wickenhauser, Sofia Macias and Brittany Storey will be hard to replace,” Hayes said, pointing to three of those seniors.
Returnees such as Sydney Mossman, Lexi Schrimpf, Briana Hatfield, Annie Evans and Sydney Schmidt could spur the Redbirds. Hatfield, a sophomore, tallied a team-best nine goals last season.
“We are going to be very young within the Southwestern Conference, but I’m excited about this team,” Hayes said. “We have skilled and speedy players.”
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