New coach forming new attitude with North Hills girls soccer
For the second time in as many years, the North Hills girls soccer program will be breaking in a new head coach.
Rachelle Dixon has taken the helm for the Indians after building a name for herself in the state of Utah, first as a player for Brigham Young University, and then as an assistant coach at the collegiate level with Division I Utah Valley from 2006-11.
While change has been one of the lone consistent elements for North Hills over the past two years, Dixon has a long-term plan in place to improve the state of the team that went 1-9 in Section 1-4A last year.
“If we’re ever going to make an impact in our section, then we have to change the culture of the girls program at North Hills. We just have to. That’s been probably the biggest step and the biggest thing that I’ve tried to push. It’s deeper then just ‘right now,’ it’s going to take time,” Dixon said.
“The high school has had zero interaction in the past with the middle school program, and that just continues on down. We’ve had girls who, at the middle school level, decide to not come out for the school team and just play for their club teams. That has to change if we’re going to be competitive in the section.”
Since taking the position, Dixon has prioritized the connection of the North Hills girls soccer program from the top of the varsity level, all the way down to the elementary level.
In addition to the philosophical adjustments, the Utah native has been working on tweaking the overall scheme and game-to-game approach with her group of girls.
“We control the controllables,” she said.
“One thing that I’ve tried to change, and the girls have been receptive to it, is to stop playing the long ball, just kicking and possessing the ball. That’s been a big one. The second one is that we’ve really been working on making runs in our attacking third, and coming off our lines to create gaps and be less predictable.”
So far, the changes have been welcomed by a team that possesses a solid group of athletes, led by senior captain Leah Rode. Dixon credits Rode, a center-mid, with being receptive to the alterations.
Along with Rode, the North Hills scoring attack will be led by sophomore forward Olivia Yoder and junior Elaina Longjohn, who placed first in the triple jump at last season’s WPIAL Class AAA track and field championship meet. Longjohn is returning to the team after deciding not to play last year.
On defense, Shelby Crowell, Maya Maxwell and Kara Smolensky are expected to lead the charge.
Under Dixon, the North Hills girls soccer team is setting its priorities. However, the team’s coach and her players understand the benefits of their redirection might not occur overnight.
“I think that the biggest thing is getting the foundation under us settled so that we can make playoff runs in the future. That’s one of my top priorities, to make sure that we have a strong foundation and strong connection within the program,” Dixon said.
“That’s the answer to a lot of these struggles from the past. A lot of positive changes are happening, and we’re really excited about it.”