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Campus profile: Sara Burton

Head women’s soccer coach sets high goals

By Allen Knappenberger
On October 12, 2011

"No technique, no tactic." Sara Burton, UW-La Crosse's women's head soccer coach, spoke these words with confidence and determination. They are a philosophy, a way of learning the sport in an efficient and effective manner.

Burton is in her 18th season as head coach of the women's soccer team and has done a terrific job leading various groups of women through this rigorous sport. In just 17 seasons she has managed to achieve a record of 152-124-23. That's not even the half of it. Burton has achieved a record of 68-56-11 against teams in the Wisconsin Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (WIAC). These are phenomenal figures considering how tough it is to compete in the WIAC let alone go for a conference championship. One loss can equal elimination from the conference tournament. With odds like that, it's no wonder UW-L soccer is very competitive.

Burton has one particular goal in mind for the team this year. "We'd really like to see ourselves in the conference tournament this year. We missed it, basically by one game last year." The Eagles lost to one team last year and that kicked them out of taking their shot at the conference championship. One loss spelled disappointment and defeat. Talk about a raw deal.

But getting to the conference tournament and possibly obtaining the title is not an unreachable dream. "We have the tools. There are greater elements out there beyond our control, but I certainly can't predict what will happen. Right now we've seen some of the toughest competition in our conference. It's all about how you finish. I think it's absolutely possible," said Burton.

With optimism this great coming from the coach, it's no surprise the Eagles have seen multiple victories. The other burning question among students is if the Eagles could be headed to the national tournament. Easier said than done.

At the Division III level there are over 400 teams competing for a national tournament spot. Out of those 400, only 64 are chosen to compete at the top level. The chances of actually acquiring one of those coveted spots are very slim. There are a few ways to get there, however.

"You either have to win the conference or obtain an automatic pool bid based on regional performance," said Burton. "We've never been to the national tournament as a program. Our greatest success was in 1996 when we won the conference championship."

But back then, the rules for tournament play and getting a bid were very different from what they are today. The Eagles never got a bid that year.

Is it all about getting to the tournaments and being focused only on soccer? No. Soccer is a number one priority when you play at the collegiate level, but Burton understands that these women are students as well and have a lot on their plate.

"I have a real appreciation for the balance of priorities," said Burton. Soccer is not a way of life, but a channel to help these young women prioritize what is truly important to them and to give it their all.

In the end, that's the idea behind any team sport: learning how to prioritize and give 110 percent in all you do. The Eagles are currently at a 6-4-1 record this season and 1-1-1 in the conference.

If you want to see the Eagles extend their record come watch them on Saturday, Oct. 15 at 4 p.m. as they take on UW-River Falls.  


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