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Reliable tri-captain at the ‘point’

Erik Powers | Friday, September 26, 2003

Belles midfielder Jen Concannon has not been playing soccer for her entire life, she’s only been devoted to it for almost the past decade and a half.Born into an athletic family, Concannon began her career at the ripe age of six. Besides friendly games with her older brother, Concannon played club soccer every spring and occasionally year-round. She starred as a center-midfielder at nearby Marian High School and considered going away to a Division I soccer program. Butler and Indiana University both expressed interest in the South Bend area star. But instead of potentially being overlooked at a large program, she chose to make a significant impact as a Belle.”She was a very strong player coming out of Mishawaka Marian, a player who had a lot of opportunities to go elsewhere but chose to come to Saint Mary’s,” Belles coach Peter Haring said. “She made a great decision to come here. She’s just a great player, and she’s one of those players that could be playing at the Division I level helping some team out without a problem if she chose that route. But she chose here and she’s definitely making a name for herself here at Saint Mary’s and becoming that staple of a figure who just defines out program here at the college.”Finding her nicheConcannon played forward for the beginning of both her freshman and sophomore years. While she performed well (scoring 12 goals as a sophomore and earning all-conference honors both years) Concannon felt uncomfortable outside her natural position of center-mid. Her instincts often forced her to drift back toward the center of the field. During both years at Saint Mary’s, her coaches eventually moved her back to center-mid at the end of the season. But this year, Haring placed Concannon at center-mid to begin the season. The arrangement has established an early comfort zone.”When I came here, I started out as a forward,” Concannon said. “[Then-coach] Bobby [Johnston] put me up there, and then there were multiple games where I moved back to center-mid. Last year I started out again at forward and towards the end of the season I would keep coming back, because I’m used to playing midfield from all through high school.”But with the 2003 Belles offense, the system focuses on the abilities of the talented Concannon.”With this formation, we’re playing a 3-5-2, in which we have three central players, and I’m the ‘point,” Concannon said. “So I’m more of the offensive midfielder, and I have two defensive midfielders behind me. I love the position I play.”The switch has provided early results. Concannon leads the team with five goals and three assists through five games. She also earned the conference’s first Offensive Player of the Week award this year. Concannon has shown flashes of dominance, using her above-average speed, exceptional body balance and knowledge of the game to consistently overpower, outmaneuver and out-think opponents. Haring is impressed with her play.”She plays that center mid role well,” Haring said. “She has a wicked shot from both feet. She’s very agile in the field and a taller player too, so she’s deceptive in that fashion. I don’t even think that she’s at her full potential. She could still play stronger, win balls and really use her strength to get away from players. She’s savvy enough where she doesn’t have to do that all the time, and that’s just a key.” Off to a good startThis year’s successful start has been a welcome change of pace. Concannon and her junior teammates have had three coaches in three years. Establishing team chemistry and system continuity has been a yearly struggle. Each coach installed a different setup, and it was a constant struggle to adjust to conflicting styles of play. This year the Belles have settled into an early rhythm, and Concannon hopes that the team will have a less-disruptive future.”[Our goal is] to keep on playing how we’re playing,” Concannon said. “We obviously are doing something right. We’re 4-0-1, which I don’t think has ever happened for Saint Mary’s. We want to play the best soccer that we can, and I hope personally that we are in the top of our conference by the end of the season, in at least second or third. The only team that goes on to the NCAA tournament is the top team that finishes in our conference. I would like to experience that.”Looking aheadHowever, her college career is nearing an end. As a junior, Concannon realizes that her days of playing competitive soccer are almost over. While she plans to still play recreationally after college, Concannon plans on entering a career in sociology.”My major is sociology, and I have a minor in psych,” Concannon said. “I plan on going to grad school, but I’ll probably work first. I don’t plan on going straight from here to grad school. I want to be a child psychologist or go the other way so far as going into criminal justice. I’d be working with juvenile delinquents.”Until then, Concannon will prepare for her future as a tri-captain of the team with Katie Taylor and Stephanie Artnak. As a captain, she is a leader on the field as well as off the field, providing guidance for teammates who have problems and acting as an intermediate between the team and Haring. Concannon has had a pleasant task in leading this year’s freshmen by example. “Our freshmen have been awesome this year,” Concannon said. “We got so much good talent and this year it’s ridiculous. The freshmen have done a good job of transitioning from high school.”Despite being a team leader, offensive “quarterback” and one of the best players in the conference, Concannon still has to deal with some minor heckling from her teammates about her roots.”I get called ‘townie’ once in a while,” Concannon said. “I’m not going to lie. I don’t mind being in town. It’s kind of nice to know where everything is.”