Dennis Fowler a Happy Man on the Sidelines of Mills Girls Soccer.
By, JOHN TORSIELLO
What do you do when your foreign-born head coach finds himself having to return to his native land because of a paperwork technicality and you need a new mentor pronto?
Well, Lewis Mills High School found itself in that quandary prior to the start of this soccer season. Jason Stock had some issues with his paperwork back in England, so the school called up the man who Stock had replaced two years ago, Dennis Fowler, and asked him if he wanted to return to coaching. It was only a few days before pre-season practices were set to begin and Fowler had to make a quick decision.
“Since I just moved into the brand new house I had built for the last two years, it was a perfect moment personally for me to return,” said Fowler. “Surprisingly, the timing could not have been better.”
Fowler admitted he missed being away from the sidelines.
“It was the first two years of my life I was not involved in soccer either playing or coaching. But what I missed the most was the daily interactions on the field with the Lewis Mills girls. I missed going to practice, teaching the game, and sharing the passion for the game we both had. I missed walking onto the beautiful field at Nassahegan Field for the night games and the awesome competitive spirit the girls always played with.”
Although they were sad to see Stock go, the man whom he had replaced and was now replacing him had an impeccable record in his previous stint with the team. He coached Mills for nine years, from 2003 to 2011, during which time the team won six Berkshire League titles, made nine trips to the state tournament, including a run to the Class M finals in 2010, and three semifinal appearances in 2005, 2008 and 2010.
Among a 137-22-6 overall record in those nine years were 16-0 regular season campaigns in 2005 and 2010. Fowler also coached varsity girls soccer at Litchfield High School for two years, and was a junior varsity girls soccer coach at Terryville High School for four years.
Mills is having a superb season under the new/old coach. The Spartans won their first nine games of the season and held a slight lead on Nonnewaug and Housatonic heading into the guts of the second half.
“I'm surprised with how easily we beat both Nonnewaug and Housatonic early in the season,” said Fowler. “We beat Nonnewaug, 5-1, and Housatonic, 5-2. We play both on the road in the final two weeks of the season. I would be very surprised if those two games are not much tougher and closer.”
Fowler said the reason for Mills’ success this fall is offensive and defensive balance and depth.
“We are very deep in talent, as I play 16 to 17 girls in my rotation pretty comfortably. Defensively, we've been really solid, led by two juniors, defensive center midfielder, Maddie Murdick, and my center back, Elli Spring. They have led a defense that has allowed a league-best six goals.”
On offense, another junior, Ailene Berry has been the catalyst. She has blazing speed and “edge” to her that makes her nightmare for opposing defenses. She had 11 goals and seven assists in nine games. Senior striker Morgan Baker (five goals) and midfielder Rachel Lord (four goals, four assists) have been “awesome leaders by example,” said Fowler. “I have two freshmen strikers that come off the bench that have given us great energy and toughness. Chloe Waldron and Alyssa Wrabel have combined for 11 goals and 11 assists. They both have very bright futures.” Mills has scored 54 goals as a team.
Fowler talked about his coaching style.
“I want my players to compete with a lot of energy and excitement on the field, so I coach with a lot of energy and enthusiasm. I'm a big believer that positive energy and a positive attitude can be deciding factors in whether a player or a team succeeds at the highest levels. So, I try to instill those traits into my team. I've coached many different "systems" of play over the years. But I've become a big believer in the 1-3-4-3 formation. It requires tremendous fitness and a defensive commitment from my players. But it's a fast, exciting style when done right.”
Fowler said expectations were high for this year’s team prior to the start of the season.
“At Mills, we are always expected to have a good team that competes for BL and state championships. But, being gone for two years, I didn't really know what I would have on the field except for a few girls I knew could really play. But what I found out pretty quick was that there was some very good soccer talent and some strong, athletic upperclassmen that were ready to show who they were and what they could do. You have to remember, this team lost 13 seniors and nine starters from an awesome team a year ago. My girls this year had to play in their shadow for a while. They are hungry to prove how good they are.”
Mills’ upcoming big games are with Nonnewaug Oct. 21, Shepaug Oct. 24 on Senior Night, and Housatonic Oct. 29.
Fowler loves his team’s chances to win a BL title and make a deep run in the state tourney.
“This team is proving it can be elite. We have some big challenges in the final two weeks on the road. That will tell us a lot about the character and toughness we have. If we can get through those challenges playing passionate, inspired Lewis Mills soccer, this team will be primed for a deep run in the Class M tournament.”
Dennis Fowler is happy he’s again along for the fun ride.