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Leading, Defending

Phillips stresses team culture, and it’s equating to wins for the soccer team

Davy Phillips coaching

(Davy Phillips has been Washburn’s women’s soccer coach since 2017 and the team had the highest win total this year since 2009. Photo by Gene Cassell)

From The Ichabod - Winter 2023 
By Jeremy Wangler

A coach’s dream scenario might be when everyone buys into the plan, takes leadership and implements it on their own. That is currently happening with the culture Davy Phillips is building on the soccer team, and it’s translating into wins.

“Each year we've prioritized the culture, and this is the first year they've really taken accountability and ran the culture side of things on their own,” said Phillips, head coach, Washburn women’s soccer.

“We discuss how to stay mindful of what a good teammate looks like, what a good teammate sounds like, healthy conflict resolution, what a healthy 
locker room looks and sounds like,” he said. “We do exercises to create vulnerability, and they have to open up a little bit. The team has really bought in and taken ownership, and it’s led to a lot of on-field performance results.”

The Ichabods finished this year 11-6-2 overall and sixth in the MIAA. This was the highest win total and the first back-to-back winning seasons since 2009. A big part of their success was a defense that produced seven shutouts and allowed less than one goal per game during the regular season, and a big part of the defense was senior defender Emily Michaelis.

“It helps the overall momentum of the game when we're not being scored on,” Michaelis said. “We defend the whole game – the whole team defends – so a shutout shows all the effort we put in.”

Emily Michaelis playing soccer

Phillips played for a defensive-minded coach when he was a student-athlete at Baker University and stresses the same here at Washburn.

“Being organized and tough to break down is number one,” he said. “The forwards and midfielders did a great job this year putting pressure on teams 
so our defenders are not dealing with as much. It's been a collective team effort starting with good, solid defending.”

Michaelis said good defending involves a lot of talking – or yelling – during games, much of which comes from her.

“We can see everything, so we talk to everyone on the field,” she said. “We're telling them where to move, when to move. If you come to our games, it's never going to be quiet. It's going to be really loud.”

Michaelis developed into a strong leader in her four years and learned people at any level can lead.

“Everyone seems to think only the seniors can do it. But I've realized over the years we have leaders in every class,” she said.

Sophomore forward Khloe Schuckman, who led the team this season with eight goals and 19 points, learned this year you don’t have to be an upper-class student to lead.

Khloe Schuckman playing soccer

“Last year I was a freshman trying to feel it out, trying to do what I could and give the energy I could to the team,” she said. “Now, as a sophomore, I try to lead our offense because we have so many young freshmen. I try to lead by example, just doing the right things on and off the field. I'm not a very vocal player just because I'm up front and it's hard to do that. Emy (Michaelis) is very loud. She carries the team vocally.”

Phillips said Michaelis’ leadership on the team will translate well to her career as a registered nurse. She will graduate this May with a bachelor of science in nursing and she wants to work in labor and delivery.

“Nursing is a similar environment to the competitive atmosphere of sports,” Phillips said. “Every minute matters. You're working hard and you have to be organized and disciplined and stay on top of things. One-hundred percent, yes, she's going to be a terrific nurse.”

Michaelis and Schuckman both came to Washburn from Wichita, Kansas, and quickly fell in love with the program and the campus during recruiting visits.

“Visiting Washburn was the first time I could see myself playing soccer, going to school and having a good time,” she said. “Everyone wanted me to succeed, and that didn’t stick out to me at other schools.”

“I didn't look at many other places after I visited Washburn,” Schuckman said. “I really liked the facilities, campus and the people, and I committed 
a few weeks later.”

The team’s culture is meant to build an environment where student-athletes can feel confident and become the best version of themselves. Phillips said the athletic department and the university also reflect those values, and it’s a big part of why he came to Washburn in 2017.

“Washburn is an easy place to sell to students and their families, and that's important in recruiting and building a program,” he said.

Winter 2024 The Ichabod magazine cover with picture of the bell tower and snow fallen on campus

The Ichabod tells our story with features on alumni, faculty, staff, students and friends, along with the latest campus news. View the current and past editions


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