Lincoln-Way West’s Jeff Theiss is the SouthtownStar 2014 Girls Soccer Coach of the Year

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When Jeff Theiss became the first varsity coach at Lincoln-Way West — starting a brand new program in the 2010 season — the Warriors took some lumps on their way to finishing below .500 in each of their first two seasons.

“When this year’s seniors were freshmen (in 2011), we lost to Lockport, Lincoln-Way East and Homewood-Flossmoor by a combined score of 16-1,” Theiss said.

How quickly things change.

“This year, we beat all three of those teams, who all have great programs,” Theiss said. “Looking back on those first couple of years, even when we had some 7-0, 8-0 losses, we were able to keep the excitement around the program. Then you start winning and you just want to do it more and more.”

The Warriors did plenty of it this season, despite fielding a young squad, recording a program-best 18 wins and reaching the sectional finals for the first time in program history. They finished 18-6-1 after a season-ending loss to Lemont.

Theiss has earned the title of SouthtownStar 2014 Girls Soccer Coach of the Year.

“It’s a great honor,” he said. “I always tell the players than any time anyone gets an individual honor, it’s great for the whole team. It shows what we’ve accomplished as a team. I have to thank our girls for all the hard work they put in to get us here.”

When the season began, Theiss had a bit of a rebuilding project on his hands. The Warriors lost five senior starters, including All-State performer Cori Brennan, from a 2013 squad that finished 14-7-2.

This year’s roster had just three seniors, and the Warriors counted heavily on three freshmen and three sophomores in the starting lineup.

“We lost a group of seniors who had been with us all four years and understood our system,” Theiss said. “We brought on a whole new group, but their learning curve was exceptional. We instilled discipline defending in them right away. We figured out they were really good at set pieces. We took off from there.”

Theiss quickly realized he had a group that was committed to winning. Evidence of that could be found at the hill near West’s stadium, where the players often ran.

“There are a lot of tough, physical teams that we play against in this area,” he said. “We work really hard in the weight room to try to match that. Then we started hitting that hill. We have pictures where it was muddy and the girls were filthy, but they bought in.”

West expects to return nine starters next season.

“There’s definitely a lot of excitement about what’s ahead of us,” Theiss said.School Cube News.

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