September 20, 2023

With Sahrbeck Moving Up to Head Coaching Role, Hun Girls’ Soccer Looking to be More Consistent

RISING SPEKTOR: Hun School girls’ soccer player Olivia Spektor goes after the ball in a 2021 game. Senior Spektor figures to be a key offensive threat for Hun this fall. The Raiders, who are being guided by new head coach Krista Sahrbeck, fell 6-1 to Seneca last Thursday to move to 0-3. Hun plays at Westfield High on September 21 before hosting Mercersburg Academy (Pa.) on September 23. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

By Bill Alden

Krista Sahrbeck has a lot on her plate as the dean of students at the Hun School.

Despite a hectic schedule packed with meetings, phone calls, and administrative work, Sahrbeck has carved out several hours a day to follow her sporting passion, taking the helm as the head coach of the Hun girls’ soccer team.

For Sahrbeck, balancing all of her responsibilities has proven to be a challenge.

“I think for me the biggest thing is how my day job collides with soccer,” said Sahrbeck, who is succeeding Jenn Barrett as head coach. “They all work to my strengths; I am the dean of students, so I can coach. If I made coaching a career, that would be great, but I like working with this age group. That is what fills my cup. I do a hard stop when I go to the field and sometimes I have to pick up right after a game or a practice. Those two-three hours are mine and I can put on a different hat.”

Sahrbeck, 47, a former Bowdoin College women’s soccer standout, started coaching as a college student.

“I had always excelled at being the summer counselor at sleepaway camps,” said Sahrbeck. “I just liked to be out running around and working with kids younger than me. My soccer coach gave me the reins to coach the high school team in the summer when I was like 20. I would work during the day in my summer and then in the evening coach the high school team.”

Once in coaching, Sahrbeck made stops at Vermont Academy (Vt.), Bentley University (Mass.), Kent Denver (Colo.), and Kingswood Oxford (Conn.) while also serving in administrative roles.

Coming to Hun in the fall of 2022 as dean of students, Sahrbeck’s portfolio includes serving as an assistant coach of the Raider girls’ soccer program.

“For me, last year was fantastic, working with Jenn and the other coaches on staff, said Sahrbeck, who helped Hun go 8-7-2 in 2022.

“I was really given a lot of freedom to plan practices so I planned and instructed pretty much every practice, revamped the pre-warmup before matches, and did things like that. I was happy to downshift without losing a lot of the head coaching pieces, being able to be in front of the kids a lot and giving my thoughts on different systems of play. I really appreciated Jenn and her trust in allowing me to do that. She oversaw everything else and made the train run.”

During preseason, Sahrbeck enjoyed a smooth transition as she assumed the head coaching role.

“This year, with the day-to-day stuff, nothing has really changed,” said Sahrbeck, whose squad lost 6-1 to Seneca last Thursday to move to 0-3 in 2023. “I think the kids are switching over pretty easily. The way I am instructing isn’t anything different from what I did last year.”

The Hun players have responded well to Sahrbeck’s instruction.

“It has been great — I have really leaned on my eight seniors to set the pace and tone for the season,” said Sahrbeck. “We have a really good honest and open communications. If you want feedback, I told them not all of it is going to be ‘you guys are awesome.’ It might be ‘you made bad decisions, that is why we lost, we didn’t stay connected,’ or ‘this win was harder than it could have been.’ I think them wanting to take that responsibility and have some of that accountability as well is a two-way street. You can give me feedback too if you want more of this or you didn’t think I was fair with this statement. There can be a time and place for that — it might not be at the halftime speech.”

At forward, the trio of seniors Olivia Spektor, Tessa Falcone, and Mackenzie Turner should give the Raiders some good firepower.

“We have pushed Liv up, she is great,” said Sahrbeck. “For me, it is really figuring out to develop her, knowing when she has to be selfish on the attacking end. You are your best chance, go for it but also recognize that you are going to garner a lot of attention,  somebody is going to be open so use you smarts, use you IQ, use your abilities, and play it off to Tessa or Mckenzie.”

Falcone and Turner will also see time at midfield along with junior Julia Espinosa.

“Mackenzie and Liv are going to be both forwards or midfielders, said Sahrbeck. “Julia Espinosa is back and will be playing there.”

Mixing and matching her attacking players, Sahrbeck is tinkering with formations, looking at 4-1-4-1 or 4-5-1 set-ups.

Conceptually and concretely, they can see the division,” said Sahrbeck.“There is a top five which should all be on offense to some degree, if not more of them. You have five automatically numbers-wise and we should always be is a comfortable position on attack and on defense.”

The defense will be spearheaded by senior Gabi Rollins, junior Allie Devlin, and freshman Morgan Barnes.

“Gabi could be placed anywhere and do well with her composure and style, I have to keep her in the back on the holding midfield line,” said Sahrbeck. “In addition to Gabi, Allie has just been solid and makes good, safe but aggressive choices. Morgan has been developing well, she is playing stronger than a freshman. She is a club player and those nerves aren’t there like a typical ninth grader.”

Senior Zoey Palmer helps calm nerves on the back line with her strong play at goalie.

“Zoey is one of our captains with Liv Spektor and Tessa Falcone,” said Sahrbeck, whose backup goalie is junior Ellie Gudusky. “When she is composed and they hear her strong, firm voice, she gives a level of calm. Some of the saves that she can do for her size are unbelievable. You think you could just go top shelf and she is tipping them over the crossbar. It is that really perfect blend, she is firm but not harsh. She just garners so much respect from everybody, she is special. Zoey and her presence is something that I am lucky I get for my first year as head coach.”

In order to have a special year in her debut campaign as head coach, Sahrbeck will need her players to sharpen their finishing touch.

“I think our defense is going to be fine, working from Zoey up. My challenge is going to be finishing and scoring goals and finding who is willing to put that in their shoulders and take on that mentality,” said Sahrbeck, whose team will look to get on the winning track when it plays at Westfield High on September 21 before hosting Mercersburg Academy (Pa.) on September 23.

“A true scorer has a different thought process, you have to be a little bit ruthless. If we can consistently score a couple of goals a game and stay organized defensively, I think we can contend.”