CENTRAL POINT — Recently married and with a baby due in February, Rianna Lee apparently didn't feel like she had enough on her plate when Crater High Athletic Director David Heard came calling, and therefore accepted the head coaching position for girls soccer at the school on Thursday.
"I'm not concerned at all about being pregnant and coaching," said Lee, who turns 25 on Aug. 31. "I'll still be early on with the program and I think it'll give me more energy to get going. Soccer is my life and I'm in it to win it and get the program up there as a winning team."
The job at Crater High will be her first as a head coach, although the former Rianna Mansfield served as an assistant coach last year under Emily Miller at North Medford High and has been an assistant at Southern Oregon University since 2011. Lee graduated from the University of Oregon in 2010 and earned her master's degree at SOU.
"It was a pleasure working with Emily Miller at North and the players were just wonderful," said. "We ended it on good terms because in the soccer world they understood I was starting a family and this was just a good opportunity for me."
While at Oregon from 2006-10, she was a three-time Pac-10 All-Academic student athlete for the women's soccer team and three-time honorable mention Pac-10 player as a midfielder and attacking forward. A first-team all-state player from South Eugene High, Lee also went on to play two years semi-professionally for the Portland Rain and Eugene Azul from 2010-12.
"Rianna is a great addition to our coaching staff here at Crater," Heard said in a press release. "The girls should be very excited to play for her."
"Rianna's experiences in the sport should enhance her ability to really develop this program," he added.
The sale was an easy one for Lee, who is a devoted soccer player and fan and had high hopes of one day being able to teach in the Central Point School District. Her husband, Ron Lee, was a standout wrestler at Crater High who now works alongside his brothers Doug and Mike and father Art in guiding the Scenic Middle School wrestling program.
"I'm excited just to get in there and be enthusiastic and try to be positive role model for the women athletes and just be part of the Central Point School District," said Lee, whose due date is Feb. 3. "It'll be a big change for me and it'll be exciting because I've always wanted to be in the Central Point area."
Lee is a social studies and history teacher but with maternity leave coming during the school year, she said she expects to serve on a substitute basis for the 2013-14 school year and hopefully a full-time position will open up for her the following year.
In the meantime, a chief concern for Lee will be turning around a program that has seen limited success in recent history. The Comets went 1-13-1 overall and 0-8 in Class 6A Southern Oregon Hybrid play under Ed Lindbloom, who was making his return to the sidelines after a one-year hiatus that saw his assistant Natasha Sawall go 2-11-1 and 0-8 in SOH play.
Crater's last winning season came in 2008 at the 5A level as members of the now defunct Southern Sky Conference, when the Comets went 10-4-2 overall and 8-0 in SSC play to claim the conference title. Since rejoining the 6A level, Crater has gone 8-34-2.
"I'm not worried about the past years, I'm worried about this year," said Lee. "I do know that we have good athletes and with the tactics I'm going to include, I think we'll have success. It isn't necessarily going to be automatic, but I'm going to be persistent on making this team better. It just might take some time."
Crater enjoyed more success on the pitch at the 5A level — where the Comets are expected to land again under the proposed reclassification model for the 2014-18 time block — when it combined for 30-26-3 record from 2006-09 but lost in all four 5A playoff openers.
Four Comets received honorable mention acclaim in last year's SOH voting, including senior-to-be midfielder Jamie Dirksen and incoming sophomore defenders Abby Gray and Katie Niedermeyer. Lee said she has yet to meet with her squad but got ahold of a roster Wednesday night that was heavy on underclassmen with only three seniors and no juniors.
"It looks like I'll have a young squad," she said, "but that can be good too sometimes. I'm just excited to meet them and to get started."
Lee said the group planned to take part in some speed and agility exercises with Charlie LePari beginning on Monday, and she hopes they'll be in good shape to play more of an attacking style of soccer this fall.
"My goal is lots and lots and lots of shots on goal," she said. "We'll also be trying to keep possession, but I don't want them to be timid about making a mistake or anything like that. My goal is to get our attack up and score more goals."
Last year, the Comets scored once in three different games for a total of three goals against 62 allowed.