The women’s soccer team will face Atlantic Coast Conference opponent Maryland on Sunday at 1 p.m. in College Park.
The Hurricanes, who started the season with a record of 5-0, have run into some trouble since beginning their conference schedule, dropping three straight games before a win last Sunday against Virginia.
Head coach Tricia Taliaferro said that the losses were due to a major step-up in competition.
“I think there’s a big difference from the teams we played early on in the season,” Taliaferro said. “I don’t want to take anything away from them, but it’s a different level when you start going into the ACC conference. The thing that I was happiest about is that we improved and we learned from those [losses].”
That improvement started last Sunday, when the Hurricanes defeated No.8 Virginia. The win was a huge payoff for the team, who lost to their last ranked opponent, North Carolina, by the score of 6-1.
“The confidence to know and believe that we can win is a huge breakthrough,” Taliaferro said. “Now that we have a taste for winning and what it feels like and we know what our game plan is, the ability to stay focused is better.”
The ‘Canes are concentrated on their defensive effort as a result of many final scores with differences of only one goal. Taliaferro said that the defense has been made a necessity because of the skill of the teams they have faced.
“I’m more attacking minded,” she explained. “I want to create goals. But learning from playing in the ACC in the past, the defense has to be organized and disciplined.”
Another large key to winning against ACC competition is fitness and stamina, according to Taliaferro.
“If you’re going to close the gap, the quickest way to do that is through fitness,” she said. “It’s about competing at a higher level for 90 minutes. There are no breaks.”
One of the goals for the team at the beginning of the season was to beat all Florida teams. Although the goal was lost a month ago with a double overtime loss against FAU, the team still wants to finish out the season beating the rest of the Florida teams on their schedule. Hopefully, this will help the team to reach their biggest goal of making the NCAA Tournament.
“I think that they are realistic goals,” Taliaferro said. “One thing that you look for as a coach is your team getting better from the first game to the last game that you played, and I say we have. I think we’re going to continue to get better.”
With a record over .500, Taliaferro said that she feels the team has accomplished much regardless of the losses. She and the players hope that Sunday’s game will help to further improve their record and move them closer to their main goal.
“For being halfway through [the season], I’m very pleased with where we are,” Taliaferro said. “If we can have the same performance for the second half of the season, I think it’s going to help us accomplish the goals that we want. Now that we know we can do it, I look forward to seeing what’s going to happen this weekend.”
Joel Brown may be contacted at email@example.com.