The Miami Hurricanes, looking to build on momentum from a recent pre-season drubbing of Barry University 9-0 at Cobb Stadium, will open their regular season on the road against Ole Miss.
However, the Hurricanes must be careful not to underestimate opponents as a result of their victory over Barry, a Division II program. Ole Miss, coached by Steve Holeman, is a talented squad with nine returning starters, including Chrissy Strini and Jennifer Hance, both who have been selected to the All-SEC Team in previous seasons.
Though they did not make the NCAA Tournament last season, the Rebels have participated in the tourney three times in the last five years. That experience will make them a considerable challenge for the Hurricanes as a season opener.
“Ole Miss is a team that has consistently gone to the NCAA Tournament and done well in the SEC. It’s going to be a good test to see where we are,” Head Coach Tricia Taliaferro said. “They’re extremely organized. Their forwards and midfielders are very good so we have to deal with the threats of their attacking third.”
Ole Miss averaged 15.1 shots per game last season, compared to Miami’s 11.4. In order for the Hurricanes to fend off the Rebels, they must provide a sturdy defense that will hold up the entire match. As often was the case last year, the Hurricanes lost focus in the second half and allowed opponents to cut through their porous defense.
Miami will benefit from having one of the nation’s top goalkeepers in senior Lauren McAdam, who shut-out six teams last season. Still, the Hurricanes must not rely entirely on McAdam. They will need to generate as many offensive opportunities as possible.
Miami poses a threat with junior forward Rachael Rigamat, who led the ‘Canes in scoring with five goals last year. However, with second-leading scorer Paulette Ricks-Chambers out for the season, Miami must find others to balance the offensive load.
Ideally, every team wants to open the season at home, and the Hurricanes are no exception. For Miami, the trip to Oxford, Miss. will undoubtedly be a long one, but it will test the Hurricanes’ endurance.
“I would rather get the travel out of the way as quickly as possible,” Taliaferro said. “We have to get in sync before we start really hitting the season. It’s not ideal but it’s a good experience for us.”
With 12 new faces, including 10 freshmen, that experience will definitely help the Hurricanes mature as a team.
A team often feels there is more to do to prepare for an upcoming game, but senior midfielder Sheuneen Ta said the team seems just about ready for the opening whistle.
“Everyone’s worked really hard and the team has gelled in the pre-season. If we hold our ground, we should be ready.”
Victor R. Rodriguez may be contacted at email@example.com.