Instead, Miami proved its doubters wrong by making it to the NCAA tournament for only the second time in the program’s short history.
“The success we experienced last season was due to years worth of work,” head coach Tricia Taliaferro said. “Since the first day I stepped on campus at Miami, I had a vision to build this program to national prominence. The opportunity to compete in the first round made us very proud, but also drives us to improve.”
After getting off to a good start with a 3-0 victory against Stetson this past Sunday afternoon, the Canes (1-0-0) host cross-town rival Florida International (0-1-0) at 7 p.m. Friday.
Although the Panthers fell in their first match 3-2 to Florida Gulf Coast, they staged a comeback with two late second half goals by sophomore forward Claudia Cardenas and junior midfielder Marina Pappas.
During the preseason, FIU held No. 15 Texas A&M scoreless at the half and even tied the game at one apiece before falling 3-1, despite playing with only 16 players available.
The overall series matchup against FIU leans in UM’s favor, 6-3-1, and it includes a 3-1 win last year at University Park.
While the Canes proved a force to be reckoned with last year by beating powerhouse North Carolina en route to a 9-7-5 record, the Panthers finished 3-11-3 and are looking to turn things around in the Sun Belt Conference.
“We are hungry to taste victory again and have worked extremely hard over the last nine months to do that,” Taliaferro said. “The goals for this team are to improve our ACC regular season standing and win in the NCAA tournament.”
Eight starters return to Coral Gables, including sophomore Brittney Steinbruch.
Not only did the ACC Freshman of the Year score two goals in Sunday’s game, but she recently earned the SoccerFla.com Player of the Week Award.
The standout sophomore also garnered a spot on TopDrawerSoccer.com’s weekly national team.
“The best part of this team is how selfless each one of us is in striving to achieve the team goals we have set,” said Taliaferro, who was named the ACC Coach of the Year last season.
Meanwhile, freshman goalkeeper Vikki Alonzo replaces the most accomplished Hurricane goalie, Lauren McAdam. In the first match of her career, Alonzo earned a shutout and stopped a penalty kick while communicating effectively with her defense.
Five other newcomers join the mix to fill voids left by the loss of three starters, including midfielder Sheuneen Ta.
A few weeks ago, the ACC coaches voted Miami to finish seventh in the ACC preseason poll, behind six teams that ended the season in the top 25 – including three that were in the top 10.
“I look forward to climbing up the ranks in the ACC, because if you do that, a national championship is in sight,” Taliaferro said.