The University of Miami women’s soccer team (8-4-1, 2-2) has improved its play greatly this year.
Its eight wins thus far already match the total from last season.
What has stood out more than anything has been the increased offensive threat the Hurricanes have shown.
In all of last year, the Canes scored only 20 goals in 19 games. Through 13 games this season, they have scored 24. Senior Brittney Steinbruch leads the team with six goals.
Steinbruch, committed to making her last year with the Hurricanes her best, has gained confidence from having players step up around her. She has had a record-breaking year, becoming the University of Miami’s all-time leader in goals (34) and points (75).
The people who have joined her up front have allowed Steinbruch to get increased spaces close to the goal. As a result, she has been able to create goal-scoring opportunities.
And it’s been help that has come from the entire team.
Eleven different players have scored for the Hurricanes, including key defender and senior Brittney Macdonald, who has three goals-two of them game winners.
While Miami will undoubtedly miss the loss of second-leading scorer sophomore Kate Howarth to a leg injury, other players like freshmen Tara Scwhitter and Blake Stockton have been key contributors to give the Hurricanes’ speed up front.
The Canes have also shown greater commitment pushing the ball forward, at times entirely bypassing the midfield players.
While this has led to increased scoring- and better play overall, at times it has been easily rebuffed by teams such as the Wake Forest Demon Deacons and Florida State Seminoles.
Both were able to cut off play and take away momentum from the Hurricanes.
Miami has been much more threatening in the second half of play, scoring three times as many goals in the final 45 minutes. This forces the back line to hold strong until the Hurricanes generate enough momentum to finally push the ball through for a score.
It did fail for the orange and green during the Wake Forest game, however, when two goals in the first half were too much to overcome.
For the most part, however, the back line on defense continues to be strong for the Hurricanes with the help of Macdonald and junior goalkeeper Vikki Alonzo.
Alonzo, who already holds the program record for career shutouts with 22, has recorded five on the season.
The trust test will come during the second half of the schedule for the Hurricanes.
They face three top-10 opponents- the fifth-ranked Boston College Eagles (9-3-1, 2-3), second-ranked North Carolina Tar Heels (11-1-1, 3-1) and fourth-ranked Maryland Terrapins (11-1-1, 3-1-1)- all on the road.
This makes their final two home matches, against No. 9 Virginia (8-3-1, 2-2) and No. 23 Virginia Tech, (8-5, 2-2) must-win games for the Hurricanes if they hope to reach the Atlantic Coast Conference and NCAA tournaments.
It all starts this weekend when the Hurricanes play the N.C. State Wolfpack, which is 1-4 in ACC competition.
So far, Miami has shown the mental fortitude to come back in tough games, and the team will need that fortitude if it hopes to pull off huge road upsets in the second half of the year.
Debora Rubi has been the soccer beat writer for two years. She may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.