Butcher leads ‘Canes to quick start for new coach

The Hurricanes women’s soccer team (2-0) opened their season in commanding fashion this past weekend, by beating cross-state rivals, Stetson and University of South Florida, 7-0, 5-1, respectively.

It marked the beginning of a new era in women’s soccer under new head coach Tricia Taliaferro, who replaced Jim Blakenship. Taliaferro came over from the University of Illinois where she guided the nascent women’s soccer team to two consecutive NCAA tournament appearances, a second place finish in the Big Ten Tournament, and a No.15 ranking in the country. Taliaferro’s Illini team was known for their aggressive, attack style offense.

“Tricia has come into this program and completely turned things around. I think that we have been having a lot more fun than we have been in the past years,” said sophomore forward Britney Butcher.

The Hurricanes completely overpowered the University of South Florida Bulls from the outset on Sunday. The Hurricanes always seemed one step ahead of their opponents, making crisp passes across the midfield and down the sidelines, constantly pushing the ball into Bulls’ territory, a semblance to Taliaferro’s aforementioned attack style coaching philosophy.

It did not take long for the Hurricanes to strike. Butcher, scored on an assist from Gitana Gotay in the seventh minute and then connected on another shot a minute later to record her second goal of the game. Butcher finished the game with her second straight hat trick in as many games, by scoring her third goal in the 65th minute.

“We’ve gelled together so well and we’re playing like a team,” said Butcher.

During Friday’s Stetson game, Butcher also opened the scoring by notching the first two of the Hurricanes seven goal offensive barrage.

Vonda Matthews played excellent defense in the middle, part of an impregnable Hurricane defense that allowed only one shot in the first half. Forwards Anik Huffman and Gotay provided speed and a good passing game that kept the Bulls’ defense on its toes much of the match. The Hurricanes had eight shots in the first half and finished the game with 17.

“I am very pleased with our opening weekend. A lot of things that we had worked on in the preseason we were able to execute and especially getting the amount of shots we did was good. Britney Butcher was a pleasant surprise, obviously, getting her six goals in the weekend,” said Taliaferro.

The Hurricanes went into the halftime with a 2-0 lead.

The second half was no different from the first. Lindsey Yach, scored the first of her two goals on a centering pass from Huffman. The play was created by the defensive hustle of Vonda Matthews, who made a clean steal on the ball from a South Florida forward, which caught the Bulls’ defense off-guard. Huffman also contributed to Yach’s second goal, by stealing the ball in front of the Bulls’ net and then passing it to Yach for an easy empty netter.

“Throughout the week, I thought we got better and it’s a good start to our season,” said coach Taliaferro.

The Hurricanes will look to perpetuate their offensive prowess at the FSU Invitational in Tallahassee where they will play against Louisiana State University and Missouri.

Sandeep Konka can be reached at s.konka@umiami.edu