Despite a 9-9-1 overall record, there were many positives that can be taken from the women soccer team’s season.
The Hurricanes defeated a Top 10 team for the first time in school history when they upset the Connecticut Huskies at Cobb Stadium on September 26th. The team also played the top teams in the Big East closely, losing in overtime to a Notre Dame team that was ranked No. 2 in the nation. Notre Dame’s win over Miami made them 19-1-1 on the season, so for the ‘Canes to take a team that good to overtime says something about the direction in which the program is headed.
It is true that the Hurricanes still lost, and a loss is never a good thing. But when you lose to an elite team in a tight game, it is hard to be completely negative. This program has been lingering around mediocrity now for the last few years. Next year, I believe the women’s soccer team will make a jump into the thick of the Atlantic Coast Conference race.
The reason for being optimistic starts with the emergence of leading goal scorer Lindsey Yach. Yach’s nine goals and three assists gave her a team-high 21 points on the season. She also showed a flare for the dramatic, scoring four game-winning goals, the only Hurricane to register more than one game winner. The ‘Canes’ scoring threat will not end with Yach, however. Junior Britney Butcher had a disappointing season, scoring just three goals and five assists in 19 games. The slow year from Butcher may actually be a blessing in disguise. Butcher will be returning for her senior season and will have extra motivation to prove that the 2003 season was a fluke. With Butcher and Yach, the Hurricanes should have a formidable offense next season.
The most encouraging sign from the 2003 season came between the goal posts. Alex Alford, a freshman goaltender, played very well throughout the entire season. Going into the year, goaltending was one of the biggest question marks on the ‘Canes. Alford put that to rest by allowing just 1.60 goals per game and totaling five shutouts on the season. Alford still has three seasons left in her Hurricanes career, so Miami has a starting goaltender for years to come.
The heart of the matter is that this season did not accomplish what the ‘Canes were hoping for. The 9-9-1 record is a little deceiving, however. The Hurricanes outplayed their opponents in several games, and really only got beat in one category: the scoreboard. If you judged the team based on their performance, they would have been far above .500. The offense never came around the way the team had hoped, causing the Hurricanes to struggle scoring goals, losing a bunch of one-goal games. As a matter of fact, five of the ‘Canes’ losses were decided by one goal or less, and three of those five losses came in overtime. The Hurricanes were 1-3-1 in overtime this season, which shows how easily this could have been a productive season.
Overall, 9-9-1 was definitely not where the Hurricanes wanted to be. In the pre-season, the ‘Canes’ aspirations were to compete for a Big East Championship and to make the NCAA Tournament. They fell short of all of those goals, but that does not necessarily mean that this program took a step backward. Rather, this program is still moving in the right direction and has young, impressive talent for next season.
Next year may finally be the season that the women’s soccer team emerges from the rest of the pack. They may finally make the jump from an average to an elite team. With a solid goaltender and two legitimate scoring threats returning for next season, there are reasons to be excited about the women’s soccer team.
Darren Grossman can be reached at DRG215@aol.com