Déjà vu halts strong start

For the second consecutive season, the University of Miami women’s soccer team’s season came to a close in Gainesville, Fla.

In the program’s third trip to the NCAA Tournament in its 11-year history, the Hurricanes (10-9-3) fell 3-1 to Central Florida (14-5-3) in the first round at the University of Florida’s James G. Pressly Stadium.

Last season, UM lost 3-0 to host Florida in the tourney.

“I thought that was one of our best games as far as our performance, effort and ability to create the attack,” head coach Tricia Taliaferro said. “I think we made some crucial mental errors, and you can’t do that when you play in the NCAA tournament and when you play quality opponents.”

It was a premature close to the season for Miami, which began the fall on a school record seven-game winning streak and reached a ranking as high as No. 19.

Injuries to key starters hurt the Canes as they sunk into an eight-game winless streak during a California road trip and the heart of their ACC schedule. Senior forward Rachael Rigamat and junior midfielder Beverly Goebel’s absence affected the team’s experience and formations on the field.

Sophomore midfielder and reigning ACC Freshman of the Year Brittney Steinbruch missed nine games, yet still managed to score eight goals to lead the team. She tallied at least a goal in each of the first six games.

Only three players, two of whom are starters, leave the squad – seniors Corynn Carino, Rigamat and Jordan Ross. Eighteen letter winners are set to return.

“I couldn’t be more proud of this team and the entire season,” Carino said. “I’m going to miss playing with them.”

On the year, the Hurricanes finished with 10 wins for the fourth time in program history and won their first seven games. Freshman goalkeeper Vikki Alonzo set a record with 11 shutouts. The previous number was a far-away six.

“I am extremely proud of our team. The future of Miami soccer is unbelievable,” Taliaferro said. “I think you saw that in the first half of the season when we went 7-0. Unfortunately, we had some injuries, but I think it made us a better soccer team, having to overcome adversity. I look forward to the future.”

Ten student-athletes were announced as part of the 2009 class in early February, including two All-Americans and three national champions.

“I am very proud of the class we were able to attract this year and I believe it is a tribute to the current players and the success we have had over the last few years,” Taliaferro said. “All the players in this class are very competitive and know how to win games at the highest level. I think we have some very special attacking personalities and look forward to implementing them into the program.”