Miami hopes to build on best-ever NCAA Tournament performance

Freshman forward Blake Stockton hit a header over a UNC defender during a game last season. The Canes made it to the second round of the NCAA Tournament for the first time after defeating the Alabama Crimson Tide with a 102nd-minute overtime goal in the first round. Charlotte Cushing // Contributing Photographer

Transitions rarely come easy. Just ask Matt Kagan, an assistant coach for the women’s soccer team, now entering his second year at Miami.

“It was just a tough spring, a tough transition,” he asid.

Kagan, head coach Tom Anagnost and the rest of the soccer staff took over a program a year ago that needed some time to get used to their changes. And the new regime knew it was going to be a bit of a struggle.

“I think that’s to be expected when you have a new coaching staff,” Kagan said. “You know, sometimes there is maybe a little fight back. They’re so used to one thing and now they’re getting something totally different. And they got the total opposite of what they had before we got here.”

Jordan Roseboro, a freshman, would probably agree.

“It was different,” the Virginia native said. “And I liked that it was different, but it was just very hard and up until then we didn’t really do anything and it was just hard having soccer three [practices] a day and then school. It was a really big adjustment, but it helped us in the long run.”

That part is indisputable.

The Canes’ (10-8-1, 3-6-1 ACC) newfound dedication to “discipline” and “accountability” earned them a trip to the NCAA tournament where they reached the second round for the first time in program history, beating Alabama at home in double overtime before eventually losing to Long Beach State 0-1 in California.

“I think it was a really successful year,” Kagan said. “We came in trying to change the culture of the program … that process is still going on, it’s changing for the better. As far as results were concerned it was the most successful year, but I think even more important, just watching the players grow and buying into what we’re trying to do.”

A big part of Miami’s success can be traced back to the arrival of Anagnost, who led the Central Michigan Chippewas to an impressive 40-12-7 record and two NCAA tournament appearances during his three-year tenure there.

“Tom’s a hard worker,” said Kagan, who has known Anagnost for a number of years. “He’s very unique. I always tell people there is only one Tom Anagnost, but he squeezes every ounce of ability and willpower out of these kids. I don’t think the kids would disagree with that. He’s tough, but he’s fair and he’s honest and he’s organized in terms of on the field and keeping these kids in shape on the field to win games.”

Anagnost’s toughness seems to have rubbed off on the rest of the team already.

In his first year as the head coach, the team played in three overtime games and one penalty shootout resulting in three wins and a tie.

“I think we’re probably one of the most mentally tough teams in our conference,” Rosbeboro said. “And maybe in the country. As soon as it hits double overtime we don’t really think about it. We just focus on playing our game and putting the ball in the back of the net so we can win.  We’re all ready to play overtime just because of the practices we’ve been through and all that.”

But while last season was certainly successful for a Miami team that has to compete in arguably the strongest soccer conference in the country, the team’s motto might be indicative of things yet to come.

“The motto of our program is ‘commitment to getting better every day’,” Kagan explained. “And we just hope that over the summer that they’re doing the packet we gave them, and they’re playing as much as they can and trying to get better at the things we ask them to get better at every single day. If they do that then the results will come.”

Roseboro, who plans to play professional soccer in Australia after her last season at Miami, is at the forefront of this new notion to constantly improve.

“My dad’s always taught me: ‘While you’re sleeping, someone out there is working hard,’” she said. So I try to keep that in my head and just always trying to improve, always trying to be the best.”