A fire from within
As 2013 season begins, women’s soccer learns from disappointment of 2012
Published: Wednesday, August 28, 2013
Updated: Wednesday, August 28, 2013 00:08
During offseason practices, women’s soccer head coach Michael Thomas didn’t want his team losing the competitive edge they play with during the season. With that in mind, he implemented a points system to increase competition between the players and attempt to imitate in-game pressure situations.
It resulted in practices with increased intensity, competition and overall efficiency.
The women’s soccer team has faced its share of triumph and heartbreak over the past two seasons. With small expectations in 2011, the team captured 12 wins – the program’s most since 1999. The following season was met with enthusiasm, but an overtime Akron goal in the final game of the 2012 season resulted in an unexpected conclusion – failing to make the postseason.
“After the disappointing season last year, we all realized we didn’t want this to happen again,” said senior forward and team captain Courtney Gross. “Training sessions from when we started to get up again during our offseason were just so much more intense and so much more competitive.”
The Bulls finished last season 5-12-2 with a 3-7-1 Mid-American Conference record. The team returns the majority of its players from last season and hopes the offseason workouts will pay dividends in 2013.
Led by senior goalkeeper Ainsley Wheldon and talented offensive threats like juniors Katie Roberts, Courtney Mann and senior Courtney Gross, the Bulls are poised to make a statement this season.
“We want to make the playoffs,” Gross said. “We are really striving for a MAC Championship and I think this year out of all the years I’ve been here, I feel the most confident. We really want it and you feel it from everyone. Even the freshmen coming in, they feed off our vibe like this is the year.”
The motivation for 2013 came from MAC opponents, as well. For senior defender Natalie Jurisevic, she constantly wonders what her competition is doing.
“Whenever I do a workout, I’d say ‘I will do 15 reps of 100-yard sprints,’” Jurisevic said. And then after I finish that I will always think in the back of my mind, ‘What are the people I’m playing against going to do?’ And then I’d push for another ten [reps], even though I’m exhausted.”
This fight-first mentality has helped the Bulls shine in their exhibitions, best exemplified by their 4-0 romp over neighbor Canisius.
“There was a good intensity [against Canisius and] any time you play one of those local schools, it’s a little bit more than an exhibition,” Thomas said. “Whenever you roll a ball out between Buffalo and Canisius, it’s going to be a little bit more than just a game.”
Many players who didn’t necessarily have huge seasons last year took advantage of the scrimmages and the offseason workouts. Thomas noted senior forward Karen McMahon, junior midfielder Megan Abman, junior defender Sophie Therien and junior forward Katie Roberts among those expected to play key factors in the team’s success. McMahon scored the opening goal as Abman tacked on two more in the victory.
“Experience is great for us right now,” Thomas said. “These players have seen it all. They saw a lot of success two years ago; they saw the results go not the way they wanted last year, and I’ve been really impressed with their focus day in and day out.”
The 2013 women’s soccer team doesn’t want to hear about previous years – just the opportunities in front of them.
Buffalo dropped its season opener last weekend at Michigan State, 2-0, and will next travel to St. Bonaventure Friday for a 3 p.m. start before returning to UB for the home opener – hosting Youngtown State on Sunday. Start time is set for noon at UB Stadium.