Last year, women’s soccer head coach Nate Lie wasn’t sure what to expect heading into the season.
“My first official day at Xavier wasn’t until June, so my first day meeting the entire team was the first day of preseason,” Lie said. “And soccer has one of the shortest preseasons. We met on Aug. 1, and were playing meaningful games on Aug. 17 It was very much learning on the fly.”
The result was an up and down non-conference stretch in which the team went 4-5-2 but managed to earn a spot in the Big East tournament after going 4-3-2 in conference play.
It marked the first postseason tournament for women’s soccer since 2002.
“We really turned a corner as we headed into Big East play. I think the team in the second half of the season didn’t even look like the team in the first half of the season, in a good way,” Lie said. “We came together, got on the same page, were unified in how we played, and we were able to do some things that the program has never done.”
Women’s soccer achieved one of the best seasons in program history, and it was built on a strong defense. This was the team’s biggest strength last year, allowing a goal or less in 16 of the 20 matches played.
However, the three main center backs from last season were all seniors. This year, the team has already had multiple games where it was an all-freshman back line.
“There are going to be growing pains,” Lie said. “…My hope is that by the end of the season, those players won’t feel like freshman. Hopefully they’ll feel more assertive and more like leaders.”
As a result of a young defense, the team won’t be able to push as many people forward as last year.
“So far, the two formations we’re playing are different from last year, and I wouldn’t be surprised if we tried another one,” Lie said.
The turnover is not just limited to the defense either. According to Lie, there are 19 new faces on this year’s team, including 15 freshman and four transfers. There’s also another four players who were out for most of last season.
Still, the expectations are high among the players.
“The team, we were disappointed with the way the Big East tournament ended. I think it left a bad taste in our mouths,” Lie said. “We want another opportunity to make it right. We want to advance in the tournament this year, as well as host a home game.”
Should the team earn a home game in the Big East tournament this year, the environment is sure to be a raucous one.
Other home games, Lie noted, that should be fun for fans are the upcoming match against Miami (OH) on Sept. 16, as well as all the Big East home games.
Before they get to Miami though, a tough test awaits them in Morgantown, W.V., on Wednesday when they take on West Virginia.
As for what he wants to see on Thursday, coach Lie stated he wanted his team to be tough and resilient against a team that knows how to win.
“We’ll be ready to compete, and we’re going to try and impose our style on them,” he said.
By: Donnie Menke | Staff Writer