Newswire photo by Sydney Sanders | Xavier overcame a rough patch early in Big East play to surge into the postseason. The future remains bright for the Musketeers and head coach Nate Lie, who led Xavier to its second consecutive playoff appearance.
From the beginning of the season, women’s soccer head coach Nate Lie said he could tell there was something different with this year’s team.
“You could tell from the first practice this team was more talented and more motivated,” Lie said.
The team started the season with a tough non-conference slate, facing Louisville, Tennessee and West Virginia during an 11-day period all on the road.
The team was still finding its footing at that point, with 19 new faces on a 33-person roster. Add another four players who missed most of last season with injuries, and there were a lot things that needed to be figured out.
By the time Big East play came around, the team had started to do just that.
The Musketeers lost two of their first three conference matches but only lost one more until the end of the regular season.
“One pleasant surprise was that we were able to control most Big East games,” Lie said. “We were only outshot in one game, and we won that one by three goals.”
The team also managed to draw with both Georgetown and Butler, who finished first and second in conference.
“I thought we actually outplayed them both,” Lie said.
The late-season hot streak allowed the team to accomplish its goal of earning a home match in the conference tournament. The opponent was DePaul, and the teams showed very little separation throughout the match, going to penalty kicks after being tied 1-1 at the end of the second overtime period.
Sophomore midfielder Claire Fisher scored the winning penalty to clinch a berth in the Big East semifinals.
“Winning on PKs is a moment I think many of our players will remember for a long time. There was a lot of pure joy in that celebration afterward, and those moments are hard to come by in both sport and life,” Lie said. “The goal for this year’s team was not only to get a home conference tournament game but to win it as well.”
Lie also remarked that the team had found consistency in the defensive backs, saying, “The same three started each of the last 15 games in a row. By conference play we stopped announcing them and just said ‘our three center backs.’”
Another big part of the team’s success was redshirt junior midfielder Samantha Dewey.
She was named the Big East Midfielder of the Year and first team all-conference. According to Lie, it was the little things that allowed her to take the next step.
“We asked her for a few things. One was to work on her fitness, because we felt that had limited her ability to be dangerous for long periods of time,” Lie said. “We also changed her from a forward position to an attacking center mid position to allow her more freedom. She carries a burden because she’s our most dangerous player and everyone knows it, so she’s constantly getting fouled. That’s not easy.”
With only three seniors departing, the goal for this offseason is to keeping improving.
“We have the longest offseason of any team, so staying focused can be hard. It’s like a rabbit chasing a carrot, but the carrot is really far away and can be really hard to see at times,” Lie said. “It’s tough to want to consistently train when it’s cold and dark. Powering through those times will be key to improving next year.”
Though the team missed a bid to the NCAA tournament this year, it would not be a surprise to see Xavier in the postseason conversation in the next couple years.
By: Donnie Menke | Staff Writer