Head coach Nate Lie shares key moments leading up to NCAA Tournament
By Joe Clark | Staff Writer
Xavier women’s soccer had a historic 2019 season — the Musketeers earned their first NCAA Tournament win in program history and took home a Big East Championship. In addition to these achievements, the Musketeers notched 17 wins and 13 shutouts, each the most in program history.
“I knew that this team had potential that we hadn’t had the previous two years,” third-year head coach Nate Lie said about the 2019 team. “I think we were more talented, I think we were deeper, I think we had more experience and I think we had more natural leadership, so a lot of the pieces were there.
“We talked about before the season, the NCAA Tournament is something that we kind of aspired toward, and made it a goal for the first time, but you don’t know until you get in a situation how a team is going to react.”
One game that Lie singled out as important was a 1-0 loss to Villanova on the road to open conference play.
“We were 7-1-1 heading into conference play, which I think typically, people would’ve been energetic about and excited about,” Lie said. “But I felt that we were missing something, and I don’t think it was until we hit conference play and lost our first game in conference that things started to come together. The urgency, the kind of total belief of what it takes to win.”
Lie also spoke at length about Xavier’s only other conference loss, a 2-1 match that the Musketeers dropped against Georgetown in the nation’s capital.
“We outshot them 16-6 or something like that and lost, but I think that was a real interesting moment for our team, because we were in D.C., and the two times we played there in the past we’d been outclassed,” Lie recalled.
“We lost that game, and we had some players crying after the game after losing to Georgetown on the road, and it’s because they thought they should’ve won the game and that they knew we could beat them, he continued. “I thought that was a really pivotal point from our program, understanding our potential and realizing that we’re not far away from the standard in the conference.”
At the time of the matchup, Georgetown was ranked No. 10 in the nation and was the three-time defending Big East Tournament champion.
Despite the loss, Lie voiced confidence in the team’s ability to make a run at the conference title. At a team meeting following the match, he laid out the task at hand — to win the next five conference games/
His confidence wasn’t misplaced. Xavier went on not only to win its next five games to close out the regular season but also beat Villanova and Georgetown to win the Big East title before knocking off Virginia Tech on the road in the first round of the NCAA Tournament.
Xavier never trailed during that eight-game winning streak, one that included a win over DePaul when the Musketeers scored in the last minute to seal the win.
This victory led to Xavier’s regular season finale against Butler on the road.
On a snowy Halloween night playing on the road, Xavier faced a Bulldogs squad that hadn’t dropped a match on their home turf in three seasons. The Musketeers scored in the first and last five minutes of the game.
“I started to feel somewhere in that run something special could happen, very well might happen,” Lie said. “The players thought it. Everything you talk about, in team sports where one day you coach a team where the whole is greater than the sum of its parts — we started to be that way.
“All of our tactics and everything we do as a team is based on trust of all 11 people working in concert, and you can trust the person in front of you and behind you. Those concepts are really great in theory, but they’re really hard to observe and believe fully, and I think we started to believe those things fully.”
The team closed out the 2019 season with a record of 17-4-2.
The Musketeers finished as the No. 24 ranked team in the country in the United States Soccer Coaches Poll by season’s end, which marked the first time in program history that they were ranked in a national poll. One thing is for certain:
The 2019 women’s soccer team has left its mark and etched its name as one of the most dominant teams in program history.