Jan. 26, 2009
The University of Dayton women's soccer team recently held its annual banquet. I had a chance to sit and discuss the 2008 season with Flyer head coach Mike Tucker. He talks about the highs and lows, the defense, each class and what to expect next season. Something to note: of Dayton's six losses this season five were by just one goal and five came against teams that made the NCAA tournament, with all of them winning their first-round matches. Three advanced to the Sweet 16 (Rutgers, Duke, and Illinois) with the Blue Devils advancing to the Final Four.
The Flyers posted a 15-6-1 record and advanced to their 13th consecutive A-10 Championship. Do you feel like this team met your expectations?
"My expectations were that we were going to have a very good team and I think we proved that over the course of the season and even exceeded my expectations in a lot of ways. I know we made great progress and I think that we were a better team than we were the year before. We took care of being a bad defensive team for the past couple of years and we were very very good in that area this year so we made a lot of improvements."
Talk about that young defense which only allowed .92 goals per game.
"I remember getting an email from a friend after our first game and he asked me if I was out of my mind for starting three freshmen and a sophomore, none of who had started in the back before. There was some risk but they did well and quickly became a unit back there. Kathleen Beljan, Allison Giner, and Kelsey Miller played almost every minute of every game and were tremendous. And Emily Kenyon played some back there before we moved her to midfield and went to three in the back. We were just tons better, defensively, than we had been for a while."
What was a turning point this season?
"In some ways it was the UMass game. That was a game when we got back home we said we&rsquo;re meeting tomorrow and we're going to discuss this. We got away from what we did well. We played St. Bonaventure the game after that and we were really good that day. It set the tone for the rest of the fall. It was a turning point in our season. We played Duke and held them without a shot for 50 minutes. We showed what type of team we were, but only for stretches. Later in the year we could for 90 minutes."
Describe the last game of the &lsquo;08 season in the A-10 Championship Final against Charlotte.
"You could tell how determined our girls were and I think they showed that for 90 minutes. When they gave up the one goal they could have let down and didn&rsquo;t. I was extremely pleased with the effort and dedication they had towards playing the way we want them to play. You don&rsquo;t get style points. You have to put the ball in the net. Unfortunately, we didn&rsquo;t do that but we were brilliant at moments."
Talk a little about your graduating seniors.
"The four seniors clearly dedicated themselves to having a great senior year and bought into the team and what we were trying to accomplish, which was their legacy. I was pleased with their leadership and attitude more."
"Steph Wurth worked hard throughout the year."
"Deana Waintraub had a wonderful senior year. She did a nice job of leading."
"Amanda Gallow has been the quiet hero of the team for a few years now. No one works as hard as she has."
"Kim Sacher came from a year of sitting out with injury and had a really solid year and was key in our success."
Now can you tell us about the seniors back next year?
"Colleen Gibson, if she is uninjured for the entire course of a season, she is such a talented player and can be among the leaders in the country in assists."
"Mandi Back has proven how great of a player she is in a lot of different roles. She can score goals and create opportunities."
"Mac Lauren MacCormick, towards the middle of the year, really came on, and proved she is one of the front runners in the conference."
"Caitlin Proffitt is a bundle of energy. She contributes so much to the success we have on the attacking end of the field and sets an energy tone for the whole group."
"Cara Cornacchia came into this year and showed the kind of player she has been in the past and had an injury that set her back, but she is a terrific player for us."
"We're hoping Lauren Maybury can come back from her surgery and contribute to what she is capable of because she is just a really talented player."
"Emily Miller has suffered injury after injury. She is capable of being a very good player and leader. That class, over the years, has been one of our best performing classes on the field. It&rsquo;s such a good class and so talented."
What about the junior class next season?
"That class is quite good in their own right."
"Jerica DeWolfe proved she is a really good goal scorer for us. I think Jerica has certainly made a difference for us this year when she was able to be on the field."
" We can move Kelly Blumenschein all over the place and she does a great job no matter where she is, so she is an invaluable player and she sets the tone."
"Allison Giner. Wow! She had never been a defender in her life, yet she was brilliant throughout the year."
"Tori Oelschlager did a great job for a year and a half for us as a defensive midfield player then we moved her wide and I think she can be outstanding as a wide player. She showed that and is excited about it."
" Lisa Rogers did a great job with the opportunities that she had to start in goal for us this year and I&rsquo;m sure this spring she is going to do the same thing."
Can we give some kudos to the freshman class?
"I mean wow! They were really good! I didn't count the number of starts we had by freshmen this year, but it was a lot (it was 68 starts by four different freshmen) and that's hard to do when you come into a team that has had as many returning players as we did. What they contributed for us was incredible and how they went about doing it was even more so. I think there are, potentially, four or five all league players there in that group and I think that everyone knows this class now.
Talk about your coaching staff.
"This was such an enjoyable year and really I think I have to credit my coaching staff. Coach D (George Demetriades) has been such a good friend and such a great contributor to our program He is a great guy and really big part of any success we have had. Sergio Gonzalez and Tania Armellino are so dedicated and hard working, in not only with what they do with our team, but with recruiting and planning. They really make my job a lot easier. I was able to get my 200th career win this year and none of that happens without the kind of people that you surround yourself with and I have got a wonderful staff of coaches and I want to make sure they get credit."
What can this squad do to improve upon this season?
"We have to be better from the get-go next year on giving up goals on set pieces. No. 2 is that we have to, with as much possession as we had and as many opportunities we were creating, we have to do a better job of getting ourselves in a position to finish and perhaps relook at how we are attacking and how we can be a little bit more efficient in the offensive third of the field."
What is the forecast for 2009?
"All three classes are so talented and they are just as focused as they can be on next fall. They are talented, motivated and deep. We&rsquo;re all focused on playing into the end of the year."