Saint Leo, Fla. (August 25, 2008) - In 2007 the Saint Leo University women’s soccer program hinged on the number one.
One goal scored on a penalty kick to hand eventual National Champion Tampa their first regular season loss, a finish that was one point short of the Lions’ first-ever Sunshine State Conference regular season championship, one goal surrendered in the conference tournament championship game loss to eventual National Champion Tampa and a one goal deficit that was too much to overcome in the season-ending loss to Montevallo in the NCAA South Region semifinals.
The list of “ones” continues, but Head Coach Ged O’Connor looks at them as learning experiences as he trains his ladies for this year’s conquest.
“This team has always been close, but close doesn’t win,” O’Connor said. “Now is the time for the experience to take over and the players to go out knowing they will win, not hoping. That is the difference, but I firmly believe that with this squad, we have the mental toughness as well as the physical skill to get it done.”
The hardest hurdle for this year’s team to overcome is the loss of the leaders that have helped propel the women’s soccer team to a NCAA power that has posted a combined 29-8-2 overall record in the last two seasons, a far cry from the winless first-year just eight seasons ago.
Losing players such as Jennifer O’Connor, a clutch performer for the Lions, and Ginger Davenport, the defensive presence that directed the back line for the past four years will most certainly be a formidable task, but one Coach O’Connor has met head on with the addition of 10 new players.
Joining the Lions this year are eight new freshman that including a goalkeeper, two defenders, three midfielders and two forwards who will add to an already deep squad. In addition to the high-school graduates, two sophomore transfers will add a significant contribution to the success of this year’s team.
The newcomers, including Aija Bent-Trinder (Fr., Ft. Lauderdale, Fla.), Francesca Williams (Fr., Formby, England), Malloree Enoch (So., Fairview, Ore.) and Pia Soesemann (Fr., Berlin, Germany) will join 13 players from the 2007 team that went 15-5 and finished second in the Sunshine State Conference with a 6-2 record in league play.
Among the returners are six All-South Region selections and six All-Sunshine State Conference Team members who posted the most successful season in program history in 2007, establishing new program records for overall wins in a single season (15), matching the program record for conference wins (6) and earning their second consecutive berth in the NCAA Division II Tournament.
O’Connor will look to seniors Lauren Hudson and Lizzie Seedhouse and junior forward Hannah Beard to lead this season’s quest for a third-straight NCAA berth and potential finals appearance. Hudson (Odessa, Fla.) has been in goal for the Lions for the last three years and saw over 1800 minutes in 2007 and was second in the conference in saves as she posted five shutouts and a .789 save percentage. Beard (Liverpool, England) led Saint Leo in goals, assists and points during a breakout sophomore year that saw her earn All-Conference and All-Region honors but the biggest anticipation lies with the return of Seedhouse (Sheffield, England), who sat out the 2007 season due to injury. The senior will look to solidify the Lions strong defense and fill some of the gaps caused by Davenport’s departure.
“We have had two strong years, both academically with a team GPA over 3.0 and athletically with our two trips to the NCAA Tournament,” O’Connor said. “This team has has a great deal to be proud of and thankful for, but with a new year brings new challenges and obstacles. We still have not won anything…yet.”
The 20th-ranked Lions’ 2008 season begins Thursday, August 28 at University Field against Clearwater Christian College. The game is scheduled to kick off at 5:00 p.m.