Women’s soccer flight to return to NCAA tournament

Nolan Potts, ‘Doah Contributing Writer
October 2, 2013

'Doah photo courtesy of SU Athletics

‘Doah photo courtesy of SU Athletics

Some people hate change, mainly when it causes them to leave the familiar and enter into the unknown. So when the SU women’s soccer team left the USA South and entered the ODAC last year, it’s very easy to understand why there might have been some hesitation. After all, the ladies’ last season in the USA South ended with a conference tournament championship and a berth in the NCAA Tournament.

Coach Elizabeth Pike is in the middle of her seventh year at the helm of the women’s soccer program at S.U. She has high expectations for her team as they begin the bulk of their conference games. “As we move forward, each game will require us to come to play at a high level,” she said. “My expectations are that we can upset a few teams and put ourselves in a position to host the first round of playoffs.”

The team is at the halfway point of their regular season and the Hornets’ record stands at 4-4-1, which includes a 2-0-1 mark in ODAC play. Pike knows how difficult the ODAC is and says that the team must remained focused at all times if they are going to be successful. “Our team needs to play an entire game at a high level, because one play off can result in a loss for us,” she explained. “We have not seen the stronger teams yet in ODAC, so hopefully the girls start to gel as the season goes on. The key is for our seniors to step up as leaders and set an example for our underclassmen.”

Brittany Butcher, the team’s captain, has played in a total of 68 games so far in her career, making the senior one of the most experienced players the Hornets have. Her experience is extremely important, especially considering that 13 of the 26 players on the team are freshmen. When there are that many new players, it might be hard to find chemistry as a team. But, Butcher says that isn’t an issue. “We have chemistry among all the players on the team but we need to take that chemistry and apply it on the field, and that’s something we are working on.”

Butcher believes the talent is definitely there, but that working together as a team every time out on the field is going to be a huge factor in how their season goes. “I believe the biggest key to success is communication,” she stated. “If we can communicate and work together as one unit, we will be successful.” She, as every other senior, wants to play well during her senior season, and she wants her team to play hard every second of every game. “My individual expectations this year are to finish my senior year strong, and my expectations are for us as a team to never give up and put our heads down.”

Both the coach and the team captain believe that having a year’s worth of experience in the ODAC will serve to their advantage as the season progresses. “The girls are aware of how competitive and difficult it is to play in ODAC,” Pike said. “We feel we belong in ODAC and can hold our own.” Butcher echoes the same sentiment, stating “If anything, it is more of an advantage for us. We now have a year of experience and style of play for us to be able to compete.”

Ultimately, the team would like to get back to the NCAA Tournament like they did in 2011, which was the first time in team history they had gotten that far. Pike says that a number of things must come together in order for her team to get back to that stage. “The success of your team is about having the right chemistry, mindset, and attitude of your players,” she said. “Recruiting the right players and having the support of your administration throughout the recruiting process is also key.”

Butcher, who was a sophomore member of that team, has a more simple way of getting back to the NCAA Tournament — just win. “If we win the games we are supposed to win,” the captain said, “and come to play every game, we should get a bid for the NCAA Tournament.”

With the freshman learning to transition to the college game every single day, and a collection of experienced players leading the way, this team believes they are poised to make a run towards another NCAA Tournament berth.

With the remainder of their games coming against conference opponents, it goes without saying that the final nine games are crucial in determining the team’s fate. If they can finish the year strong and get on a run, they can carry that momentum forward into the conference tournament and, hopefully, earn themselves a berth back in the NCAA Tournament.

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