By Nader Hussein
The Shenandoah University women’s soccer team fell to Roanoke College Saturday in the Old Dominion Athletic Conference (ODAC) tournament semifinal at Lynchburg College, ending the season with a record of 13 wins, seven losses and one draw. That match marked the end of a season that could easily be split into two parts.
The Lady Hornets started the year with five straight losses to Mary Washington, Ursinus, Rowan, Dickinson and Frostburg State.
“We were trying to work some things out in regards to solidifying positions, trying to figure out our best formation and just trying to get the kinks out,” said head coach Elizabeth Pike. “It’s tough to be able to do that while you’re playing some really tough competition.”
Following the slow start, the team went on to lose just one of their last 15 matches and ended the season on an 11 match unbeaten run. They managed a 1-0 away victory over Washington and Lee, who were ranked as high as 12 in the middle of the season.
“That was probably the biggest game for us,” said junior defender Alysha McCleaf. “To win that put us up top in the rankings, and we worked together. We dominated that game.”
The team also managed a draw at home against eventual conference champions Lynchburg College who were ranked fourth in the country at multiple points this season.
Coach Pike spoke of a different energy in the games against Washington and Lee and Lynchburg, and her desire for the team to maintain that energy throughout the season.
“We have to come into every game with that mindset that every team wants to compete, and you’ve got to be ready for every game,” explained Pike.
Shenandoah defeated Randolph-Macon College in the quarterfinals of the ODAC tournament, with McCleaf scoring with under a minute left in the match. That goal put SU into the semifinals where they lost to Roanoke, a team they beat away during the regular season.
“Roanoke was a big win for us, and when we played them the second time it wasn’t our best game,” shared McCleaf. “We missed a lot of opportunities that we could’ve finished on.”
Since joining the ODAC in 2012, Shenandoah women’s soccer has made it to the tournament semifinal every year, but has failed to make it past that stage all three years. The team will lose two seniors, midfielder Daniel Burris and goalkeeper Nicole Pratt, before next season. They will both be severely missed by the team and the coaching staff.
“In Pratt, we had tremendous leadership. She was probably the most vocal player on our team. She was the most supportive, and that’s going to be tough to replace,” Pike said about the goalkeeper. She was also full of praise for Burris, sharing her belief that she believed Burris should be named ODAC player of the year.
McCleaf shared a similar feeling about Burris, saying “she is definitely going to be a huge loss for us. She’s a great role model on and off the field.”
With Coach Pike coming off of a strong season, and McCleaf returning for her senior year, they are very optimistic about their chances for next year, the latter saying “I definitely think that we can easily win the conference next year.”