Lofty expectations come to naught for women's soccer

By Jamie Macpherson

2007 was a tough season for the Mac women’s soccer team. With five losses, including the first home loss in fourteen years, many of the Scots were frustrated with the season’s outcome.”We don’t feel [the season] went that well,” said Mac’s leading scorer Grace King ’09 said. “We wanted to go farther, we should have been better.”

Head Coach John Leaney agreed, but also seemed more open minded. “In some ways, we shouldn’t be too disappointed,” he said. “The majority of our team was very young. Making conference playoffs should be seen as a successful season. The problem is we set our [expectations] very high.”

Leaney’s observations are insightful. The Mac women have always been a very strong team, winning nationals in 1998 and regularly making the playoffs. A 7-3-1 league record would be seen as admirable elsewhere, but the Scots view it as an underachievement. This season was particularly disappointing when one considers what might have been.

“[During pre-season] the team showed a lot of potential,” Leaney said. “I got a little excited thinking how quickly it would develop, it just needed a little more time.”

Leaney attributed many of the losses to what he referred to as the “luck factor,” explaining that due to the nature of soccer, a little luck is needed for any team to win on a given day. “We always seemed to be coming from behind,” Leaney said, citing six games where the Scots had been down a goal early on in the game.

Leaney said he felt the Scots were particularly unlucky in that they were punished for minor mistakes, and didn’t get many breaks during the season.

“When you go all season without a penalty kick,” he said, “and you have the quickest forward in the country, that’s unusual. I’m not complaining about the ref, that’s just the luck factor.”

The team was particularly unlucky mid-season when they entered a four game losing streak. “The teams we lost to were harder teams,” King said. “In all instances we played the best we could. It could have gone either way, but [it ended up] not in our favor.”

“I definitely think a lot of it was bad luck,” newcomer Emily Hall ’11 said. “We lost all those games by one goal. We [also] had bad luck with the referees, and quite a few injuries.”

While 2007 wasn’t a great year for the Scots, there were many significant victories. King’s best memory was the St. Mary’s win that ended the losing streak. “For me,” she said, “I think that after our losses, the game that we won was the strongest [feeling]. Everyone was on the same page about wanting it.”

“Everybody was really pumped up,” Hall said of the St. Mary’s game. “There was a mentality that we had to win. Everyone was really serious from the locker room though the warm-up.”

Of pulling out of the losing streak, Leaney said the team handled it well. “I tried to be the rock,” he said. “I tried to be [the one] saying ‘there’s nothing wrong’. [During the St. Mary’s game,] the players made a more significant move, changing the warm up. They needed a little boost, saying something’s changed. I thought that was clever.”

Another problem during the season, Leaney noted, was the physical size of the players. “We’re not a big team,” he said. “With the five losses, all five [teams] were considerably taller, stronger. we were physically manhandled off the ball.”
Leaney is already planning for next year, believing that moving the ball quicker will enable the Scots to evade physically stronger players.

“You can’t go out and choose 5’10” amazons,” he said. “I like to control what we do, so we’ll move the ball around quicker.”

Both King and Leaney speak positively about next year’s season. This was a tough introduction to Mac soccer for the first years, but perhaps that will serve as good experience for the nest season. Leaney said he believes that it depends “on how the youngsters respond,” saying that the summer training will indicate who emerges as the strong players.

“We’re a young team,” King said. “We played a lot of first years who were good, we just didn’t have the experience. I think we’ll be better next year.”

“Just a little preview of the playoffs makes me want to [play] so hard next year,” Hall said. “I’m going to use this season for motivation, I think a lot of the other girls will, too.