Women’s soccer limps to finish of 2016, but hope lies in 2017

By on November 1, 2016

By Jordan Shim–

Losing their final three matches, the Louisville women’s soccer season concluded on a sour note.

After a promising 7-2-2 start and earning a No. 17 ranking by Top Drawer Soccer, U of L succumbed to the quality of the ACC. A 2-5-3 record against conference foes, eight of which were ranked, ended the Cards’ early season hopes of a NCAA tournament berth.

The Cardinals were in a position to secure a top eight finish in the conference, with 21 points up for grabs. However, they finished the season winless in their last seven games and put themselves in almost an impossible situation to qualify in the season finale. U of L had to beat No. 9 Virginia to have a shot at the tournament.

Coach Karen Ferguson-Dayes should still feel proud of her players despite a disappointing finish. There were glimpses of just how good this team could be.

The comeback victory over Boston College was the marquee victory that had their grit on full display. A young team facing a two-goal deficit could have spelled trouble. However, they didn’t give up and were able to equalize late and scored the winner in double overtime.

As the team matures, they will develop and mesh as a unit and yield better results. The 2016 year may be over, but the Cards will be primed for a successful 2017 season.

Positives- Depth and Potential

This team possesses unlimited potential. A young team that featured five freshmen and fielded just one senior, Ferguson-Dayes will hardly make any changes to her starting eleven for the upcoming years. Therefore, the recruits that come in for the 2017 season will provide depth to a team where 20 players who logged minutes return.

Goalkeeper Taylor Bucklin will be missed, but Ferguson-Dayes has a replacement ready. Freshman Gabrielle Kouzelos is expected to win the starting job next season. Despite having not played a single collegiate game, she will be a welcomed addition to the starting 11 due to the wealth of experience she possesses at the international level.

Kouzelos was given the redshirt in 2016 due to her international duties.

Negatives- Striker

This is an area that has been an problem for U of L the past two seasons. This issue must be solved for the team to have a shot at playing in the postseason in 2017.

Ferguson-Dayes currently operates her formation with a false nine in Sarah Feola. She tracks back into the midfield positions helping in defensive duties and can create opportunities going forward, instead of finishing them. The role of a Feola as a false nine is to be unpredictable with her movement, therefore confusing central defenders.

If opponents move further up to mark Feola, it leaves space in behind for runs into the box. However, competent defenders can cope and remain organized. As a result, when crosses are sent into the box, defenders are in position to clear the ball away.

The striker position only produced two goals in 18 regular season games, both in non-conference action. Other positions scored 25 goals, however relying on goals to come from midfield and defense is not ideal.

The team just lacks an out-and-out striker to finish opportunities wide players create. Feola has the scoring pedigree to be the answer. But for her to succeed, the style of play will have to change. Passes will need to be played on the ground and have Feola take the role of poacher instead.

Playing in the ACC

The quality of opposition when conference play begins ramps up tenfold. The strength of the conference can be shown in the numbers.

In the first nine games of the season, Louisville scored 19 goals and conceded seven, with a +12 goal differential. In conference games, they scored eight and conceded 13, a -5 goal differential.

Only one match resulted in the final scoreline heavily favoring the opposition. Louisville held their own against top competition. Games against Clemson, Virginia and Florida State were played very close. The only solution is for the players to mature. No one will argue that they do have the talent to perform, they only lack the maturity to perform consistently.

Photo by Nancy Hanner / The Louisville Cardinal

About Jordan Shim

Jordan is a senior at the University of Louisville and beat writer for the men and women's soccer team. He does side work covering Louisville City FC for The Coopers. Outside of work he enjoys puns, wearing animated snapback hats, The Office banter, and playing fighting games.

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