The One – Miami’s Kate Howarth Will Hope To Continue Her Excellent 2012 This Fall
ACC – Clemson | NC State
Big XII – Iowa State | Kansas | Oklahoma | TCU | Texas | Texas Tech
Big East – Cincinnati | DePaul | Georgetown | Notre Dame | Pittsburgh | Providence | Rutgers | Seton Hall | South Florida | St. John’s (NY) | Syracuse | UConn | Villanova
Big Ten – Indiana | Iowa | Michigan | Michigan State | Minnesota | Nebraska | Northwestern | Ohio State | Purdue | Wisconsin
Mid-Majors – Central Michigan | Denver | Florida Gulf Coast | Harvard | Illinois State | La Salle | New Mexico | Rice | Richmond | Samford | Stephen F. Austin | Toledo | UMass | Utah State | Western Michigan | William & Mary
Pac-12 – Arizona | Arizona State | Cal | Colorado | Oregon | Oregon State | USC | Utah | Washington | Washington State
SEC – Alabama | Arkansas | Georgia | Kentucky | LSU | Mississippi State | Missouri | Ole Miss | South Carolina | Tennessee | Vanderbilt
WCC – BYU | Gonzaga | Loyola Marymount | Portland | San Diego | San Francisco | St. Mary’s (CA)
A new beginning for the Miami (FL) soccer program in 2011 reaped instant dividends, as the Hurricanes ended up with one of the more unique seasons in recent memory for a program. Despite a ninth place finish in the league and missing the ACC Tournament, Miami still advanced to the NCAA Tournament on account of some fine work during the regular season, along with the league’s ridiculous strength.
It was a fine debut in Coral Gables for former Central Michigan coach Tom Anagnost, the man charged with getting the Canes up the ACC ladder, a treacherous task to be sure. Anagnost’s coaching star rose meteorically after stepping into a difficult situation at CMU and turning the Chippewas into a MAC powerhouse in just two and a half seasons. The move was a massive step up from Mount Pleasant though, and when the Canes parted company with previous coach Tricia Taliaferro, they made it clear that they wanted Miami contending on a national level, meaning expectations should be very high for Anagnost.
The change had been made after the Hurricanes were likely excluded from the NCAA Tournament in 2010 based on little more than their falling just short of the ACC Tournament, which has become a chronic problem for the program as of late. It’s generally been a history of being stuck in the middle for the Hurricanes program under both Taliaferro and her predecessor, program patriarch Jim Blankenship. Blankenship’s four seasons at the helm in Coral Gables were littered with above average finishes and first round flameouts in the postseason, although he did manage to take the club to its first NCAA Tournament in 2001, coincidentally his last season in charge.
Taliaferro was patently mediocre in her first few seasons in charge, going 9-9-1 in each of the club’s last two seasons in the Big East. Not surprisingly, the Hurricanes endured a rough ride in the transition to the ACC and were punching bags for the elite for the first three seasons in their new home with finishes of tenth, tenth, and eleventh. Heading into 2007, Taliaferro likely faced a do-or-die season with some fearing her reign had gotten a bit stale. The Canes answered emphatically though, finishing fifth in the league including wins over Boston College and North Carolina and made it back to the Big Dance for the first time since their initial appearance in 2001.
2008′s team was stronger overall RPI-wise but dipped to eighth in the league, just sneaking into the ACC Tournament which was also good enough to see Miami rewarded with another NCAA Tournament berth. 2009 would go down as one of the odder years in recent memory for any club. The Canes racked up quality wins against Washington, Ole Miss, Maryland, and North Carolina but fell afoul of both the .500 cutline for at-large bids and not finishing in the Top Eight of the ACC, missing out on the postseason. The Canes would be a bit erratic in non-conference play in 2010 but still ended up with wins over West Virginia, Duke, and Virginia Tech at the end of the year. They also would be the unlucky holders of an ACC record for most points accrued without qualifying for the ACC Tournament.
Taliaferro paid the price not soon after, and Miami was on its way towards some major changes. The shakeup at the top certainly looked to be working early in 2011. After losing to Florida in the opener, the Canes reeled off seven straight wins, with victories at BYU, Florida Gulf Coast, and Navy looking good on the resume. But ACC play was where Anagnost would be getting his money, and results were dismal early on. The club went 0-4-1 in their opening five, with the one draw coming against fellow strugglers North Carolina State.
It didn’t look good for Miami (FL), but suddenly, they shocked the college soccer world by defending their turf and beating Boston College and Maryland back-to-back. Suddenly, the Hurricanes were very much alive on two fronts in the hunt for the postseason. They still needed a win in their last two games to stand a chance of ACC Tournament qualification though, and trips to Florida State and Virginia weren’t conducive with that goal, with Anagnost’s side losing both matches. They had finished out of the ACC Tournament again, but the heartbreak would only be momentary, as the Canes made a little history, earning an at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament with their stellar RPI despite not making their league’s conference tournament.
They’d make their first NCAA Tournament appearance in a while count too, as they fought back from behind against Alabama twice, eventually winning in extra time. It was the club’s first ever win in the Big Dance, and they so nearly had more the following week in Los Angeles. Against Long Beach State, the Hurricanes would hang tough right until the end, only falling on a goal in the final ten minutes from the Big West Tournament champions. Miami’s league form still obviously needs a little work, but Anagnost’s debut in Coral Gables certainly gives the team a lot to build on. At the very least, it showed that the Hurricanes don’t appear to be in danger of losing touch with the main pack in the uber-competitive ACC.
The Hurricanes have been here before and have failed to rise into the cream of the crop in the ACC but will fancy their chances in the long run of at least making a solid attempt at more than trying to scrap their way into the ACC Tournament. Anagnost’s recruiting efforts have been impressive, and the club looks to be bringing in talent over the next few seasons that is somewhat comparable to that of many of their league rivals.
While Miami looks to be well on the road to rising up the ACC hierarchy, Anagnost has also tried to nudge the timeline forward a little with a trio of transfers. Canadian Jesse Shugg should help provide some offense after transferring from Florida Atlantic, where she was the club’s main scoring option. Goalkeeper Emily Lillard comes in from Arkansas and should immediately challenge for a starting role after getting a second chance following a glittering youth career.
The most interesting addition though is senior Tina Romagnuolo, a full Canadian international who has shown flashes of great talent at Syracuse but also notably lost the plot against Georgetown in the Big East Tournament last season, being sent off for swearing at an official and then shoving a defender as she left the pitch. If she can keep it together though, she’s a great addition who should make for another weapon to use offensively for the Canes, who showed themselves to be potent on offense at times last year. They may have to be again this year. The defense got turned into Swiss cheese by ACC opponents all too often last season, conceding two and a half goals a game in the league, a mark that may not get better in a flash considering the team loses starting goalkeeper Vikki Alonzo and appears to have relatively little depth on the backline.
The Hurricanes could have their hands full this year considering that rather disappointing defensive performance last year came with talented senior Vikki Alonzo in goal. The Texan departs as one of the nation’s more underrated keepers, never really getting the attention that some of her ACC counterparts did but impressing nonetheless as she made save after save to keep Miami in many games over the course of her career. A four-year starter, Alonzo’s departure leaves a gigantic void of experience in between the pipes for Miami (FL).
Lillard would seem to be the preferred option in goal for the Hurricanes if she plays up to her potential. Before she was getting shelled behind a woeful defense, Lillard was considered one of the best goalkeeping prospects in the 2011 freshman class, having been a U18 international and Region II ODP mainstay. If her confidence wasn’t shaken by her harrowing rookie experience, she could turn into a solid keeper yet. The other experienced option is sophomore Abbey Smith, Alonzo’s backup last year. Smith saw four games of mop-up duty, but her lack of starting experience might well count against her in the race for the starting job with Lillard.
One of Miami’s most intriguing new recruits is Colombian Paula Forero Cabrera. Initially a member of the Colombian Women’s World Cup squad in 2011, Cabrera had to pull out with injury but remains a promising prospect for her country’s future. There’s no telling how she’ll adapt to the American collegiate game, but she’s still one to watch this year in a wide open goalkeeping situation. Fellow rookie Megan Baker is a longshot but should still get a chance to show what she can do in camp with no clear starter in place. There’s potential here, but losing such a tested veteran like Alonzo will take a toll in the short-term at least.
That Miami made it two rounds into the NCAA Tournament with such a fitful defense in ACC play was something of a minor miracle. It’s good news, bad news, for the club this season, as most of last year’s starting backline returns, but it’ll likely all be in their hands again, with depth not necessarily looking like this unit’s strong suit. The only starter to depart is of graduated senior Brooke Van Aman, a sparsely used forward early on in her career who made the transition to defense last year. The towering Brandon native would start every game for the club, closing out her career on a successful note. Also gone is freshman Hannah Moehling, who was one of the club’s top reserves last year but transferred to USC in the offseason.
Muscle and experience in the middle will come from senior Ali Brennan, who has gradually grown into an important role in defense for the Hurricanes. After beginning her career as a reserve, Brennan has become a full-time fixture in defense and has shown occasional flashes of offense, as when she led the team in assists in 2010 with three. She started every game last year and should be a contender to do so again this campaign. Junior Blake Stockton is a converted forward who was a key reserve as a rookie in 2010 who ended up making the switch to defense and starting every match last season. Stockton still managed to find the back of the net for the Canes against Boston College in the club’s huge win over the Eagles, so she could still net a goal or two from defense this year.
The other likely sure starter for the club in defense this year is sophomore Maddie Simms. A highly touted prospect out of Maryland upon joining the Hurricanes last Fall, Simms made a seamless transition to the college level, starting every match as a rookie and will likely only get better with age. Other contenders for a starting spot? That’s a little more fuzzy of a proposition. Senior Fatima Nasser has experience in defense but may be needed in midfield, while junior Tara Schwitter probably proved herself too useful in attack to move back into defense. It may ultimately come down to a freshman or two to step right up. This group can’t get much worse, but given some of those depth issues, improvement might only come in baby steps at first.
Things get a little more promising further up the pitch, as Miami loses only reserves Olivia Ching and Megan Siebert from the ranks. The Hurricanes will go to battle with quite the senior laden group this season, with many of the candidates for starting positions heading into their final year of eligibility. Nasser is chief among the veteran leadership in the midfield, having first cracked the starting lineup as a sophomore in 2010. She was in the first XI for all nineteen games last season and nabbed three goals on the year, including one in the win over Boston College. As mentioned above, given some of the worries on defense, she’s a candidate to fill in their if necessary, especially considering this group seems to be in decent shape with depth.
Jordan Roseboro has been a consistent member of the starting lineup since her rookie season, when she made an immediate impact with a winner against Maryland. She’d start every match last season but couldn’t match 2010′s scoring pace, when she scored three goals and added two assists. Her lone goal last year was a big one though, the winner over Boston College in a must win match.
Romagnuolo is likely the third senior that will find her way into the starting lineup this year if judging on past results. The Canadian was one of the few sparks of quality on a moribund Syracuse program the past few years and certainly knows where the goal is, having scored seventeen goals in her Orange career. If she comes anywhere close to half that this season, the gamble to bring her in as a transfer will certainly have paid off.
Another veteran vying for major minutes will be senior Kim Hutchinson. A faithful reserve for three seasons, Hutchinson made a career high six starts last year and made the extra playing time count, chipping in with four assists, including three in the club’s first five games. That’s obviously a whole lot of senior experience, but the club could get a youthful burst of talent with the addition of rookie Ally Andreini. A product out of the powerhouse FC Milwaukee club, Andreini has been a Region II ODP mainstay in the past few years and also was in ECNL/id2 National Camp in early 2011. She’s certainly a part of the club’s future and will be hoping to be a part of the present as well this year. The vast experience should mean this group doesn’t bow in the face of pressure from other top ACC units, and Romagnuolo’s addition could be a masterstroke if everything works out for the Canadian.
Though starter Shannon Caspar’s premature departure is a big blow, this group should still come into the new season with plenty of firepower. Not that Caspar’s exit isn’t one that hurts. The freshman had been a fine looking prospect, beginning her career with two goals and four assists in non-conference play before scoring a couple of goals in ACC play. There’d be one more in the ACC Tournament against Alabama, but she was an unexpected departure come season’s end. Also gone is junior reserve Samantha Falk, who leaves after seeing time in twelve games off the bench last year.
Much of the optimism in offense going into the new season is down to returning senior Kate Howarth. After showing brief glimpses of real scoring potential early in her career, including in an injury shortened 2010, Howarth showed her true talent last season, with eleven goals and seven assists to earn All-Region Third Team honors. That total included four multi-goal games and five league goals to go along with a strike against Alabama in the NCAA Tournament. Howarth also showed her skill in WPSL Elite action with the New England Mutiny, often looking dangerous against some formidable defenses full of players with professional experience. It sets the stage for what could be a special senior season, and Howarth compares well with many of her ACC striking brethren.
Finding some other consistent forwards to relieve scoring pressure is important though to ensure Howarth isn’t swarmed by defenses. Tara Schwitter has been promising in two seasons, starting every game last year. Schwitter nabbed both goals against Florida Gulf Coast and had a pair of assists in two wins down the stretch in ACC play for the Hurricanes. Recruited and listed as a defender, Schwitter has also seen time in midfield and could really play anywhere, though her goalscoring prowess should ensure she gets a long look up front this year.
Likewise with Schwitter, sophomore Ashley Flinn could also see time in midfield as well as up front. The tall striker was very productive as a rookie, starting every match and finishing with four goals and five assists, including the crucial golden goal against Alabama in the NCAA Tournament. Junior Kelley Griffin will also be aiming to be in the mix for major minutes this year. The New Hampshire native saw eight starts as a rookie but was relegated to a reserve role last year, coming off the bench in seventeen matches but not recording a single goal.
She figures to face some pressure from the cadre of newcomers Anagnost brings in. Canadian U20 international Jesse Shugg transfers in from Florida Atlantic and has been one of the few bright spots on some struggling Owls teams the past few seasons. She scored fifteen goals in two years for FAU, but whether that will transfer to the crucible that is the ACC is a big question. Rookie Jasmine Paterson is arguably the crown jewel of this recruiting class and is a former U.S. U15 international who had also been a consistent member of the Region III ODP team in recent years. Though a starting spot isn’t guaranteed, Paterson should be an immediate contender for major minutes in the forward rotation for the Canes.
Another freshman, Ava Ambrose, also comes highly regarded out of Nebraska with considerable Regional ODP experience as well and should be a factor right out of the gate as well. There’s no shortage of options here, both returning and new, and this looks like a potent group that should be the strength of the team.
Can a vibrant offense overcome a potentially rickety defense? It’s likely the question that will define the season this year for the Hurricanes. Anagnost certainly delivered ahead of schedule in Miami last year by getting the Canes to the second round of the NCAA Tournament at the first time of asking and has certainly been building momentum on the recruiting front as well. Howarth has real star potential up front and was a revelation in WPSL Elite action this season and might be one of the league’s best this year, which is saying something considering this is the mighty ACC.
She’s got plenty of weapons around her, including the newcomers up front and in midfield like Romagnuolo, which should make this Miami side one that can knock in a lot of goals. It might come down to defensive improvements in the end though. There was a lot of pressure on the offense to score in bunches last season given the porous defense, and it might be that way again this year. The backline may have to depend on continuity and a few unknown rookie commodities for improvement this year, which is always a gamble, while the situation in goal could cause some early headaches as well. Still, there’s enough here to be a contender for the postseason on both fronts, and the Canes may be able to match last season’s second round NCAA Tournament appearance as well.