The Tigers hope that 2017 will be a banner year for their program.
The University of Memphis women’s soccer team hopes that 2017 is the year that they can get over the hump and move on to glory. Last season, the Tigers completed a 14-5-1 season that saw them fall in the NCAA tournament after a 2-1 loss to Arkansas. Head Coach Brooks Monaghan feels that, though last year’s campaign can be counted as a success, his club has a chance to reach even greater heights. “I mean, we definitely want to win our conference, that’s always the goal,” said coach Monaghan. “The last few years we’ve made it to the NCAA tournament and lost in the first few rounds, well we want to go beyond that. We have a really talented team and I know we can do it.”
The American Dream
There is not just hype for this 2017 crop of Tigers here in Memphis, but around the American Athletic Conference. The U of M was picked in the preseason coach’s poll to win the American Athletic Conference, with SMU finishing in a close second. Coach Monaghan, though grateful to be thought of so highly by his peers, commented that, “Our conference is tough, you know, we always have 3 or four of our teams go into the tournament. We can’t really afford to overlook any conference game. It’s not like it used to be when North Carolina would come in and just dominate you and you couldn’t do anything about it. There’s so much parody now, which is obviously great for the sport and the fans.”
So, what makes this Tigers team so lethal? Followers of the program will be more than aware that their all-time scoring leader, Valerie Sanderson, graduated college last year and signed with FC Metz in France. Coach Monaghan knew coming into this season that this would be a massive hole to fill. “I mean, look, we lost Valerie Sanderson from last year and, when you lose key players like that, it can be hard to recover. But you just ask more of the girls coming up and tweak the way you do things and let that take you where you are going to go. And we aren’t the only team to lose players, UConn had two of their players drafted. That’s just the way it goes in this game, you adapt to every new year and push for excellence.”
It is this “next man up” attitude that has seen his team hardly miss a bit in the preseason. Currently at 6-1, Memphis has gotten off to a flying start knocking off Samford, Little Rock, UAB, Rhode Island, Indiana, and Rice, with their only loss coming 1-0 at home to Ole Miss. In these seven games, The U of M has maintained total goal differential of +16. Junior Forward Elizabeth Woerner leads the team with 4 goals in 7 games, but it’s Junior Forward Marie Levasseur who has set herself apart in the squad. 4 goals, 3 assists, 25 shots , 2 game winning goals, Levasseur has quickly become the crux of the attack at this early stage of the season. Most college sides would love to have a duo of forwards this productive, but that is perhaps the most impressive part of this team: they have production at every level. Sophomore Midfielder Jessica Lisi returns this year after leading the team in assists in 2017, and has already added 2 goals and 2 assists to the stat sheet. In the back, Sophomore Defender Mallin Stasia currently leads the team in assists, and is a part of a stout Tigers backline that has only allowed 3 goals so far this year. Between the sticks, Redshirt Junior Goalkeeper Rachel Ashworth Shepard has been an absolute rock for the defense, stopping an astounding 88% of the 22 shots she has faced.
Foundations of a Dynasty
Without a doubt, the University of Memphis Women’s Soccer Team is the strongest side in the Bluff City. Coach Monaghan’s aggressive recruiting attitude is no doubt to thank for bringing some of the best soccer players from around the country right here to the 901. While Memphis is not typically thought of as a soccer city, Coach Monaghan has emphasized building a team full of players who exemplify grit, determination, and hunger for more. Couple this with a University that offers a competitive academic regimen, and Coach Monaghan has helped him to build what could be a very special group of women at the University of Memphis. “We want people who want to play in national tournaments and win national tournaments,” said Coach Monaghan. “To play on such a high level takes a lot of commitment and sacrifice. Our team is the kind of place you can play at that high level. And, look, the reality is the majority of women’s soccer players are going to have to work after college. The leagues aren’t to the point where you can just get rich, so you must have a good education as well. While the University isn’t an Ivy League school, you can get a great education and play at a very high level here.”
The women’s soccer program is no doubt on the rise, and it is going to be a fun team to watch. Coach Monaghan feels that with the backing of the community, this could be a year to remember for Memphis. ““I am Memphis soccer. You know, I grew up here and played here, and we just want to rep this city. When the community comes out, we win, and I know we are going to be a fun team to watch.”
The Tigers continue their preseason away at Idaho and Gonzaga this weekend, and will begin their regular season slate when they take on the Mustangs of SMU at home on September 21st at 7 PM. That game will be at Mike Rose, but fans should go to gotigersgo.com to stay updated on home game locations, as they are subject to changes