The University of Dayton women's soccer team experienced a magical year in 2009, capturing both the Atlantic 10 regular season and tournament titles. The Flyers posted an unbeaten regular season record for the first time in school history, and were just one of two schools in the nation to do so (Stanford was the other). Dayton advanced to the NCAA Second Round in dramatic fashion in a shootout against Marquette. Head Coach Mike Tucker answers questions about the fairy tale season the Flyers wrote this year.
The Flyers were coming off a 2008 season in which they went 15-6-1 and just missed advancing to the NCAA Tournament. They lost just four players from that team.
Q: What were the goals coming into the 2009 season?
Coach Tucker: From the coaching staff our goals were the same as always: win the conference, the conference tournament and play and advance in the NCAA tournament. Our players had their own goals and many met or exceeded those. It's funny how we tend to revisit the goals as the season advances!
Dayton women's soccer has a rich history. This year's squad went 14-0-5 during the regular season, marking the first ever unbeaten season for the program. And along the way the Flyers won the Atlantic 10 regular season title.
Q: When did it sink it what this group had accomplished? Can you describe the feeling when you won the last game of the regular season? What is it about this group that persevered and kept the streak alive?
Coach Tucker: We felt even before the season began that this was going to be a "special" group of young women, and it became apparent as we battled through the pre-conference matches that they were extremely competitive. That competitiveness and willingness to sacrifice to reach our NCAA tournament goal is what carried us. Near the end of the season we stopped even thinking about the unbeaten streak and just focused on what it would take to make the NCAAs. So it wasn't until after our last match that we could really think much about what we had accomplished! Almost every day since, we have been congratulated by other coaches, fans, etc., so we are still enjoying the after party!
The Flyers advanced to a league-record 14th consecutive Atlantic 10 Championship. This year UD won the tournament championship for the sixth time and the first since 2004.
Q: What was the feeling after claiming the title for the seniors?
Coach Tucker: It was a bit of a relief, really. The seniors had been so close before and yet were denied, and had given so much to the program that it just would not have been just for them to never experience participating in the NCAA tournament.
The Flyers played in eight overtime matches this season, and broke the school record for shutouts with 15.
Q: With so many to choose from what are your top three highlights that make this a season to remember? Where does this season rank among your 15 while at Dayton?
Coach Tucker: That's really a difficult question, because there were so many highlights during the season. Winning the tournament championship would have to be one of the top three, because that clinched the NCAA berth. Secondly, playing our first NCAA tournament match at home on Baujan Field - the entire experience, with the incredible support from our fans and the excitement of winning in PKs. Lastly, the recognition and honors that so many of our players received, topped by senior Mandi Bäck being named as a first team All-American!
Dayton scored 49 goals and allowed their opponents just 10 this season.
Q: What was the key to success this season?
Coach Tucker: There were many, but I think that first and foremost was the willingness by our entire team to commit to making the sacrifices and putting in the work to attain their goals. I am so proud of each and every one of them for not giving into being anything less than their best.
Both the offense and defense flourished this season. The Flyers were 27th in the nation in scoring offense (2.13) and the defense was ranked nationally as well; second in goals against average (.406), fifth in save percentage (.886) and seventh in shutout percentage (.652).
Q: Can you talk about each facet of the team, offensively and defensively?
Coach Tucker: Offensively, we were led by seniors Mandi Bäck and Lauren MacCormick, and had strong support from many others. Several games into the season we changed our style of attack, making us more dangerous and tough to defend. Defensively, we were fortunate to have our defensive third return intact and that was a great start. Our goalkeepers, first with Lisa Rodgers until injured, then led by freshman Katherine Boone, did a great job also. We ask every player to commit to both the attack and defensively, so it's always a team effort.
Freshmen and sophomores played a major role in the success of the Flyers this season. Rookie goalkeeper Katherine Boone was named the A-10 Defensive Player of the Year, while fellow frosh Colleen Williams was named the Atlantic 10 Rookie of the Year. Boone and sophomore defender Kathleen Beljan were named First Team A-10 selections, while sophomores Emily Kenyon and Kelsey Miller were on the second team. Along with Boone and Williams, defender Alysha Mallon was named to the Conference All-Rookie team.
Q: This was a fairly young squad. What were some of the key contributions from your freshmen and sophomores?
Coach Tucker: This always gets me into trouble, as I frequently forget to mention someone, BUT ... three of our sophomores, Kelsey Miller, Kathleen Beljan and Emily Kenyon played nearly every minute of every match until Kenyon's late season injury. They played huge roles in our success. Fellow sophomore Kelsey Owen is one of our most versatile players and she also was key. Freshman Katherine Boone stepped into goal when Lisa Rodgers was injured early and was just incredible! Colleen Williams was one of our leading scorers as a freshman and played both in the midfield and up top. Alexis Garcia was our top utility player and extremely valuable as she showed poise and versatility; and Alysha Mallon stepped up and played like a veteran in the defensive third. So many others contributed greatly and will have opportunities this spring and in the fall to show our fans their excellence!
Q: The seniors went out on a solid note. What is their legacy in UD women's soccer?
Coach Tucker: Leading us back into the NCAA tournament after being shut out for the past three years! Mandi Bäck had a phenomenal career and is a sure-fire Hall of Famer; Lauren MacCormick improved so much during her career and her leadership this year as well as her on-field play was tremendous; Lauren Maybury is so courageous and a total team player - despite so many debilitating injuries that kept her from being on the field, Lauren's leadership and example was incredible!
Dayton dominated the Atlantic 10 All-Conference teams, raking in 15 awards. The Flyers came away with three of the five Player of the Year awards and led all schools with four First Team selections. UD also led all universities with five selections to the NSCAA Mid-Atlantic All-Region Teams. The five players is the most Dayton has ever had named in a single season. Mandi Bäck became Dayton's first ever women's soccer player to be named an NSCAA First Team All-American.
Q: With team success, comes individual awards. What are your thoughts on the recognition several of the Flyers received throughout the season?
Coach Tucker: The honors were all well-earned. Not only did our league coaches recognize the contributions of so many of the girls, but so did all of our opponents. To have several players named to All-Region and All-American teams, in addition to our all-league honors, is very gratifying. I felt that a couple more of the girls not receiving individual awards were very deserving, but it's understandable that the league coaches wanted to "spread the wealth" somewhat.
UD is 21-4-4 on its home field in the last three seasons. A school record 1,584 fans saw the Flyers defeat Ball State 4-0 on Sept. 11, 2009. In UD's shootout victory against No. 25 Marquette during the NCAA First Round, 1,083 fans were at Baujan Field. In fact, UD's home attendance of 8,357 fans in 2009 was the best in the Atlantic 10.
Q: What makes Baujan Field so special?
Coach Tucker: It is simply our students, family and fans and the atmosphere created here that makes playing at Baujan such an advantage for us and so difficult for our opponents. We receive so many compliments from other coaches about our venue and our fans!
Q: Can you top the 2009 season? What is the outlook for Flyer women's soccer in 2010?
Coach Tucker: Sure, and we intend to do so! We have already started working towards being an even better team next fall. Our players enjoyed their success of this season and want even more next year! We feel like we are capable of going deeper in the NCAAs and that will be a goal. We have several incoming frosh for 2010 that will make immediate impacts. We should be even more dangerous and varied in the attack and continue to be outstanding defensively. We'll be much taller and more capable on set pieces. All of us are anxious to get working in preparation for what should be another exciting and gratifying season in 2010!
Head Coach Mike Tucker was named the Atlantic 10 and NSCAA Region Coach of the Year. His all-time record at Dayton is 216-80-22.
Q: What is the key to success in 15 years as head coach of the Flyers?
Coach Tucker: I learned a long time ago that the key to success is surrounding yourself with excellent people. My coaching staff, our support staff and our players reflect that excellence. Having student-athletes committed to being great people, great students and great on the field makes this so very enjoyable and so much easier to get positive results.