2009 Women's Soccer Season Preview
Aug. 21, 2009
Part One of Three
With success come expectations. And after one of the biggest turnarounds in the NCAA and a taste of success, the Washington women's soccer team has big expectations heading into the 2009 season, which starts next week.
Following three consecutive losing seasons, including a 5-13-1 record in 2007, head coach Lesle Gallimore finally got the Husky program back to its winning ways with a 15-6-1 record, a third-place finish in the ultra-competitive Pac-10 conference and its first NCAA Tournament berth - and victory - since 2004. All that, coupled with 10 starters returning to the pitch in 2009, has culminated in high hopes that the team can equal - and perhaps surpass - the team's NCAA Elite Eight run of '04.
'We'd been rebuilding for a few years and then last year kind of got us back to the level we want to get back to,' Gallimore, entering her 16th year as the Husky head coach, said. 'We got back in the tournament and won a game in the tourney which more so made our team want to be even better. They got a little taste of it but now they want to be even better which is the way we want it be. We have high expectations for the season.'
With not just 10 starters returning but 19 letterwinners back in 2009, the team will hit the ground running this season after taking some time to figure out their identity in 2008.
'In the past for me when we've had large returning teams, obviously your expectations tend to be larger. When you have a lot of returners, there's a lot more you can accomplish during the pre-season because everyone's on the same page and there's not a lot of integrating with the younger players that needs to take place,' Gallimore said. 'We do have a few younger players coming in who we think will fill vital roles for us, but the bulk of our team is a team that knows what the expectation, the standard, the level is so I think we can really hit the ground running this year.'
The team also spent two weeks this summer in Brazil, not only playing games in the soccer capital of the world, but also gaining some perspective on how fortunate they are as Division I athletes, something that will no doubt help the team along the way this season. (Click here to read Gallimore's blog from the Brazil trip)
'The team has been training hard since (Brazil) and they know that's an experience that will catapult them into being better players mainly from the standpoint that they got to see what soccer is like in a culture where soccer is everything. They were able to see how much joy there is for the game,' Gallimore said. 'You can talk about competition and expectations and all those kind of pressured-filled, negative, intense feelings that can be around it at times, but in Brazil everything having to do with soccer is happy and joyful. I think our kids picked up on that and it's that light bulb you want to have go on within your student-athletes that says, `yeah it's hard work. But if you work hard and you dedicate yourself to something it can still be really fun and rewarding.' It's not something that has to be job-like and pressure filled. That light bulb went on for a lot of our players.'
The light bulb also went on following the 2008 season as the Husky players realized how good their 2009 team can be. And thankfully for Gallimore, the players have taken it upon themselves to reach that potential.
'We have these high expectations surrounding the team, but the good news is it's not just from the coaching staff. It's now a big core of players who are on the same page and who want the same thing,' Gallimore said. 'You combine the Brazil trip with success of our athletic department last year and the other athletes look at that and say, `that's the standard.' For the entire 16 years I've been here, we've all felt like we can be consistent winners here and national championships aren't something that have to happen once in a while. We can be one of those schools in the Pac-10, like UCLA and like Stanford, that win two or three a year in any given sport. Our team is on par with that mission of the athletic department. They know that's where the bar is set and that's what we're here for. They're excited about that and they're hungry for more.
Check back into GoHuskies.com next week for a position-by-position break down of the 2009 Husky Women's Soccer Team.