Kicking it into C-USA with women’s soccer

With so much attention being on the football team, though it may not the type of press they would like to see this summer, it’s easy to overlook another Panther team crawling under the radar.

Not only is the women’s soccer team spending their off-time serving the community and winning the 2013 Dr. Paul Gallagher Community Service Award, the ladies have to be one of the most successful yet unnoticed teams on campus and if you begin to look ahead to the 2013 season, this is a team you may not want to sleep on.

We all know Miami gets a bad reputation for the lack of fans, or fans who show up late to games and leave just before a three-pointer helps lead a team to a Game seven in the NBA Finals. But last season, the soccer team only lost one game at home. Losing one game out of eight at home personally makes me want to go check this squad out for myself and I’m not one even to watch a soccer match.

The Panthers finished the 2012 season with a 13-6 record, and I’m sure only a handful of people knew that. Led by star goalkeeper Kaitilyn Savage, only allowing 19 goals all season, the Panthers made it to the Sun Belt Conference Championship match before falling to the top team, North Texas. But I’m sure you all knew this…oh wait.

To those who may feel that success was just a strike of luck, the Panther’s have won Sun Belt Conference titles three out of the last four years. Savage also became the first goalkeeper in program history to record 10 or more wins for three-consecutive seasons.

Another young lady to look out for is Chelsea Leiva. She was selected to the second team of the 2012 NCAA Division I Women All-South Region Team. Savage made it to the third team.  Oh, and Leiva is a three-time All-Conference selection, so she clearly knows what she’s doing.

Now it isn’t all roses for this team. The Panthers will enter the 2013 year without their top goalkeeper. Savage moved to the land down under and joined the Perth Glory of Australia’s Westfield W-League.

Kelley Struyf and newcomer Vanessa Plasencia will now take the reigns at protecting the net. A lot to ask for when you’re following up the success of Savage, with Struyf having only played in three games all of last year.

The success and failures of any team always falls on the coach. Thankfully for Thomas Chestnutt, the two-time Sun Belt Conference Coach of the Year, hasn’t had to face the turmoil some other programs have gone through. With Chestnutt leading the way, the Panthers have earned various awards and honors from the Sun Belt Conference and National Soccer Coaches Association of America.

The Panthers will now start a new journey as they enter Conference USA. With the loss of Savage and being the rookies in a new playing field, Chestnutt will need to put together a group of women who will be ready to take on a new vigor of opponents.

Luckily for the Panthers, they won’t be facing in-state rival and last seasons C-USA champion UCF, as the Knights moved out of conference and became a new member of the American Athletic Conference.

I’m not one to say ‘Let’s wait and see’ when it comes to the future of a team, but all I can say is if the past has anything to say for itself, this may be a team you’d want to fill the stadium for.

About the Author

Patrick Chalvire
: Radio Host for Panther Sports Talk Live. Assistant Sports Director for The Beacon. Majoring in Communication Arts. Sports fan and aspiring anchor.

Be the first to comment on "Kicking it into C-USA with women’s soccer"

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published.