In the 86 days between Aug. 17 and Nov. 11, the Virginia Tech women’s soccer team played 20 games. It went 13-6-1.
Its sixth loss, a heartbreaking 3-2 overtime match against Georgetown, would be its final one, as it walked off the field for the last time in 2012. The Hokies were one of 32 Division I teams to make the NCAA tournament but fail to win a game.
For the third time in five years, the Hokies lost the opening round match of the tournament, but perhaps the defeat can offer a silver lining for the future.
Following each of those early exits, the team made a run to the round-of-16 the next year.
If the Hokies are going to be successful next year and make any run at all, they will have to fill the void created by four graduating seniors — Anne Lumpkin, Julia Goldsworthy, Kelsey Mitchell, and Amanda Gerhard — the latter three having comprised one of the most successful defenses in Tech history.
The team ranked seventh in the nation in shutout percentage and held opponents scoreless in 12 of the 20 games — the best in Tech’s history.
The defensive backs were not the only ones responsible for keeping opponents off the board. Dayle Colpitts, Tech’s junior goalie, will be returning after tying the team record for most shutouts in a season, with seven.
The Hokies will look to freshman Jordan Coburn, a starter in all 20 games in 2012, to anchor the backline. Coburn will most likely be joined by junior Taylor Antolino and Jodie Zelenky — two defenders who contributed significant minutes this season.
While the Hokies may have lots of work to do on the defensive end, the offense has the making to be the best in years.
Of 37 goals scored this season, players returning in the fall scored 35 of them.
Ashley Meier and Shannon Mayrose led the team with eight and seven goals respectively, and the squad will only become stronger as it is joined by a familiar and welcomed face in Blacksburg.
Kelly Conheeney will be returning next year after redshirting this season. Conheeney, who suffered a concussion at the beginning of the season, has started all 72 games she has played in since coming to Tech in 2009. As the Hokies all-time leader in points with 75, she will be relied upon heavily for offensive production.
Conheeney, along with the rest of the Hokies attack, will be counted on to make up for the inexperience at defense.
The Hokies were determined to make a deep run in this year’s tournament, and all the pieces were in place for them to do so. They had 18 days off prior to the game against Georgetown, hosted a first round matchup and the team held a late lead in the game.
At this point, it does not matter how the Hokies could have, or should have, done in this past season and the tournament — their season is over.
When the Hokies take the field eight months from now, in what will be the season’s first game of significance, the defense will have gone through a face-lift, but the goaltending, midfield and attack will have only gotten stronger.
There is no reason why the team cannot have a successful season in 2013 — even more successful than this year.