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Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Soccer

Future looks bright for soccer despite losing record


A five-game losing streak dashed the soccer team’s hopes for a run in the conference tournament. But there is still reason to be hopeful for next season. | Thomas Dwyer/The Cougar

UH soccer finished the 2017 season on Oct. 26 with a 7-9-1 record, going 3-6 against conference foes. The Cougars’ efforts earned them seventh place in the final American Athletic Conference standings, one spot shy of earning a spot in the AAC Championship Tournament.

But despite the losing record, the future appears bright for the Cougars. Their record, in addition to improving their win total from last season, is their best since 2010, when the team went 14-4-1. Plus, senior forward Selena Peters and freshman forward Jazmin Grant took home all-conference second-team honors. Grant was also named to the AAC All-Rookie team.

Head coach Diego Bocanegra’s team found some success during his first season with the Cougars. Before coming to Houston, Bocanegra spent the previous three years as an assistant coach with the Notre Dame Fighting Irish women’s soccer team. In 2016, he helped coach the Irish to an ACC regular season title.

Bocanegra and the Cougars should find similar success in the next few seasons. A winning record and an AAC conference tournament appearance would be a great goal to have for 2018. Early on, it looked like those goals would be accomplished ahead of schedule.

The Cougars got off to a hot start with a 5-3-1 record and looked to be a shoo-in for the conference tournament. That changed quickly. After opening conference play with a win against Memphis, the Cougars suffered a five-game losing streak against AAC foes. That dropped their record to 5-8-1, putting them in last place in the conference standings.

The team did win two of its last three games, but that moved the Cougars up to only seventh. Although this was the team’s best record in seven years, what if the team didn’t lose five in a row against conference opponents?

The group is still young, which inherently brings a few bumps in the road at first. The team needs to find a way to consistently win next season. If they do, the AAC could be looking at a team that they will see ranked amongst the conference elite soon.

Bocanegra has the athletes to accomplish this.

Many of the women on the team found themselves ranked among the conference’s statistical leaders. Peters’ 16 points put her in a tie for ninth place in conference. She also finished sixth in the AAC for goals with seven, three of which were in conference games.

Sophomore forward Madison Soileau finished third among conference assist leaders with seven. Junior goalkeeper Rachel Estopare was second-best in the conference for saves with 92.

There were ups and downs for the Cougar soccer team this season, but the team is returning 22 of its 31 players for 2018. Fans should expect an improvement from year one to year two in Bocanegra’s tenure.

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