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Monday, December 4, 2023


Women’s soccer struggling to keep up in AAC


Freshman forward Jazmin Grant fights for the ball against a UCF player at the Carl Lewis Complex on Oct. 5. The Cougars lost the match 0-4. | Thomas Dwyer/The Cougar

While football has been king on campus since the fall semester began, the women’s soccer team has been quietly going about their season since early August. With three games left, the Cougars are 5-8-1 overall and last place in the American Athletic Conference with a record of 1-5-0.

The team has three last games to break its five-game losing streak and improve its record enough to make the AAC playoffs.

Newly-installed head coach Diego Bocanegra hoped to make a splash as he began his inaugural season in charge of the Cougars. After three years as an assistant at Notre Dame, Bocanegra said he was looking to shake off the complacency he saw in the team and install a new spirit.

The Cougars wanted to start the season strong to swing the momentum in their favor after the coaching change during the summer break. The team began the season with strong showings at home against local rival Texas Southern, winning 3-0, and Northern Arizona, winning 4-1.

The wins gave the Cougars a real sense of confidence on the pitch by pushing up numbers and displaying a sense of coolness in all situations.

But after a 2-0 loss to Cal State Northridge and the cancelation of three games due to the impact of Hurricane Harvey, the momentum of the season changed. In the first game after Harvey, the Cougars lost 4-0 to Rice, a perennial rival.

Junior goalkeeper Rachel Estopare was a bright spot amid the losses. After coming off of a strong first season with the Cougars, it was no surprise she made an impact and became an integral part the team. Through 14 games she has 74 saves in 1,011 minutes in goal.

With Estopare’s help, the Cougars were able to come back from the loss at Rice to win 4-1 against Southern Miss and force a tie after two overtimes against Lamar.

Next, the Cougars went on the road. Even though they lost the first game to New Mexico 3-2, they were able to recover and return to winning ways, beating New Mexico State 3-1.

After that win, the Cougars began conference play against a tough crowd of teams, starting strong with a 3-1 win over Tulsa.

That’s when the good times ended for the Cougars. Since the win over Tulsa, the Cougars have gone on a five-game losing streak.

First, they lost to Memphis 2-1 in double overtime. Then, the NCAA-ranked 10th ranked Central Florida (now ranked 5th) rolled into town and trampled the Cougars 4-0, which was followed up by South Florida beating the Cougars 4-0.

This weekend, the Cougars dropped two games to Temple and reigning champion UConn, losing 2-0 and 3-2 respectively.

Though the results may look bad, they don’t tell the full story. The Cougars, even in their losses, have looked strong and determined. The scorelines show utter losses, but the stats usually tell a different story — that of a young, hungry team fighting for wins.

The team, even in losses, manages to get shots, averaging about 13 per game. And while their opponents have averaged 17 shots a game, that disparity is not large enough to fully convey the current situation of the Cougars.

Opponents have only scored 5 more goals than the Cougars; the Cougars have scored 23, while they have conceded 28.  And the Cougars convert more of their shots, scoring on 13 percent of the shots taken.

So, even with the poor record, the Cougars still manage to stay in games and look strong.

Senior midfielder Selena Peters leads the team in goals, with six on the season. Another senior midfielder, Hannah Dauzat, continues to show her offensive prowess, scoring five goals and getting two assists.

Sophomore forward Madison Soileau continues to be an integral part of the offense, setting up seven goals. And freshman forward Jazmin Grant has made a big impact in her first season as a Cougar, consistently creating scoring opportunities. She has made four goals and two assists this season.

With the season almost finished, these last few games are vital to the Cougars’ postseason hopes. The Cougars will take on the surging third-ranked Cincinnati, 4-0-2 in the AAC, at 11 a.m. Thursday.

The Cougars will take on the struggling ECU, with a 1-5-0 AAC record, in a game that sees last place in the AAC take on second to last place, 1 p.m. Sunday. Both games will be at home for the Cougars.

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