For many people, the period immediately following the conclusion of the season is a time to relax and get away from it all. It is, rightfully, a period of active recovery for the majority of our players after all. For the sport science staff, however, these two weeks represent a busy period, possibly rivaling preseason in this regard.
Successes that we have had during the season need to be examined so that we can increase the chance of expanding these, if appropriate, in the future. Likewise, disappointments need to be investigated so that we can learn from them.
Going into too much detail here about our season would not be appropriate, but anyone following our progress would have seen the following play out.
Preseason was a success in that we were very competitive against very strong opposition whilst allowing the majority of the squad to get their feet wet as we transitioned into the regular season. The returning players came back stronger (isometric peak force), more powerful (CMJ & SJ jump height, RFD), and with better agility-endurance (trial average) than in any previous preseason testing sessions. The indicators for each of these qualities are in brackets. We feel confident that we have the best combination of testing and monitoring in NCAA soccer.
Weighted static jump from 90 degree knee angle
Our out-of-league play was very successful from a win and loss standpoint with 6 wins, 1 draw, and 1 tie against the strongest non-conference schedule in program history. 4 of these teams were ranked in the top 25 when we played them.
Atlantic Sun Conference
A slight wane in form, plus a little misfortune meant that we found ourselves in a mid-season hole. At the end of conference play, great credit must go to the players and coaching staff for not panicking when it seemed that things were going against us, and we were able to get the performances, and results that were needed to finish in the top 6.
Atlantic Sun Playoffs
Entering as the 6th seed in a 6 team tournament meant that we had to go the hard way. First up was the number 3 seeded Jacksonville University, a team that had beaten us 2-1 away earlier in the season (#3 played #6, and #4 played #5 with #2 and #1 receiving a bye). Happily, we started strongly behind David Haba's first two goals of the season and never really looked like surrendering the potentially dangerous 2-0 lead. This was even more satisfying for the sports medicine and sport science staff because David was just returning from a couple of games out.
Decent celebration from Haba to match the quality of the goals
Next up were the #2 seed Stetson University, complete with the Atlantic Sun offensive and defensive players of the year. The big worry here was that the extra game that we had to play 48 hours earlier would catch up with us. Thankfully, the whole staff's meticulous planning and preparations over the previous two weeks possibly helped us give as good a showing physically as our fresher opposition. Coming back from 2-0 down to 3-3 at full-time a, quite-frankly, incredible penalty shoot-out followed with misses for both teams seeming to come in bunches. Three shots into sudden death, Ryan Coulter was able to make his fourth save (from eight taken) allowing us to defend our conference title in the final. Words cannot express how impressive each of the four saves were that Ryan pulled off.
Is Ryan smiling as he saves this? BTW this penalty was not
hit as tamely as the photo would make it appear!
hit as tamely as the photo would make it appear!
In the conference final we faced the number 1 seeded team in Florida Gulf Coast University. We were the only team to beat them in league play this season and so felt confident we could perform despite our tired legs. The home crowd was fantastic - as good as we have ever had at Summers Taylor Stadium.
In the first half, we had the ball in the back of the net twice, but both were disallowed for offside. The second of these was clearly offside, but I think you can make you mind up whether the decision was correct of not from the video screen-capture of the pass setting up the first "goal" below.
In the second half, we were really starting to assert our dominance on the game, but like so many times during the season, couldn't find the back of the net. Late on, a goal by FGCU definitely left us feeling like victims of a smash and grab.
Losing in the way that we did, considering our strong resurgence following a mid-season dip, makes me sure that we will be able to compete strongly again next year. As staff, we could not have asked any more of our players during the conference playoffs. We were very close to taking the hard way all the way to the NCAA national tournament. Bring on next year.
Finally, there is no way that I could write this blog post without mentioning the three senior players that we will be leaving us. Blake Pelton, Aaron Schoenfeld, and Ronnie Westbrook, thank you for being fantastic in training, games, and as people. My work with Blake in particular goes way back. It seems like yesterday that I was a Master's student (and a very green sport scientist) working with him in 2007. Good luck to them in all their future endeavors.
The three seniors and head coach Scott Calabrese