Women’s soccer seeks bounce-back season under Meiburger

If anything positive is to be taken away from the 2013 Loyola University Maryland women’s soccer season, it is that the team could have easily finished the season with a respectable 9-8 record if a little bit of luck had been on their side. Unfortunately for last year’s Greyhounds, led by then-head coach Katherine Remy Vettori, the team went winless in seven overtime games, finishing the season with a disappointing record of 2-11-4, despite a season-opening win against Towson.
Under new head coach Naomi Meiburger, the 2014 Greyhounds are off to a similarly strong start, after taking down Meiburger’s alma mater, George Mason, on the road on August 22. Although Loyola dropped the second game of the season at UMBC, this year’s Greyhounds are off on the right foot, and hope to maintain the success that eluded them last season.
Meiburger might have been the perfect choice to turn those heartbreaking overtime losses into victories. She has spent the last 11 seasons coaching at Georgetown, including the last three seasons as the associate head coach of the Hoyas. She helped Georgetown finish the 2013 season with a 16-3-2 record, reaching the NCAA Women’s College Cup for the second straight year.
Under Meiburger, who worked specifically with the goalkeepers and defenders, the Georgetown defense put up sparkling numbers, even ranking 42nd out of 325 NCAA Division I teams in goals against average in 2010. This led to her promotion from assistant to associate head coach in 2011.
Before her coaching career began at Georgetown, Meiburger was a standout goalkeeper at George Mason University. She was a NSCAA Regional All-American First Team goalkeeper in 2002, and was also named to the All-Colonial Athletic Association First Team that season.
Meiburger’s past coaching success and NCAA Tournament experience with Georgetown gives Loyola women’s soccer much to look forward to this season, and Meiburger is excited as well.
“It’s been an exciting time to come in, and the team has been working really hard,” Meiburger said. “They’re really excited about the season. I’m really excited to just have my first season with them and to be able to go into the Patriot League and go into some of our non-conference games with this team. They’ve proven to me that they’re willing to put in the work that they need to put in to move things forward.”
The Hounds carry four seniors on their roster this year who will try to lead the squad back to prominence in their last go-round.
“I think our three captains—Lindsay [LeSavage], Colleen [Folan] and Kelly [Santangelo] have done a tremendous job of leading the team, and Jess [Van Dyke] and Gabbrielle [Tana] have done their part to pull things along,” Meiburger said. “Their work ethic is an example to the younger players. I do think this group, especially the seniors and captains, understand that for this season to be successful, and for them to have the senior seasons that they want, that the leadership and culture of the team are of paramount importance.”
One factor that must be addressed for the Greyhounds to be successful this season is their record against Patriot League opponents. Loyola finished its inaugural Patriot League season with a 1-6-2 record within the conference, which is something the Hounds will look to improve. Coach Meiburger believes that her girls first need to worry about themselves before looking at individual Patriot League challengers.
“Obviously, the Patriot League is a strong league, but I think for us, right now, the focus has to be more on us and what we’re going to do to get ourselves in the best possible place we can get to, and then we’ll worry about our opponents one at a time,” Meiburger commented. “They’re all strong teams, and they’ll all be good opponents for us, but I think right now the biggest focus has to be on us, getting to where we need to get before we play them.”
The 2014 season couldn’t have started off any better, as the Greyhounds are already one win away from matching last season’s win total. Remarkably, the season-opening win on August 22, the first of Meiburger’s coaching career at Loyola, came against her alma mater, George Mason.
“It was a really special night,” Meiburger said. “I couldn’t be more proud of the girls and the way that they played and the intensity that they played with. To be able to do it on a field that I played on for four years in front of many of my collegiate coaches who were there was really special. It was a really special night that I’ll remember for a long time.”
The Greyhounds were on the cusp of their second win last Monday night, but were unable to hold a 2-0 lead against UMBC on the road, falling to the Retrievers, 3-2. Coach Meiburger was still able to take solace in the fact that her squad was at least able to split two tough road games.
“You never expect to win every game on the road, so to split [road] games is usually what you want to try and do. I’m not unhappy with splitting the two games, but what’s disappointing is having gone up 2-0 on UMBC and letting that lead slip in the second half. That’s the disappointing part about it, and that the three goals we gave up were on mistakes that are preventable, but we’ll fix them.”
The Greyhounds will hope to bounce back from the UMBC loss and start winning the tight games down the stretch, something they were unable to do last year. Meiburger admitted that the Hounds were very close to being a Patriot League contender even last season before she arrived.
“If you look at last year’s record, we lost 11 games. Nine of them were by one goal, and I think four of them were in overtime. So it’s not like we were far off. We were close on a lot of things, and a lot of it just came down to taking care of the details. So I think if we can take care of the details and the small things on the field, the results will start to turn themselves.”
Coach Meiburger and her squad will hope that taking care of those small details will be enough to put the Greyhounds in the mix for the Patriot League title this season.