The sting of a painful, season-ending loss is a tough thing to shake.
And even months removed from the penalty kick shootout that ousted the UW-Milwaukee Panthers Women’s Soccer team from the Horizon League tournament in early November, redshirt sophomore midfielder Anny West has bitter feelings.
“That was really disappointing. We just worked really hard and felt like we were in a good spot and we just couldn’t finish.”
The Panthers rode an impressive, league-best 11-3-4 record into the postseason tournament including an 8-0-1 conference record which secured the top seed and a first round bye. That eventually set the team up for a matchup with Wright State.
After jumping out to a lead scoring the game’s first goal in the 26th minute, the Panthers held strong to their lead until the 82nd minute when Wright State tied it up late and sent the game into a penalty kick shootout which ended in a disappointing and unexpected loss for the number one Panthers.
One trend that emerged from this loss that West acknowledges was the team’s inability to put teams, like Wright State, away offensively.
“That happened a lot during the season. We’d get up by one and then hold that lead the rest of the game.”
Milwaukee finished with the second-most goals scored in the league with 32 but found themselves narrowly escaping all season with one-goal victories being saved by a stout defensive effort. Six of the Panthers’ 11 wins came with one goal leads and all but one of those six were games with a final score of 1-0.
Moving into the 2016 season, West and the team are hoping to shore up this weakness and improve in closing out wins and building leads.
“After we get a goal we need another. We can’t just sit back and play defense because that can really hurt a team if you forget about the offense,” said West.
Even with a disappointing end to last season there is plenty of optimism for the Panthers this year as they’ll try to build off of their overall success and continue the tradition of winning that the UWM women’s team has grown accustomed to.
The team has been regular season conference champions in the Horizon League 15 of the last 16 seasons and has built a victorious program as a consistent force in the conference and West says the mindset of the team is its biggest key in keeping with a successful tradition.
“We know that we’re at the level that we can get back to that [winning] and if we just have that mindset that we’re one of the best teams in the Horizon League then we can get back to being that.”
Another key to that continued success is setting goals ahead of the season and into it. Head coach Troy Fabiano will be entering his second season with the team and wants his team to be in shape and ready to keep up with the demand of a long soccer season.
Fabiano’s coaching philosophy is that if you aren’t fit, you won’t play, and with plenty of veteran players returning like West and others this Panther’s team should know what to expect and be ready when the first friendly games approach in April.
Along with West, the team will get back a number of key contributors to build from their early exit last season. Last year’s leading scorer, midfielder Anna Smalley, had eight goals on the season and will return for her senior season while forward’s Maria Stephans and Sydney Senn will hope to improve on their four goals apiece from last year as they also head into their senior season.
The team will lose notable players as well in Callie O’Donnell and who was a potent offensive weapon in her own right accounting for seven goals and ranking as the second highest goal scorers on the squad. And another in goal keeper Paige Lincicum who played in 17 of the 18 games last year and logged a team-high 75 saves and allowed just 12 total goals all season.
While the thought of what could have been may linger in West’s and others minds for a while longer, the prospect of another year of success focusing on staying fit and continuing their winning ways should have this UWM Panthers team hungry for more in this 2016 season.