"The University of Illinois is also in turmoil. The university sports an Interim Chancellor, an Interim Athletic Director, and an Interim Football Coach; the game will be played at Soldier Field, making this an Illini Interim Home Game."
Note: A big thanks to Paul for getting an interview with Coach Ryan and Captain Kylie Neschke to supplement this preview. While he isn't posting much yet, his work behind the scenes is invaluable.
While soccer is no new subject on mgoblog, women's soccer and more importantly, Michigan soccer are new to this realm. As the official first sporting match of the season (men's soccer plays an exhibition first), the women's team will be spotlighted in our first season preview of the year. I'll be trying to preview each non-revenue team over the next 4-5 weeks, following those up with roundup posts during the actual year.
Our women's soccer team has actually been rather successful in the 15 seasons of its existence. Their overall record is 164-118-42, with 2 Big Ten Tournament Championships and 9 NCAA appearances. Each of those championships and post season appearances were under coach Debbie Rademacher, who stepped down following the 2007 season to be spend more time with her two young children. During her tenure, Michigan saw talents such as Big Ten POY in 2002 Abby Crumpton who still holds the record for points in a career (116) at Michigan.
The team was most successful from '97-'99 when the team was at the start of its NCAA streak of 8 seasons in a row. The team went 49-17-3 in that three year stretch lead by all time goal leader Kacy Beitel and all time saves leader Carissa Stewart. The team would see the next few years each have double digit win totals and NCAA appearances until 2005 when the team would finish with a sub-.500 record. The 2006 season saw a return to the post season, but it would Michigan's last to date. The 2007 season was a sour one, seeing Michigan go the dreaded 3-9 with 6 ties.
Following that season, Greg Ryan stepped in.
Greg Ryan was a big of a hire as Rich Rodriguez. There, I said it. Ryan not only ranks among the winningest coaches in NCAA women's soccer, but he also had just finished a three year tenure as a coach with the US National team, compiling a 49-1-9 record with a bronze medal in the 2007 FIFA Women's World Cup. He was also an assistant on the 2004 Olympic team that won the gold medal.
At the college level, Ryan has lead four different teams to a 189-91-23 combined record. He began his career with Wisconsin, taking them so far as the NCAA championship game. He also led his alma mater SMU (where he was an All-American) and lead a rebuilding job at Colorado College.
His philosophy to bring Michigan back to a winner is skill, smarts, and scoring:
We’ve really made a major shift in philosophy from just athletic, big, players to just recruiting soccer players and they may be big, they are athletic, but our number one goal is that they are very, very skillful,they are very smart and they are just very passionate about playing the game of soccer. So what the outcome in the field will be is that we will be able to possess the ball much better than we ever have, we will be able to attack better than we ever have and most of the players that I’m recruiting now, whether they are backs or whether they are forwards or midfielders, can score goals. That has been a huge problem for this team -- they just don’t score enough goals. They can defend well, but don’t score enough goals. So as I am looking at players, even the defenders, I'm recruiting goal scorers.
Woo! Fewer 0-0 ties! While I've yet to find any recruiting class rankings for this upcoming class, Ryan's 2008 class was ranked #16 by Soccer Buzz magazine. Coach Ryan has already targeted 5-6 commits in the class of 2010, all "high level attacking players."
[The team, the outlook, and the swanky new stadium en route after the jump.]