By: Meaghan McNichol – Staff Writer
Thursday through Sunday, the Atlantic 10 women’s soccer tournament will be held at Dayton’s Baujan Field for the first time since 2011, a welcome opportunity for the Flyers. The team finished with a 6-1-1 record at home this season after a 1-1 tie against Virginia Commonwealth University at home Sunday.
The last time the Flyers hosted the conference tournament, the UD took home the championship.
Before a loss to La Salle University Oct. 17, the Flyers had gone 30 straight games unbeaten in conference play, dating back to Oct. 21, 2007. UD is 29-1-3 in their last 33 conference games at home.
The team hopes the combination of hard work and the coveted home field advantage will help play a role in their postseason success this year.
“We’re awfully good at Baujan Field and if we get our students out there and we get our local supporters out there, it makes a difference,” head coach Mike Tucker said. “We love the comfort of being at home and knowing our field and having our fans there. It should be a very big influential piece for us in the tournament.”
With the team’s last championship win coming in front of the home fans of Baujan, the team has a history and reason for optimism.
“At home when we score a goal it’s like Baujan explodes with fans cheering and clapping and it kind of just brings your confidence level up when that happens,” junior forward Nicole Waters said.
The Flyers finished the season with an overall record of 9-8-2 and an A-10 record of 5-2-1.
With 16 total points in the standings, the Flyers secured the No. 3 seed for the upcoming conference tournament and will face Saint Joseph’s University Thursday at 7:30 p.m.
With the pressure of the tournament on its plate, the team is continuing to practice hard every day of the week, according to Waters.
“I don’t see our practices changing that much when it comes to the tournament only because you don’t want to change much what we’ve been doing when we’ve been successful. I think the only thing that will be different with our training will be being more specific on the teams that we’re playing,” Waters said.
Tucker agrees with Waters and plans to spend practices leading up to the tournament focusing on the details.
After losing in last year’s championship in penalty kicks, Tucker plans to emphasize the penalty kick skillset in practice, in preparation for the possibility of a similar situation in this year’s tournament.
Even with the home field advantage, the team acknowledges that winning the title will be far from easy.
Out of the 14 teams in the A-10 only eight teams make the tournament, and, this year more than ever the competition is cutthroat, according to Tucker.
“The league is very interesting this year. I don’t think there is a team you could count out of it. Whichever eight teams are in, I think everyone is going to have a chance to win it. Regardless of where we play we know that we have to play well and play up to what our expectations were going into the year,” Tucker said.
Both Tucker and Waters hope this tournament will give them a chance to match up against La Salle again.
After losing in penalty kicks in the championship game last year and recently suffering a loss on Baujan field this season, breaking the team’s home conference unbeaten streak, the Flyers hope to end the recent drought against the Explorers, who finished the regular season a perfect 8-0.
The team’s high hopes to maintain their championship winning streak at Baujan is also influenced by their past two performances in the A-10 tournament.
“I think a championship would bring some relief to the team because of the past two years. I know I’ve been frustrated since my freshman year we lost in the semi finals in PK’s and then last year we lost in the finals in PK’s so winning the championship would mean so much,” Waters said.
A championship would also grant the team with a NCAA tournament berth, a first since hoisting the trophy in 2011 on the team’s home turf.
A thirst for NCAA advancement grows stronger and the women hope to remain the reigning A-10 champions at Baujan Field.
“We took on an extremely difficult schedule, we’ve fought through injuries, we’ve fought through positional changes, and all of that has been great preparation for this upcoming tournament and we hope it pays off,” Tucker said.