Preview: Roadrunners Thinking Repeat
Metro State may have lost 10 players from last seasons NCAA Championship squad, but you wouldnt know it.
|Amy Leichliter is the Roadrunners career scoring leader. (S. O'Leary, Metro St.)|
Obviously with the success of last year, youre always wondering how the team is going to react to the next year, but this years group is our most committed and focused group, said head coach Danny Sanchez. They really came in with a great attitude although we lost five starters from last year. We have quite a few new players out there, and they jelled early " I think thats probably why weve gotten a lot of the results we have.
Metro State had only appeared in one NCAA Tournament (1998) and was fresh off a losing season when Sanchez took over the program in 2002. Sanchez made an immediate impact, leading the Roadrunners to a 19-3-3 mark and a trip to the NCAA semifinals. In four seasons, he has compiled an incredible 86-5-3 record and guided Metro State to the national tournament each year since becoming head coach.
When I got here, there were only seven players left, but the foundation was in place, said Sanchez. Its a good school in a great area, its funded well " so, the pieces were there. It was just a matter of finding good players right off the bat. I think the main thing was just changing the mindset of how we do things, and the players that stuck around after a tough year in 2001 were rewarded. I didnt think it would happen so quickly, but we were supported well by the administration and that is key, especially at our level.
Now, every opponent is looking to make their season by knocking off the defending national champions, and a spotless record doesnt make winning any easier.
Weve been ranked high this year, and with the success of last year, every game for us is a big game, said Sanchez. At think at this point, were looking forward to this part of the season. Theyre more mentally prepared now " you never know what will happen in soccer, but its not like we have to focus more or pump them up since theyve played in a lot of big games.
Metro State leads the nation in scoring offense with 4.48 goals per game with three players tallying 15 or more goals. Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference Tournament Most Valuable Player Kylee Hanavan leads the team with 29 goals, while Anne Ormrod and Amy Leichliter have netted 21 and 15, respectively.
Our first year (2002), Amy Leichliter was a freshman and scored 20 goals, said Sanchez. It was a situation where if Amy didnt score, we werent going to score. Since then, weve really had two or three ˜go-to players. Other players really stepped up and were able to share the scoring load.
The Roadrunners have also been defensively sound, shutting out 14 of 21 foes, and posting the nations fourth-best goals against average at 0.478 with freshman Rachel Zollner protecting the net.
Despite all of their success, Sanchez seems to be most proud of his teams attitude and conduct.
I think theyre very professional in how they carry themselves, in how they prepare and how they support each other, said Sanchez. Its really been an enjoyable group. Its not about the last game -- its about the journey in getting there. There are no ˜primadonnas or high-maintenance players, and that makes it more enjoyable.
Metro State, the top-seeded team and host of the Midwest Region, looks to begin its quest for a second straight NCAA title against Incarnate Word on Nov. 11.