The members of the BSC Women's Soccer program came to preseason in August knowing they had a young, but talented team ready to conquer a long season with a ferocious and unrelenting approach. What unfolded in the following three months was something that every person associated with the program could be proud of.
This season was one of firsts. The twenty-six members of the team, nine of them being freshmen, accomplished feats that have never been done not only in the Division III era, but in BSC Women's Soccer history.
The team garnered a 12-6-1 record this season, good for a .658 winning percentage. The Panthers also went 6-1 in SAA conference play (.857). This record was enough to crown the team tri-champions of the regular season along with Centre College and Rhodes College, who both finished their conference season 6-1 as well. What this record might not show is that the Panthers opened up conference play on the road against Rhodes, Sewanee, and Centre, winning two out of the three games.
After a loss to Centre, the Panthers went on a seven-game winning streak. A 3-0 win against Millsaps College on Oct. 27 clinched the share of the regular season title. This accomplishment is the second time in the history of the women's soccer program that a team has won the regular season conference title, the first being in 2000 when the team was the TransSouth Conference champion.
Another characteristic of this year's team was that they were extremely difficult to beat at home. The players made it a point to protect their home turf. In the seven games that were held on the Hilltop, the offense came alive, scoring twenty-eight goals. Meanwhile, the defense became almost an impenetrable force, only conceding two goals during that stretch. The team also managed to earn six of their eight shutouts on the season while playing at BSC Soccer Park. Their eight shutouts rank fourth all-time, tied only with the 1996 squad.
The defensive presence of the team, coupled with an efficient offense, is the source of this team's success. The fury of goals scored this season, 48 to be exact, ranks fifth all-time. It is also the most in the Division III era, and the greatest amount of goals scored since 2000, when 115 goals found the back of the net.
While the focus of those involved with this program was narrowed in on the "team" concept, it benefitted from some spectacular individual efforts. Seven players earned SAA All-Conference honors this season. Junior forwards Amanda Babbin and Bailey Kimbell both found themselves on the first team. Freshmen Jessie Sperry had a tremendous rookie season that helped her garner Second-Team honors. Four additional players were named All-SAA Honorable Mention. Senior defender Melissa Sweeney was a huge contributor to the team's eight shutouts, as were junior goalkeeper Richelle Byrd and junior defender M'Kayl Lewis, whose presence kept opponents' attacking hopes at bay. Furthermore, another freshman, Avery Newcomb, was recognized for her work in the midfield by the other coaches in the league. Two players, Babbin and Kimbell, also were named as SAA Offensive Player of the Week due to their play at different points throughout the season.
"This truly was a fun group to work with," Head Coach Benji Walton said about the season. "As a program, we continue to make strides towards where we want to be, which is a power at the national level. Although we still have steps to take to get there, this team took one giant leap towards that goal by winning the SAA regular season. I could not be more proud of this group of ladies."
The team will graduate three seniors: Heather Sullivan, Melissa Sweeney and Devon Weldon. Their commitment and contributions during their time at BSC has left the program on the rise. In their absence, a letter-winning group comprised of what will be nine seniors, three juniors, and nine sophomores will continue on their quest to getting better during the offseason both individually and collectively, making the 2013 season one that we all look forward to with great anticipation.