Another exciting year has come to an end for the UW-Milwaukee Women’s Soccer team after their tough loss in the NCAA tournament to the No. 11 ranked Michigan Wolverines 4-0 on Saturday November 16th.
The game against Michigan marked their 11th NCAA tournament appearance to date.
With a 10-9-1 overall record, Milwaukee claimed the Horizon League regular season title for the 14th year in a row and 15th all time. The Lady Panthers also won the conference tournament for the 10th time; sixth year in a row and ninth in the last 13 years.
After his second full year of coaching, Coach Greg Henschel has continued the winning tradition set before him with help from the members of his team. He believes his team is better than most give them credit for.
“I’m pretty fortunate to be surrounded by great players and staff,” says Henschel.“I believe we can compete with any team in the country.”
Kelsey Holbert, a junior midfielder for Milwaukee, is mindful of this program’s winning ways.
“It is very humbling and very rewarding,” says Holbert. “It is a great feeling to know each year I have been here, our team has been able to contribute to this tradition”
Holbert is one of many special players on the Lady Panther’s roster that made this season a success. She joined fellow junior Kelly Lewers in being named to the All-Tournament team this season.
“I think it is a reflection of our whole team and all of the hard work that we have put in throughout the year,” says Holbert.
“Without such a great team effort in both of our tournament games, I don’t think that would have been possible.”
Lewers hit the eventual game winning shot in the Horizon League Championship game with 23 seconds left, leading the Lady Panthers to a 4-3 victory over Oakland sending them into the NCAA tournament. However, that wasn’t the Psychology and Political Science major’s favorite moment this season. Instead, it was beating Oakland the first time 1-0 in the last game of the regular season.
“Oakland was a tough team but we worked together and won the game,” says Lewers. “With that win we became the regular season conference champions and we would host the Horizon League Tournament.”
Lewers also received Horizon League Player of the Year and Offensive Player of the Year honors in conference. She joins former Lady Panther Helen Steinhauser who was given the award last year following a three-year run by Sarah Hagen, making it five years in a row a UWM player has won the award.
Lewers and Holbert were joined by fellow junior Krissy Dorre on the Horizon Leagues All-League first team, while junior Amy Kauffung and senior Sara Stern were named to All-League second team. The all-freshman team also included several Lady Panthers with the likes of Kelly Manski, Paige Lincicum and Alleina Szydlowski.
The Lady Panthers had a very young team with their freshmen being large contributors this season as they started only one senior in their last seven games of the year.
“We’re going through a maturing process” says Henschel.
The Lady Panthers coach had a tough time against non-conference opponents this season, going 4-8-1 in those contests. According to Henschel, it was one of the toughest non-conference schedules, but he doesn’t use that as an excuse.
“We’re setting the bar high,” says Henschel. “We have no intention of altering the strength of our non-conference games.”
Instead, Henschel plans on improving and competing in those non-conference games.
“We want to play the toughest opponents possible,” says Henschel, who wants to put the best product on the field for the fans and give his recruits a challenge rather than a weak schedule.
The Lady Panthers did well on and off the field this season. Together they accumulated the 53rd highest GPA in the classroom among over 600 other soccer programs in the country with a 3.49 average.
“Being a part of the Milwaukee Women’s Soccer program is so much more than being a soccer player,” says Holbert. “The staff and administration do an awesome job of helping us in the classroom and many other aspects of our life, and I think that ranking is a reflection of that.”
Because of this, the Lady Panthers were named to the National Soccer Coaches Association of America (NCSAA) 2012-13 College Team Academic Award List.
With UWM only losing three seniors from this year’s squad, and the emergence of their freshman class, there’s reason to believe that the Lady Panthers could be going dancing in the NCAA tournament come next season.