Women’s golf and soccer set and break records

This fall, women’s sports kept up the winning tradition on the Hilltop with record-breaking seasons in both soccer and golf. The NCAA women’s soccer team finished its season with a school record of 18 wins and was, at one point, the top-scoring team in the nation. The NCAA women’s golf team is ranked No. 2 in the nation based on the Golf World/Women’s Golf Coaches Association Coaches’ Poll.

Women’s soccer Head Coach Nick Cowell and women’s golf Head Coach Jennifer McNeil have both brought a passion for winning to these teams and inspired their players to never stop improving.

Women’s Soccer

“I am motivated by the constant improvement of our athletes. I want them to experience a never-ending ascendancy both in soccer and in their lives,” Cowell said.

In his time at St. Edward’s University, Cowell coached 40 All-Conference players, 31 All-Region players, five Heartland Conference Players of the Year and six All-America selections. In seven seasons, he has an impressive record of 95-18-9. Women’s soccer players have also excelled academically, as 23 soccer players were named to the Heartland Conference Honor Roll last year and seven earned 4.0 GPAs.

The team had a promising season that ended with a loss in the conference championship and an early exit from the national tournament. Given that the team hosts only two seniors and 20 freshmen, the team’s 18-3 record is nothing to frown at.

“It was a shock. We worked every day since August … and we were expecting to go a little bit further [in the national tournament]” freshman Lauren Heller said on the season’s disappointing ending.

Eighteen wins is a school record, and the team had the top-ranked offense in the nation. They averaged 3.52 goals per game and outscored opponents 74-12.

Cowell’s leadership and the team’s chemistry helped this group dominate throughout the season, and expectations for next year are high. 

“I’ve learned so much about myself and my teammates since I have been here … and we now have all spring to come together even more. We should come back even stronger next year,” junior Rachel Murray said. Murray was named First Team Academic All-American.

Murray was not the only player to pick up post-season awards. Sophomore midfielder Mikayla Engel and junior defender Kate Orkild were both named to the Daktronics All-America Team.

“Expectations for 2013 are to improve the chemistry even more, to transfer the leadership of the team over to the junior class and to integrate the new players into the team so that we can make the final four of the NCAA Tournament,” Cowell said.

Women’s Golf

Additionally, the women’s golf team put together a record-setting season. In her 10th season at St. Edward’s, Head Coach Jennifer McNeil helped lead the team to a successful fall season as the team finished first in each of their four tournaments. 

They were the only team in all of the NCAA Division II to win all the tournaments they entered. The team ended the season with a No. 2 national ranking — the highest in program history.

“We have a lot of returning players, so they clicked well from the start. But this is an unique group. They are very self-motivated individuals who want one thing, and that is to win,” McNeil said.

Senior Melisa Gonzales moved to Austin from Mexico to play golf, and believes the team has found a good balance between competitive and cohesive.

“We all get along really well, and since there are eight of us on the team and only five travel, qualifying for the tournaments plays a big role in us improving,” Gonzalez said.

Teammates competed against each other to earn spots on competitive teams for each tournament.

Gonzalez set an example with the consistency of her game and her composure in high-pressure situations.

Senior Wallis Spears has racked up a handful of accolades in her time at St. Edward’s. Spears is a two-time All-American and a team leader. This year, Spears is ranked third individually in the nation and will play a huge role as this team looks ahead to the spring season that kicks off in February.

“We had a wonderfully successful fall, but we cannot look in the rear view. We have to focus on each individual spring tournament and, when it is done, focus on getting better for the next,” McNeil said.