Quick end won’t overshadow soccer success
Coach Brian Copham adress his team during the team's final game against Mercer.
Coach Brian Copham adress his team during the team's final game against Mercer.
Jacksonville University women’s soccer coach Brian Copham would rather be in his coaching t-shirt and shorts, instead he is sitting behind his desk in a powder blue golf shirt still stunned his team’s season is done.

A penalty-kick loss to Mercer in the Atlantic Sun conference tournament last week ended the Dolphins’ year and it’s something that’s not going down the gullet very easily.

“No. Absolutely not,’’ Copham, who completed his fourth season at the helm, said. “It probably will take nine months to get over it.’’ That happens to be when the 2012 season starts.

What's really aggravating is Copham knows his team played pretty well against the Bears but couldn't put things away in regulation.

“As a coach you always look at decisions you made and choices you made and not necessarily second guess but ‘what could I have done different’,’’ he said. “The reality is we played a pretty good game. We just didn’t score enough in regulation and when it comes down to penalty kicks it’s a crapshoot.”

While the final loss was a stunner, it clearly shouldn’t put a damper on the success the team found. An 11-5-3 overall record and 7-1-1 and a piece of the Atlantic Sun regular season title isn’t chump change.

“Absolutely it was a successful season,’’ Copham said. “The seniors are going to be on one of the winningest classes here. Four years in a row while they’ve been here we’ve had a winning record and they’ve helped transform the program from six to eight seed to regular season conference champion. With a little bit of time they will be able to look back and realize they’ve done something pretty impressive.’’

Some of the numbers the team recorded impressed Copham.

“Going 7-1-1 in conference is a great conference record,’’ he said. “We had the second-best goals against average (in the A-Sun). It bodes well for the future as well.’’

The numbers weren’t the only thing he’ll remember about this year’s team. He equally liked the level of play.

“I’m very proud of way we played,’’ he said. “With exception of one loss (3-0 to East Tennessee State on Oct. 9) I thought we played every game really well. ‘’ The bounce back from the loss, the Dolphins then reeled off three consecutive wins, also was eye catching.

“For the most part, we played how we want to play; the brand we want to play, even against the top 20 team in the country (UCF),’’ Copham said. “We didn’t have to change our style.’’

The better news is numbers-wise the Dolphins have nine of 11 starters coming back. The losses, however, will be tough to overcome.

“We’re losing four seniors, two of whom started every game,’’ he said. “Even though it’s a small numbers class, (mid-fielders) Liz Fink and Jess Hurtado were first-team All Conference and second-team All Conference pretty consistently. We lost two players who contributed a lot for us.’’

Returning will be the entire defensive unit and both starting forwards, freshman Kaitlyn Bassett and sophomore Raquel Weckhurst. Bassett led the team in scoring with 18 points and Weckhurst was second with 15.

“We’ll have a lot of competition for playing time but we’ll also have a lot of experience coming back,’’ Copham said. “They got a lot of experience this year and there’s going to be a lot of hunger because none of them want to end like this season ended. That will carry over and be motivation for us.’’

-- Jim Nasella