Soccer looks to make return trip to NCAA tournament

Last season became a historic one for the Roadrunner women’s soccer team. They finished the season with a 13-8-2 record en route to a Southland Conference Tournament Championship and an appearance in the NCAA tournament, where they were defeated by Portland. Along the way, the team also set school records for goals, shutouts, wins, points and assists.

This season, the team is picked to finished third in the Southland preseason coaches’ poll, yet expectations are high around UTSA, as the Roadrunners return 16 letter winners from last season’s trophy-hoisting squad.

Despite last season’s success, Head Coach Steve Ballard and his bunch are taking an even-keeled approach to the season and staying focused on the task at hand.

“We set our goals each year, and those goals are to win the regular season, win the tournament and win a game in the NCAA championship,” Ballard said. “Our main goal is to compete at the national level year in and year out, and that means winning in the NCAA tournament. Our goals are a little bit loftier (than last season), but we know we have to take it one step at a time.”

Although the Roadrunners’ roster is littered with experience, there is a noticeable spot of youth: Only eight upperclassmen return for the 2011 season. The team will have a good idea of where they stand after they play their pre-conference schedule, which includes games against strong programs such as UC Irvine, Texas A&M, and Texas.

The Roadrunners plan to use the tough competition to help them grow and improve.

“It’s the same that we’ve had every year since I’ve been here, and since we established this program. We want to compete with the best so we can play like the very best,” Ballard said. “We could make a schedule where we won 10 games before conference, but you don’t get better doing that. We challenged ourselves and feel we can play at this level.”

The Roadrunners have spent much of the offseason striving to get better. Even though they are coming off a conference championship, the team is hungry to set the bar higher this season.

“We want our level to go extremely high. You can’t be satisfied with the level you are at,” Ballard said. “Whether it’s playing soccer or in the classroom, we do our best. Life is about doing your best all the time, and if you’re not striving for that you’re wasting your time.”

With their eyes set on a bigger prize, the Roadrunners have work to do as the season progresses. They have confidence that they can win an NCAA tournament game this season, and they hope to continue the winning culture that’s been steadily growing since the programs inception in 2006.

“They’re willing to learn and they’re taking coaching very well,” Ballard said. “It takes a while to build that type of belief, and we think we have made advances every year and this year should be no exception. It’s going to be a very good year.”