PRE-SEASON PICK – Chicago;
27-year University of Chicago head coach Amy Reifert has been a part of every season in the Maroon’s storied program.
Reifert returns her core group of players after the Maroons made a trip to the 2016 NCAA Final Four, but they aren’t satisfied with the story ending there.
“Our ultimate goal is to win the national championship and that has not happened yet,” Refiert said. “The players are motivated by one thing — having the most meaningful journey with the greatest group of teammates to accomplish this goal.”
Last season’s Maroons fell one game short of the NCAA Championship game, and marked the first time since 2005 Chicago went that deep into tournament play.
With 18 wins, 14 shutouts and a stellar .043 goals against average last season, the Maroons finished play in the competitive University Athletic Association third in the conference standings, and entered the NCAA Tournament ranked 11th – all three categories tied school records.
After beating Webster (6-0) and Augsburg (2-0) in the opening rounds, the Maroons followed with a 3-1 defeat of Thomas More to advance to the Sweet 16. It was a goal in the 88th minute against Pomona-Pitzer off the foot of then-freshman Hanna Watkins that knotted the game at a goal apiece, setting the stage for a penalty-kick win to advance the Maroons to their third-ever trip to the Final Four. A 1-0 overtime loss to Messiah in the semi-finals ended the Maroon season at 18-4-1, and a No. 3 standing in the final poll of last season.
Reifert and her staff were selected as the UAA and NSCAA Central Region Coaching Staff of the Year.
That core group of returners is highlighted by NSCAA All-American midfielders Jenna McKinney (First Team, 14 goals, eight assists) and Mia Calamari (Third Team, eight goals, 12 assists). Two more all-region selections, sophomore goalkeeper Katie Donovan (0.45 goals against average, 79 saves) and junior midfielder Kelsey Moore (four goals, one assist) also return with expectations to do great things on both sides of the ball.
Watkins finished the 2016 campaign with six goals and five assists, and the hero in the NCAA quarterfinal is back for her sophomore season in the midfield, joining Madori Spiker (six goals, three assists). Caroline Olivero returns on the offense while experienced defenders Mackenzie Peebles, Sydney Mathis, Whitley Cargile and Clare Suter also return to anchor the stingy Maroon backfield.
The Maroons’ senior class made up of Moore, Olivero, Cargile, Spiker and Calamari made appearances in the the NCAA tournament every year they’ve played in Hyde Park. With that experience, look for the Maroons to get the team back in the title game, a feat the team last accomplished with its runner-up finish in 2003.
The Maroons season opens on September 1st with a west coast swing to California to face Claremont-Mudd-Scripps and then a Sweet 16 round rematch with No. 10 Pomona-Pitzer just two days later. The squad’s home opener is set with Concordia (Wis.) September 6th at Stagg Field, before the Maroons play six more nonconference opponents leading up to the UAA opener September 30th at Rochester (N.Y.). The schedule features four contests against ranked opponents in Brandeis, Pomona-Pitzer, Carnegie Mellon, and last year’s champion Washington University at St. Louis. UChicago will host the Bears, who won last year’s meeting, 1-0 in overtime, in the Maroons’ regular season finale November 4th.
Remainder of Division3Sports.com’s PRE-SEASON TOP-10
6. William Smith
8. Johns Hopkins
9. Trintiy (CT)