The 2017 UConn women’s soccer season will likely be remembered as the final season of legendary head coach Len Tsantiris, who announced his retirement on Tuesday. Tsantiris called it quits after 37 years as head coach and is largely responsible for turning the program into the powerhouse it is today. He retires as the second-most winningest coach in NCAA women’s soccer history with 570 wins and 31 NCAA tournament berths, including a streak of eight-straight Elite Eight appearances.
Tsantiris will be nearly impossible to replace, but luckily for his successor, he leaves behind a strong foundation for success.
The Huskies finished the season at 7-9-3, falling to Memphis in the opening round of the American Conference Championship. The Huskies also ended with a 5-4 record in conference play, good enough for a fifth-place finish.
It was a year marked mostly by youth and inexperience, as the team struggled to play as a unit in the season’s early going. Despite being ranked No. 14 in United Soccer Coaches preseason poll, due to a lack of offense UConn did not record a win until their fifth game.
But the Huskies only got better as the season went along. Five wins in one of the best soccer conferences in the country is no joke, winning five of their last eight games. As the young talent and transfers got more minutes under their belt in a UConn uniform, the play of the team showed dramatic improvement, playing well as a unit and on an individual level.
Junior Vivien Beil finished the season as the Huskies’ top goal scorer and points-getter, recording six goals and as many assists on the season. Beil was one of only three Huskies to start all 19 games and was undoubtedly UConn’s most dangerous offensive threat down the stretch. She’ll certainly come in with high expectations next season in her senior year.
Tsantiris may be retired, but he has built an exciting young core to ensure the Huskies remain a national power. UConn got valuable contributions from freshmen throughout the season, especially on the front line. Kess Elmore was huge for the Huskies at the beginning of the season, scoring five goals in a three-game stretch. Fellow freshman Yamilee Eveillard’s greatest impact came towards the end of the season, finishing with four goals in only 10 starts.
Head coach won’t be the only void to fill next season. Five seniors- Tanya Altrui, Danielle Gottwik, Courtney Hofer, Faith McCarthy and Sabrina Toole-will all be missed not only for the play on the field but for their leadership on and off it.
Toole had a phenomenal senior season, notching four goals, the most on the team for a non-forward, including a clutch header on Senior Night. Goalkeeper Courtney Hofer, a transfer from TCU, was a huge difference maker in her single season as a Husky. Hofer missed the first half of the year due to injury but was an invaluable leader down the stretch, with rookie and veteran teammates alike praising her communication and leadership abilities.
UConn finished with the highest total attendance in the conference, once again proving that it has one of the best soccer fanbases in the nation. It may have been a disappointing year by the Huskies’ high standards, but the talent is there for this team to return to its former dominance before long.
When Len Tsantiris took over the reins, UConn women’s soccer had existed for barely two years. He arrived at a program in its infancy and leaves it a national powerhouse. It will be a strange sight to not see Tsantiris roaming the sideline next season, but the program he leaves behind has a bright future.
Andrew Morrison is a staff writer for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org. He tweets at @asmor24.