The UTM soccer team came into the 2006 season with little outside expectation or respect. The Skyhawks were predicted to finish next-to-last in the Ohio Valley Conference. After qualifying for the O’Reilly OVC Tournament for the first time since 2003, they certainly earned the respect they deserve.
A strong regular season finish earned them a No. 6 seed in the OVC tournament. They lost at No. 3 seed Eastern Illinois in a first-round Halloween heartbreaker 1-0. The Panthers came out aggressive and made it a physical match early. EIU would score their first and only goal in the 25th minute by Ashley Slota. Slota’s goal came off a corner kick by Alexis Miller that snuck passed outstretched goalkeeper Cara Sullivan.
UTM’s best scoring chance came in the closing minutes of the match. Co-captain Jamie Price launched a ball deep into the Eastern Illinois defense to her fellow co-captain Katie Behrens, who dribbled to the top of the box but shot wide. The Skyhawks finished the match with nine total shots.
The loss dropped UTM’s conference record to 2-4-4. They finished the season with a 5-9-5 overall record.
Despite UTM’s early postseason exit, players are being recognized for their outstanding play.
Junior co-captain Jamie Price was named OVC Defensive Player of the Week the last week of the regular season. It is no surprise that Price’s fellow junior co-captain Katie Behrens earned All-OVC honors. Behrens has been named to the All-OVC team every season of her career. This was the first year she was named to the All-OVC first team. “Everyone thought that this was just going to be a rebuilding year for our team because we got a new coach and only returned three starters from last year,” Behrens said. “We worked really hard and had a lot of new players step up for us so fortunately we were able to prove a lot of critics wrong.”
A new player that certainly stepped up was freshman goalkeeper Cara Sullivan. Sullivan started every game in goal for the Skyhawks in her first season and recorded seven shutouts. She led the conference in saves with 147 and a .845 save percentage. She stands fourth all-time in UTM history for saves and first for saves by a freshman. On Oct. 17, she was named to Soccer Buzz Magazine’s Elite Team of the Week, making her the first player in school history. Sullivan earned All-OVC Newcomer honors for her superb play.
“This is just the beginning of Cara’s bright future,” said first-year head coach Craig Roberts. “She developed well throughout the entire season and now has a great year of experience under her belt that she’ll be able to use to improve upon even more.”
The future looks bright for Skyhawk soccer as the entire squad will return for the 2007 season.
“We are all very excited and optimistic about next year and we all feel as though we will undoubtedly be in contention for an OVC championship,” Behrens said.