With an average 560 patrons per match and a mind boggling overall attendance of 4,476 spanning their eight home matches during the 2007 season, the Washburn Lady Blues ended the year among the top five in Division II attendance for the third time in the last four seasons.
Like their basketball counterparts before them, the soccer team finished the 2007 season leading the nation in attendance.
In one specific showing of support, the Washburn faithful came out in full force for a September 27 match against Southwest Baptist, and obliterated the record for the Division II single game attendance record with 2,071.
Last year, the Lady Blues finished with a 10-6-5 overall record and an even more impressive home record of 4-0-3 in conference play, all with a team who had the daunting task of replacing 10 players from the season before.
“Last year wasn’t so much about rebuilding,” said head coach Tim Collins, whose goal was never to replicate the previous year’s team or its accomplishments. “Rather it was more about gaining experience and overall team chemistry”.
Jessica Mainz, a returning All-American and the current 3rd place leader in MIAA career scoring with 97 goals, remembers all too clearly the ups and downs of last season, but points out that her most vivid memory was beating two ranked teams, Central Missouri and Truman State, in the same week.
This memory by the senior is indicative of the potential of this year’s team, which returns all but one player from last year’s campaign.
With a year of experience under their belt, the Lady Blues should be a force to be reckoned with.
These sentiments are reinforced in the latest MIAA women soccer coaches poll; the Lady Blues are projected to be one of the top five teams in the conference this year.
The University of Nebraska-Omaha ranked first in the poll, claiming four of the available first place votes. UNO boasts an impressive lineup, returning 6 starters and senior Casey Bigsby, the Mavs leading scorer.
Second in the poll is Central Missouri, the defending regular season co-champs.
The Jennies picked up three first place votes and finished 54 points ahead of third place Truman. The Lady Blues and Southwest Baptist rounded out the conference’s top five.
The season opener for the Lady Blues will take place at Kaneoke, Hawaii where they will face Hawaii Pacific.
Coach Collins believes that apart from having to adjust to the five-hour time difference in Hawaii, the physically demanding style of play required to beat the likes of Hawaii Pacific will be the biggest adjustment for the team, and will be a reflection of the progress they have made over the off season.
The Washburn Lady Blues will play in their home opener on Sept. 13 against the University of Central Missouri at 7 p.m.