The first year of the Mohammed El-Zare era of Southern Miss Soccer was highlighted by team and individual success. The Golden Eagles set new records and produced other performances that ranked among the best in program history en route to one of the better seasons of the last decade.
Southern Miss finished with a 7-9-4 record, the most wins in a season since an 8-11 showing in 2007 and the fewest losses in a season since going 4-9-2 in 2005.
"What we tried to establish here was a family-first culture," El-Zare said. "We are a family first and a soccer team second. I was pleased with mindset of the players in terms of how we went about laying what I feel is a strong foundation for this program going forward.
"I thought the way we communicated as a team and as a staff, how we prepared for practices and games in our strength and conditioning program and how our athletes were cared for by our athletic trainer, Katie Barker, led to our overall success as a team."
All told, the 2013 Golden Eagles either set a record or cracked the top 10 in 18 team categories.
Seven wins tied for sixth most victories in a season and the Golden Eagles' four ties set a new school record.
The 2013 squad set new marks in saves (138), save percentage (.807), saves per game (6.9), total shots (323), total minutes played (21,092) and goalie minutes played (1,913).
The Golden Eagles' 43 goals were second most in a season behind only the 1997 squad that scored 44.
Thirty assists were fourth most in school history and 116 total points were just three off the record of 116 set by the 1999 team.
"I feel as though we are in a position to take this program to the next level," El-Zare said. "Part of that was training, part of that was our strength and conditioning, but a lot of it was the fact that the team is living the game of soccer every day. They have an energy and a passion for the game that I think will help us going forward.
"They are a resilient group with a great attitude. Even when we had moments of adversity - tough matches or season-ending injuries that could not be prevented - the team showed its character. The players never stopped giving maximum effort. Different players stepped up and helped us to move forward. That is a good sign of things to come."
While seven wins were not as many as either El-Zare or his players would have liked, for a team that had not won more than five matches or lost less than 12 in the past five years, the 2013 record was indicative of a team on the upswing.
"You have to crawl before you can walk or run," El-Zare said. "I think with the season gone by, we were able to get on our feet. Very soon we will be running, then sprinting, as a program."
The team is in a good place thanks to a number of players posting career-best performances over the course of the season or in single games.
Two Golden Eagles, Danica Roberts and Brittany Taylor, landed on the All Conference USA Team. Roberts, a senior forward, earned third-team honors while Taylor, a freshman keeper, was named to the All-Freshman squad.
It was the first time a Golden Eagle was recognized on the All-Conference team since 2011.
Roberts was an offensive star not just for the team but among conference and national strikers.
Her 13 goals were second most in a season in program history. Thirty-one total points in a season was third most all-time and five assists tied for seventh. Roberts led Conference USA in both overall points and goals this year.
Despite having played just two seasons in Hattiesburg, Roberts still managed to establish herself in the career record books with 19 career goals (seventh best) and an average of 0.5 goals and 1.13 points per game (both second best in school history).
"What an amazing player," El-Zare said. "We wish we had one more year with her. She was able to make the adjustment from junior college to the Division I level and make her mark on this program. We are all so proud of her for her individual achievements and the ways she helped this team progress."
Taylor set new single-season marks in a number of goalie-specific categories - 128 saves broke the record of 107 set by Hannah Vanderboegh in 2011 while an average of 7.1 saves per game bested the single-season mark of 6.69 set by Leslie Schoeplein in 2002.
"We had a lot of young players who had an immediate impact," El-Zare said. "Brittney was a difference-maker in a lot of matches. Against Southeastern Louisiana, she blocked an open shot from one yard out to preserve a game that we won in overtime. She came up huge in a win over Mississippi State, one of the biggest wins in program history. For a freshman to come in and lead us right away, in her quiet and humble manner, was outstanding and is a great sign for us as we look to the future."
Roberts and Taylor weren't the only Golden Eagles to make their mark this season.
Junior Brooke Hendrix put up seven assists, which was the fourth most in school history.
Casey Adkins, a junior defender, earned first-team Conference USA All-Academic and tied the mark for most starts in a season (20).
Senior Chelsea Cruthirds left a unique mark in both the quality of her play - she registered the program's 14th all-time hat trick - and in the power of her spirit.
Having suffered a severe spinal injury late in the season, one that left her temporarily paralyzed then walking slowly and with the aid of a cane, she managed to return to the pitch and walk unassisted to midfield to kick off a Senior Day win over Old Dominion.
"Chelsea was an inspiration not just to us as a team but also to people in other parts of the country who learned of her story," El-Zare said. "I was in Houston just a few days ago, wearing my Southern Miss shirt, and someone walked up and asked if I was the coach who had the player who couldn't walk but later took the kickoff. That was incredible."
A full breakdown of team and individual accomplishments for 2013 reads as follows:
|Stat Category||School Ranking|
|43 Goals||2nd most in school history (Record is 44 in 1997)|
|2.15 Goals Per Game||2nd most in school history (Record is 2.75 in 1999)|
|116 Points||2nd most in school history (Record is 126 in 1999)|
|5.8 Points Per Game||5th most in school history|
|30 Assists||4th most in school history|
|1.5 Assists Per Game||tied for 4th most in school history|
|323 Total Shots||New record (Previous record was 319 in 2003)|
|16.15 Shots Per Game||2nd most in school history (Record is 16.79 in 2003)|
|164 Shots on Goal||2nd most in school history (Record is 166 in 1999)|
|138 Saves||New Record (Previous record was 130 in 2011)|
|.807 Save Percentage||New Record (Previous record was .806 in 2002)|
|6.9 Saves Per Game||New Record (Previous record was 6.5 in 2011)|
|1.55 Goals Against Average||4th best in school history|
|6 Shutouts||tied for 2nd most in school history (Record in 7 in 2003)|
|21,092 Total Minutes Played||New Record|
|1,913 Goalie Minutes Played||New Record|
- 2nd highest in goals per game - 0.5
- 2nd most in points per game - 1.13
- 7th highest in total goals - 19
- 31 points - 3rd most in school history
- 13 goals - 2nd most in school history
- 5 assists - tied for 7th most in school history
- 1.55 points per game - 4th most in school history
- 42 shots on goal - 3rd most in school history
- 128 saves - New Record (Previous record was 107 by Hannah Vanderboegh in 2011)
- 7.1 saves per game - New Record (Previous record was 6.69 by Leslie Schoeplein in 2002)
- .831 save percentage - 4th best in school history
- 1.54 goals against average - 8th best in school history
- Now tied for 13th in career assists - 8
- Single-Season Mark: 7 assists - 4th most in school history
- Logged the 14th hat trick in school history on Sept. 20, 2013
- Tied record for most starts in a season with 20
- 1,783 minutes played - 4th most in school history
Kay Kay Hypolite
- 1,731 minutes played - 8th most in school history
...tied the record for most games played in a single season with 20
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