Thirteen Years in the Making

Ryan Thomas

Some wins mean more than just a victory on the given day. Some wins can be catapults into bigger, better things; greater achievements in the grand scheme. They can be building blocks to a brighter, more sustainable future.

The Lady Beacons’ recent 2-0 win over Little East Conference foe Rhode Island College (their first in-conference victory in 13 years) may prove to be that building block, the straw that broke the figurative camel’s back. That is, if that camel represented turning into a well respected and reputable women’s soccer program.

After middling in anonymity for what seemed like years, Amy Zombeck and her staff have been stock-piling young talent and forming their program to have sustained success for the years to come. The steps have been small, but they are going in the right direction.

On September 29, 2007, the Lady Beacons played to a 0-0 tie with UMass Dartmouth, their first non-loss in 66 conference games.

Almost a year later, on September 20, UMass Boston got their first conference win since they defeated Rhode Island College in September of 1995.

“It was a long time coming,” said Zombeck , the Lady Beacons’ fourth year coach. “It was an entire group effort. Courtney [Haroules] did a great job in goal, [captain Katherine] Wall in our back [field] really made it difficult for them to get anything going.

“Our midfielders dominated. From the outside mids to the inside mids, they took care of their business in the midfield and our forwards really created more opportunities and scoring chances for us.”

Bigger than the win was the molding of a program and the progression of a team that keeps gaining respect in the Little East. Said Zombeck: “I don’t think teams take us as lightly as they did before, but I think every game, you earn a little more respect. Especially when you win… conference games, you gain that respect, that, ‘hey, that isn’t the UMass Boston team of old.'”

Someone else who knows about rebuilding a program is Rhode Island College’s new head coach, Mike Koperda. Koperda, 49, has a lofty soccer resume that stretches from Cornell University to a New York state Olympic development program.

Koperda has been on the job only 30 days, as his predecessor, Denis Chartier, left for a job at Brown University.

“Amy, from the perspective of a competing coach, she did a terrific job,” Koperda said. “I can certainly attest to the fact that not only did [UMass Boston] win, but they did it and it was very well done.

Koperda has seen a lot of soccer talent in his days, and he has evaluated his fair share. He knows what to look for in terms of on-field skill. “In the technical area, I give [the Lady Beacons] kudos because they appeared to have a formulated system of play, which signifies some internal discipline, some structure [and] the creation of a learning environment. That has to be credited to the coach for implementing that.”

He also knows the importance of other facets of the college game. “There’s a lot of ways to measure the movement of a program. It’s human nature to just look at the win-loss column and then decide if it’s up or down, it’s going no where, or whatever.

“But there’s other measurements. The players were very enthusiastic. The players were very sporting. [They] had good size, good skill, good balance. There’s different measurements of a program’s growth. Amy’s doing a fine job and I’m sure that the best days of the program are coming forward.”

Moving forward for Zombeck and Co. usually means making history of some sort, and that’s what her team has been hanging their hat on this season. “Every game we go into, there’s some sort of history to try and be made, and that’s what we focus on. And that’s how we carry things through to try and change what’s happening.”

Ryan Thomas can be reached at [email protected]