No starters of the national champion women’s soccer team will return for the Spartans next season as two sophomores asked for their release and four seniors are set to graduate.
The graduates include captain Maria Mohammed and the program’s all-time leading goal scorer Shelby Kuni.
Players in the exodus were all recruited by previous head coach Bobby Johnston.
Lauren Hammond, one of the transferring sophomores, cited upper administration as reasons for leaving.
‘I feel like he [Lucey] is a really good coach and he knows everything about soccer,’ Hammon said. ‘But he never took the time to get to know me as a person.’
Hammond’s dissatisfaction’ started last year when she previously asked for her release, unsure if Tampa was the place for her to continue her soccer career.
‘ After the bonding experience of winning the national championship, she decided to stay for another season.
She returned this fall along with the first full class Lucey had recruited as head coach, but lack of organization and poor communication pushed Hammond request a midseason conference with her coach.
‘He was really understanding and we connected at the meeting,’ she said. ‘He knew he wasn’t being the best coach he could be.’
After the talks, however, nothing changed, and the’ discontent spread.
‘My class doesn’t feel like we were respected. I walked into his office at the end of the year, and the first thing he says is, ‘I’m assuming you’re leaving.”
Lucey understood that there were problems on his squad. He explained the difficulty of transitioning new players into a prestigious team.’
‘I’m very happy with them [the team],’ said Lucey. ‘I think in the case of Hammond, we gave her as much as we could. You’re not always going to please everybody. She performed well. Sometimes people don’t appreciate what they’ve been given.’
Though it wasn’t the team’s best season, the players learned from the experience.
‘All you can say is it was rough losing that last game, but I’m proud us seniors have been playing for our team,’ Mohammed said.
Lucey doesn’t dwell on the past season.
With only 12 returning players to his team, the coach has already scouted 10 recruits, including an international Brazilian standout.’
‘[I’m] a little disappointed considering what happened the year before, but it was a good season,’ Lucey said. ‘I’m happy with our returning players. The program is going in a good direction.’
Hammond, Mohammed and the other departing members still feel passionate for their teammates.
Despite the internal conflicts, the defending national champions battled through the conference tournament, earning an at-large bid into the NCAA South Region where they fell first round.
‘We still have pride in ourselves. We still have pride in our coaching staff, but each game, every girl is on the field for her team,’ Mohammed said.
‘We were playing for each other,’ Hammond said. ‘Not for him.’
Bobby Winsler can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Editor’s Correction: The women fell in the second round of the NCAA South Region, defeating Saint Leo in the first match.