Two women’s soccer programs, seeking to find their footing after years of misfiring, meet on at Cobb Stadium on Sunday night, as the Miami Hurricanes and FIU Panthers face off in a crosstown derby.
The University of Miami announced Sarah Barnes, a player at Connecticut and most recently the head coach of George Washington University in the Atlantic-10 Conference, as its fifth head women’s soccer coach last January. She seeks to take the program farther than its previous coach (Mary-Frances Monroe) did in five years at the helm. Monroe only twice oversaw a winning record (2013, 2016) and never took the program to the NCAA tournament — no other Miami coach failed to do so.
The 2017 Hurricanes finished 5-11-0 (1-9-0 Atlantic Coast Conference). Barnes has high expectations, but a lot of room for growth.
Nowhere to go but up
Florida International University, on the other hand, hired head coach Sharolta Nonen in 2017. She replaced Thomas Chestnutt, who led the Panthers for a decade. Entering her second season, she also helms a program seeking rapid improvement. FIU has seen its yearly win total fail to improve every season since 2014. Last season appears to be rock bottom, with a dismal 1-14-0 (0-10-0 Conference-USA.
Both coaches have sought to change course with strong and sizable recruiting classes. Nonen currently has 17 of her 27 players who are freshmen or sophomores. Barnes is working at a similar pace, announcing four early enrolees in January, four recruiting signings, one transfer and one top-flight foreign player.
Both teams started their seasons Friday night, with the Hurricanes scoring a 3-2 victory on the road against Florida Atlantic University in Boca Raton, while FIU hosted and lost to Stetson, 2-0.
The Miami Hurricanes and FIU Panthers have played 13 times. Miami leads the all-time series between the two teams 8-4-1. The last game came last season, with Miami traveling to University Park and claiming a 2-0 victory. FIU’s last victory came the year before, when FIU left Cobb Stadium with a 1-0 win. That 2016 matchup was the first time the two programs played since 2008. The notable football brawl in 2006 led to a cooling off period between the schools in all sports.
Kickoff at Cobb will be at 6:30. Miami is offering Barbecue to the first 250 fans who arrive, and Vuvuzelas to the first 300 students. Admission is free to all spectators.