By Kyle Prudhomme
DARTMOUTH, Mass. - When you look back on the emergence of women's soccer at the University of Massachusetts-Dartmouth, it can all be traced back to the 1992 team.
With six seniors on the team, all of whom were present from the inception of the program in 1988, and 10 freshmen new to collegiate athletics, the Corsairs made an unprecedented run to the national championship game.
Although the team fell short after being defeated by Cortland State by a 1-0 score in the final, the lasting-impact of the team is still present amongst the new generation of Corsairs.
"When we scrimmaged before the year I knew that we had a solid group of seniors and underclassmen," said the then head coach Ray Cabral. "When we started rolling in the victories, I really knew we had a solid group."
Solid may not fully justify how dominant the 1992 team was. On the roster were five All-Little East Conference honorees, the LEC Rookie of the Year, two All-New England recipients and one Div. III All-American.
In a time without automatic bids, teams were forced to stack their schedules with the best possible opponents to have any hope of making the national tournament. Going against the top teams in New England, the Corsairs held a 0.65 goals against average and averaged just under three goals per game.
The only two blemishes on its 17-2-1 regular season record came against familiar foes in Plymouth State and Salem State.
"They had the mindset they would win every game and even when they lost to a team they never thought it would happen twice, they just said we'll get them next time," said Cabral.
In the national tournament, the 1992 Corsairs exacted payback on the two team's that beat them earlier in the season, defeating Salem State in the opening round via penalty kicks before edging Plymouth State in a 1-0 final to move into the national semifinals.
"That team set the precedent and showed future teams what could be accomplished when you work hard together as a team. It was all about doing your best to help the team win," said Cabral, the winningest head coach in program history.
It all carried over in the following seasons with the 10 freshmen on the roster during the postseason adventure. In the next three seasons, the team combined for a 36-11-6 record, earning a second trip to the NCAA tournament in 1994, and a trip to Eastern Collegiate Athletic Conference tournament in 1995.
Now, 25 years later, that team is still being recognized for the contributions it made to the program, and for that historic-run that put it on the map.
Of the eight members in the Corsair Hall of Fame from women's soccer, five of come from the 1992 team, and in 1996 the entire team was inducted by the university.
The individual honorees in the Hall of Fame are Kathy Mahoney ('99), Rachel Barbarossa ('00), Mary Beth Shinney ('01), Annmarie Gagnon ('01) and head coach Cabral ('00).
The celebration of the team's praise-worthy accomplishments continues homecoming weekend as members of the 1992 national runner-up will be honored at halftime of the game against Western Connecticut, where it all come full circle.
"These ladies were competing at a time when women's soccer across the country was on an incredible growth spurt," said current women's soccer coach Kate Thomas. "The 1992 team were pioneers in their own right, creating a championship mentality from the very beginnings as a varsity program."