Falcons Conclude Season With Strong Finish
Air Force finished the 2000 season with a 6-14-1 overall record and a 2-4 record in the Mountain West Conference. The Falcons lost nine games by one goal, including two in overtime.
Entering the final week of the season, the Falcons were 3-13-1 overall but a strong finish gave the team hope for the future. Air Force defeated Iowa and Wyoming in the final week of the season and then won its first game in the conference tournament. The season ended with an 8-1 loss to conference champion and ninth-ranked Brigham Young.
"We had a rash of injuries early in the season and some bad luck, but the players responded and finished strong," head coach Marty Buckley said. "I was proud of the players and how well we played late in the year. Even though we lost nine games by one goal, only three teams out-shot us all season. We need to continue to create chances but we need to improve on finishing our opportunities."
The season opened with much promise as the Falcons lost a 3-2 game to Pittsburgh and then rebounded for a record-setting 14-0 win over Youngstown State on the road. The victory broke school and conference record for goals scored and victory margin. Air Force returned home for the annual Falcon Invitational and the team's scoring woes began. Over the next nine games, the Falcons scored more than one goal just twice and posted a 0-8-1 record in those games. The final loss in the nine-game winless streak was a difficult 2-1 defeat at the hands of Navy. The skid ended with a 2-1 overtime win over Army at the Armed Forces Classic. Scoring goals continued to the main concern in conference games. In the first five MWC games, the Falcons scored more than one goal just once. The Falcons put it all together with a three-game winning streak late in the year.
A 2-1 conference win over Wyoming was followed by a 3-2 non-conference victory over Iowa in the regular season finale. The two-game winning streak gave the Falcons some much-needed momentum going into the tournament. As the fifth seed, the Falcons upset fourth-seeded UNLV, 4-1, in the first round on the Rebels home field. Jennie Schoeck and Beth Boyer each scored two goals in the game and senior goalkeeper Kristy Kuhlman was nearly perfect between the pipes. The victory advanced the Falcons to the championship game against ninth-ranked Brigham Young. The Cougars scored early and often for an 8-1 win and ended the Falcons' season.
"Beth and Jennie making the all-tournament team was a big plus for our program," Buckley said. "Only 11 players from the conference were chosen."
The Falcons lose seven seniors from this year's team, including team captains Schoeck and Kuhlman. Forwards Stephanie Rader and Becky Wyffels as well as midfielders Rosie Costello and Samantha Teague and sweeper Holly Huston will be also hard to replace. With big shoes to fill, the Falcons will look several underclassmen to step into more prominent roles.
"Our freshmen this season were under the gun and we didn't expect them to be," Buckley said. "We had a lot of upperclassmen, but with all the injuries we played the freshman more than we thought we would and they did a great job. Playing as much as they did will help us down the road. Our two young goalies are going to be outstanding and that will be a key to our future success."
With a host of quality returners, Buckley and his staff hope this year's strong finish will transpire into a winning season in 2001.