By: COLLEEN VIVALDI
Athletic Communications Student-Assistant
For American University women's soccer head coach Anabel Jimenez Hering, this season has a special significance. A four-year varsity player at AU in her own right from 2000-04, Hering's career was highlighted by the program's first-ever Patriot League title and NCAA Tournament berth in 2002 – a milestone which reaches its 15th anniversary this season.
Looking back on that historic season, Hering recalls the team's collective energy and competitive spirit as the difference-makers behind its memorable postseason run.
"I remember people staying after for extra practice, and people were really committed to getting better and doing well," Hering said. "Everybody really wanted to win, which seems obvious – everyone wants to win – but everybody was all in."
Hering, along with teammate Simone Konig, combined for a goal and assist during the team's 2-1 win over Colgate to secure the tournament title and advance into the NCAA Tournament where they faced crosstown rival, No. 17 Maryland.
On a cold November day on Maryland's home turf in College Park, the Eagles held the Terrapins to a tight match, closing the first half in a 0-0 deadlock before the Terps gained a one-goal edge in the 60th minute.
Despite both suffering from rolled ankles, freshman defender Lena Wrinkler and sophomore defender Amy Muller helped lead the Eagles' back line. Senior midfielder Sara Jagare also contributed to AU's strong performance throughout the season and during the NCAA playoff match.
"I think, in terms of team dynamic, we were really a team that had people who wanted to win. I remember Mike [Brady] pushing us to stay after practice to do free kicks and practice other things. We were very dedicated," Jagare said. "I think that season we were really fit, too – I remember being the fittest I had ever been. The year before we lost in the semifinal, and I felt during the  season that this was the time, that we were going to do this."
Although Hering and the Eagles put up a solid effort against Maryland, they fell just short with a 1-0 loss.
"The strongest memory and aspect of that season was the camaraderie we had as a group, and the quality of the players as people, not just athletes," said Brady, who was head coach of the Eagles from 2000-07. "As I go through the roster in my head, there are so many names that I can mention who were integral to the success of the team, and ultimately that says everything. Chemistry is a huge part of a team's success, and we genuinely enjoyed being around each other."
Brady's success at AU, not only as a coach but also as a player himself, stemmed from having high expectations and respect for the game – values that Hering implements in her program now.
"As a coach, I was very demanding of the group, and they always responded positively when challenged," Brady said. "Our philosophy and values were respect for each, the game and team first. Amidst all the pressure to perform and get positive results, we must keep the experience at the forefront and remember it is a game to be enjoyed, and the relationships formed while being a part of that team will last longer than any win or loss."
In the 15 years since AU's title run, the program has produced a slew of All-Patriot League Team and Patriot League Academic Honor Roll members.