This is part one of a five part series where we highlight the Kathi Goertzen Coug of the Year finalists. Next up: Brock Motum.
When you take over the position of someone, in any field, who has set the bar high it's difficult to live up to expectations. Regardless of whether it's fair or not, your superiors and those who watch you perform your job will expect just as much from you as the person who previously occupied your position. After all, you aren't that person. What's the likelihood you can actually make these people happy even if you do your job just as well or better than the person who came before you?
That's the situation Keidane McAlpine stepped into at Washington State. Matt Potter had taken the women's soccer team to heights they'd never seen before with nearly annual trips to the NCAA Tournament. Not only was he making the program a powerhouse in a conference already known for having outstanding programs, he was amiable, passionate and, most importantly, a damn good coach. His departure for Oklahoma wasn't really a surprise given his talent but it left a massive gap in WSU's most successful women's program in recent years. This is what McAlpine stepped into at Washington State. No pressure, right?
Apparently not. McAlpine transitioned into the head coaching position seamlessly, leading Washington State to a 12-6-2 record on the season. The team gave up just two goals at home in nine games this season, one in the only real blemish on an otherwise fantastic season, a 1-0 loss to Arizona State. WSU saved some of their best soccer for some of the country's top teams, including a 0-0 over time draw against No. 2 UCLA in Westwood and well fought losses to No. 2 Stanford and No. 18 California. This isn't meant to be the typical "well, I guess the loss was close" talk some were so quick to go to during the last few football seasons. These teams are some of the best in the country year in, year out. Going on the road and managing to keep it within a goal is an accomplishment in and of itself.
As if the Cougars conference schedule isn't hard enough, the NCAA did them no favors come tournament time. The Cougars would have to go on the road to face the No. 21 Portland Pilots. Before this match-up in the tournament, the Cougs were 1-18-1 all time against Portland, a team that enjoys one of the best home field advantages in the country thanks to two national championships in the last decade.
A draw at the end of regulation followed by a heartbreaking loss in penalty kicks ended the Cougars 2012 campaign. Brandi Vega's great career and Micaela Castain and Gurveen Clair's brilliant seasons were over. This, well, stunk. A lot. It seemed every year the Cougars were on the cusp of something special but they fell just a little short again.
Despite the incredible talent the Cougars had on the roster, the season could've gone very differently were it not for Keidane McAlpine. When you lose the best coach a particular program has ever had, things can easily go south the following year. But McAlpine kept the ship steered in the right direction, leading the Cougs to another NCAA Tournament appearance and looks to be well on his way to a successful career at Washington State.
It's never easy to come in and continue winning after a successful coach has departed. For everything his team accomplished and for all the success we see coming down the pipe in the future, Keidane McAlpine is one of your finalists for the 2012 Kathi Goertzen Coug of the Year award. Congratulations to Coach McAlpine for his nomination and to him and his team for their incredible season.