As Georgia began its sixth season of women's soccer, the program looked to reach a new level of success under the guidance of first year head coach Sue Patberg. With a solid mix of youth and experience, the Bulldogs set out to contend for a Southeastern Conference title and an NCAA berth.
The season got off to a solid start with strong wins in five out of the first six games, including a 4-3 come-from-behind victory over Cincinatti to give Patberg her 100th career coaching victory. However, that stretch also included a 6-1 loss to nationally ranked UCLA in Gainesville, a game that matched Georgia sophomore transfer and 1999 Pac-10 Co-Freshman of the Year Jessica Winton against her former teammates. The Bulldogs rebounded from the loss to play well in the University of Massachussetts tournament, getting a pair of 3-1 victories over Umass and Fairfield.
Georgia then hit a bump in the road with a four game winless stretch, going 0-3-1 in games involving margins of victory of two goals or less. The Bulldogs fell 2-0 to Iowa State then played three straight overtime matches, inlcuding two double overtime games. Included in that stretch was a tough 1-0 double overtime road loss to nationally ranked Arizona State. A bright spot for Georgia came from senior goalkeeper Nicole Williams as she set the Southeastern Conference career shutout record in a 0-0 double-overtime draw against Georgia State. Williams pushed her career shuout total to 25.5 breaking the previous SEC record of 25 set by Vanderbilt's Christy Barringer in 1995.
Georgia opened SEC play on a positive note, shutting out South Carolina 3-0 on the road. However, the Bulldogs then traveled to Gainesville to face the nationally ranked Gators, suffering a 2-0 loss. Georgia's first weekend of conference play proved to be typical of the rest of the season asthe 'Dogs battled injuries and offensive struggles to finish with a 4-4-1 SEC record. The highlight of conference play was the Bulldogs 1-0 upset over nationally ranked Kentucky at home.
SEC Tournament host Georgia earned the seventh seed in the conference tournament, setting up a match against second seed and SEC West champ Ole Miss, a team to which the Bulldogs suffered a 3-2 loss just a week and a half prior. Georgia came away with a 2-0 victory and advanced to the semifinals where the Bulldogs faced another opponent that defeated them earlier in the season in sixth seed Vanderbilt. The 'Dogs 2-1 victory over the Lady Commodores propelled Georgia into its first-ever SEC Tournament final. In the championship game, the Bulldogs rematched SEC regular season champion Florida with an NCAA Tournament automatic bid on the line. Georgia fell 2-0, ending a strong tournament run and the Bulldogs' hopes for an NCAA berth.
With several injuries and some tough losses, the Bulldogs' season may have been frustrating at times, but Georgia's play in the SEC Tournament was a positive close to the 2000 season.
"It was just one of those seasons with a lot of ups and downs," Patberg said. "Overall I'd have to say the brightest part of the season was definitely the end of the season. Which I think is what you want to be able to say."
Yet, the strong performance of her team during the SEC tournament led Patberg to ponder what might have been this season had the Bulldogs not struggled with injuries and had more consistent play throughout the year.
"It was great to get to the final but, at the same time, it was frustrating to know that we could play that hard and we could have played that hard throughout the season. Maybe a couple of those close losses would have been wins and maybe we would have been in the (NCAA) Tournament."
Despite missing an NCAA berth, the Bulldogs posted their sixth straight double-digit wins season with a 11-9-2 overall record. Several individual players had strong seasons. Senior goalkeeper Nicole Williams finished her Georgia career the SEC career leader in shutouts (29.5), saves (373), most consecutive shutouts by a keeper (eight, 8/27/99-9/19/99), most matches played by a keeper (83), and most consecutive starts by a keeper (83). Williams also ended her collegiate career with a share of the SEC single-season record for shutouts (12.0, 1999), ranked third on the SEC keeper minutes list with 2021:43 in 2000, tied for fifth on the SEC season goals against average list (0.81, 1999), ranked ninth in SEC career goals against average (1.22), and with several Georgia records, including most career wins (49) and most saves in a season (122).
Williams and senior defender Stefanie Bertcher were both named to the All-SEC First Team, the SEC All-Tournament Team, and selected to the 2000 National Soccer Coaches Association of America Southeast Region Teams, with Williams selected to the first team and Bertcher named to the second team. Williams and Bertcher were also both selected to play in the Umbro Select All Star Classic held in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., February 1-4, 2001. Williams was named MVP of the All-Star game after leading the East squad to a 1-0 victory over the West.
Williams' collegiate success was capped-off with being selected by the New York Power in the Women's United Soccer Association (WUSA) supplemental draft. She was the third selection of the fourth round (27th overall).
Junior forward Amy Berbary led the Bulldogs in scoring in the 2000 season, recording career highs for goals and points in a season with eight and 18, respectively, tying her for fourth on both Georgia's season and career (17) goals lists. Senior midfielder Kristy Bongiovanni set the school record for assists in a game with three versus Charleston on August 25 and finishes her career ranked second all-time at Georgia in shots with 188 and tied for third on Georgia's career assists list with 17. Sophomore forward Beth Culver finished the season tied for fourth on Georgia's season assist list with seven.
While Georgia lost four talented seniors in Williams, Bertcher, Bongiovanni, and defender Morgan Coyle, the Bulldogs look to a very experienced group of underclassmen and talented newcomers to continue the success of the soccer program.