The Georgia soccer team began the 2001 season with optimism but also uncertainty as nearly half of the squad were newcomers. The newcomers, however, included a talented transfer in Andrea Velasco, and seven heralded freshmen that comprised a top-25 recruiting class for second-year coach Sue Patberg. With a solid core of veterans back, the team looked to build chemistry quickly as they faced several of the nation's top teams early in the season.
Georgia's task, however, was made difficult with several players missing games due to injuries or ejections. The Bulldogs lost starting defender Ki VanOudenallen to a season ending knee injury and starting forward Jessica Winton for several games with a knee injury as well, both suffered during Georgia's second game of the season versus Wake Forest. Freshman starting defender Charisse Co and freshman reserve Kara Williams both missed several games with injuries suffered against Georgia State prior to the start of conference play. Winton returned to play but then suffered a season ending knee injury in Georgia's first SEC match versus Alabama. Two days later, freshman and key reserve Anna Beth Fuller was lost for the year with a knee injury. To make matters worse, co-captains Carolyn Cayard and Velasco both missed games due to cautions and ejections. Cayard missed the Auburn match due to a red card received in the game versus Alabama and Velasco missed the Vanderbilt match after receiving her fifth yellow card in the game versus Kentucky.
Despite the personnel problems, Georgia went on to have one of the best seasons in the program's seven-year history.
The Bulldogs' non-conference schedule included six teams that went on to play in the NCAA tournament, including top-ranked North Carolina. Georgia went 3-2-1 in those games and 5-2-1 overall in non-conference play, preparing the squad for Southeastern Conference play.
In conference play, Georgia faced four more teams that would make the NCAA tournament field and posted its best season in program history with a 7-2 record. The Bulldogs posted wins over 24th-ranked Kentucky and 17th-ranked Tennessee, as well as set the school record for most goals ever (11) in back-to-back conference matches with high scoring wins over LSU and Arkansas. Georgia also earned national rankings during the conference slate, bouncing around the polls with a season high ranking of 20.
Georgia finished the regular season at second in the SEC East, landing the Bulldogs the third seed in the SEC Tournament. Georgia was upset in the first round of the tournament 3-2 by Auburn, however, the Bulldogs strong regular season earned them a bid to the NCAA tournament for the first time since 1998 and the third time in program history.
Georgia faced the Miami Hurricanes in the first round of the NCAA tournament, playing at Percy Beard Stadium on the campus of the University of Florida. The Bulldogs again showed resolve in overcoming adversity, rebounding from a 2-0 deficit early in the match to win 5-2 and advance to the NCAA second round to face rival Florida. Patberg attributed the first round success to the rigor of Georgia's regular season schedule.
In the second round of the NCAA tournament, Georgia fell 3-0 to the Gators, but Patberg came away with confidence that the program is heading to a higher level.
Along with success as a team, several Georgia players earned individual recognition throughout the season. Cayard led the way, being named to the Soccer Buzz Elite Team of the Week on Sept. 5, earning Tournament Defensive MVP honors at the Duke/adidas Classic and being named to the All-SEC Second Team. Velasco earned All-SEC First Team honors. Freshman goalkeeper Ashley Lindley was named SEC Player-of-the-Week on Oct. 8. At the UConn/Diadora Classic in the early season, freshmen Charisse Co, Tricia McKee and Elizabeth Metherell were named to the All-Tournament team.
Amy Berbary, who led the squad in scoring for the third straight season, was the lone senior, leaving the Bulldogs with a wealth of returning talent next season. While Berbary's scoring knack will be missed, Georgia looks to build on the 2001 season's success and continue towards the level of an elite program in college women's soccer.