RUSTON - The 2014 fall season officially kicked off today for the Louisiana Tech soccer team as players reported for camp just a mere 15 days out from the first game on the pitch.
Despite having 18 freshmen and seven sophomores make up 90 percent of the squad and the steep learning curve last season, head coach Kevin Sherry and the Lady Techsters were able to make some waves with four league victories while going up against the stiff competition of Conference USA.
This year, LA Tech looks to make even bigger strides with the return of 18 letterwinners and nine starters.
"There are so many emotions involved on the first day of camp which all goes into the mix to make the start of preseason such a special day," said Sherry. "I am keen to see who has come in physically fit and mentally prepared for the big challenge ahead.
"As always it will be very interesting to see how the new incoming players adapt to this new environment and see who has the potential to contribute in their first year."
The Techsters were surely not the only ones having difficulty finding the back of the net last season.
Finding a first class striker is difficult, but as the year went on it appeared as though LA Tech had found one in Kathryn Sloan. The soon-to-be-sophomore ended up leading the team in goals scored with seven, highlighted by a strike that occurred just 11 seconds in the match against Southern Miss - a program record.
Joining Sloan on the front line will be fellow sophomore Kailee Hervey who was second in goals with four. The two complement each other very well with their differing styles.
"Kailee is a different player to Katie which gives our offense more options," said Sherry who enters his eighth season at the helm. "Kailee is more of a target, hold-up striker whereas Katie is a quick sharp striker who likes to get in behind defenses. The combination of these two will be exciting."
Joining them for support will be incoming junior college striker Donya Salomon-Ali.
The position of midfield is the engine room from a tactical standpoint, where the Lady Techsters are relied upon so much to control possession and keep the ball moving at a quick pace. Fortunately, this engine room returns a wealth of experience this season.
At the heart of the room are two workhorse juniors, Brittany Beddow and Erica Stewart, who have a combined 46 starts and 39 points between them. It is a rarity to see the numbers seven and 24 come off the field at any point.
"We have many talented midfielders either returning or joining us which is important," said Sherry. "We have a good mixture of energy, technical ability and great work ethic."
Last season the back line required a lot of patch work where midfielders and forwards had to fill in on a consistent basis which was not ideal in the least.
Add to that the loss of Marjolein Timmermans, a Conference USA All-Freshman performer, and this position will certainly be the most inexperienced.
"The fill-ins did a great job but we have recruited defenders for depth which will mean we can place those players in their more accustomed positions on the field," said Sherry. "I am confident we will have a lot of quality and speed coming in to help us."
To fix it, two of the fastest players on the team, Madison Doll and Laura LeFevour, will become permanent fixtures on the flanks where they can have the freedom to move into the attacking third on counter attacks.
At center back will be sophomore Alexandra Fiorvento who had 17 starts as a newcomer last season. The recruiting class was defensive heavy and rightfully so. A total of seven freshmen will come in and challenge for important playing time.
With returning starters filling out almost the entire starting XI, the one position that will need to be replaced is at goalkeeper after losing Caitlin Updyke to graduation.
Updyke holds practically every goalkeeping record in LA Tech history, was a second team All-CUSA performer last season and now is playing professionally in Iceland.
Looking to take over in net at such a critical position is sophomore Kylee Seto who recorded a 2-0-1 record in three starts.
"Kylee was Caitlin's understudy last season and we are confident she can step into her shoes," said Sherry. "She will get pushed for that starting position though with the inclusion of two talented freshmen."
The Lady Techsters were picked to finish 12th in the preseason C-USA poll voted on by the league coaches.
For complete coverage of LA Tech Soccer, please follow @LATechSOC on Twitter or visit the official home of Louisiana Tech Athletics at www.LATechSports.com.