Aug. 17, 2010
RUSTON, La. -
There is an overused phrase in sports, "the best thing about freshmen is that they become sophomores." The same can be said for sophomores. The best thing about sophomores is that they become juniors. That is one major reason for the optimism that surrounds this year's Louisiana Tech soccer team.
This season's 14-member junior class has carried the bulk of the load over their two years in Ruston. They have also been a part of the two most successful soccer seasons ever at Louisiana Tech with a record of 22-12-5 combined in 2008 and 2009. This is one of the many reasons that the culture of Lady Techster soccer is changing and why they are ready to take a giant step forward in the next two seasons. This class is familiar with winning and they are fearless.
"I think we are ready because the junior class is ready to take a leadership roll in the program," said head coach Kevin Sherry who enters his fourth season at Tech. "They were my first recruits and they have developed into really good soccer players. They've gone through the freshman and sophomore years of being nervous and scared. They've been beat up and run over, but they've got up and are still working hard. They are not afraid anymore. They really believe that they can do something."
There is another sign of the changing times at Tech. Gone are the years when any freshman could enter the program and receive immediate playing time. The competition is now at an all time high and newcomers have to earn their spot on the team.
"There is a lot of potential in our freshman class," Sherry said, "but now they can prepare for their junior and senior years when they are ready to play, not when I need them to play."
The Lady Techsters are coming off a season that was the best in school history. They finished 12-7 including the program's first-ever Western Athletic Conference win. Tech broke six team and 13 individual records in a breakout season.
Kiva Gresham returns for her fourth season at Tech. The lone senior from Albuquerque, N.M. switched from defender to forward towards the middle of last season and immediately became a more offensive threat. She scored both goals in Tech's exciting 2-1 double overtime win over New Mexico State. Gresham's seven assists last season broke the season record.
Junior forward Rachel King made noise last season with two hat tricks on her way to a season record 12 goals and 26 points. She, along with Gresham, was named to the all-Louisiana team by the Louisiana Sports Writers Association.
Junior Scotti Culton and sophomore Mo Rockwell return at the midfielder position. Culton scored four goals and notched six assists last season, while Rockwell recorded five goals and three assists. Sophomore Lindsay Brough and freshmen Brittany Harbaugh and Mia Schorpp look to get playing time at the position as well.
At the defender position, juniors Chelsea White and Olivia Lukasewich and sophomores Mallory Feece and Kacee Voldness all return from last season. With their help, Tech had a school record six shutouts in 2009.
Junior Cat Buchanan, who has been a regular starter at the goalkeeper position throughout her career, will face some competition with freshmen Rebecca Alvarez and Caitlin Updyke each looking to earn a starting job.
"I'm excited because the kids we have now have worked so hard and I'm very proud of the preparation they've put in for this season," Sherry said. "They've gone through so much and I really want to have a successful season for them."
Matching last season's 12 wins will be a taller task in 2010 as the schedule is more challenging than the 2009 slate. Three NCAA Tournament teams from last season highlight the schedule in Southwestern Conference Champion Arkansas-Pine Bluff, Ohio Valley Champion Murray State and Western Athletic Conference Champion Boise State. The Lady Techsters will face area teams in Grambling State, McNeese State and Nicholls State as well.
Tech's WAC schedule becomes more difficult with the home and away switch from last season. They have home games with Utah State, Nevada, San Jose State and Fresno State and road games at Idaho, Boise State, Hawai'i and New Mexico State. The whole season comes down to the main objective for the 2010 season. Qualify for the WAC Tournament for the first time. This year, the WAC Tournament holds more significance than in year's past because Louisiana Tech is the host site for the three day event (Nov. 4, 5 and 7).
"Especially with the tournament at home, we are going to give a 100-percent effort to qualify," Sherry said, whose team needs to finish in the top six in the nine-team WAC to make the conference tournament. "Even if we finish sixth, it will make history for our school and we are ready for it. If you ask any of our juniors, they'll say we can win it."
Optimism is all around this program, now in its seventh season of existence and as the winning continues, the talent coming in continues to improve. In 2011, with a top notch freshman class, which Sherry calls his most talented ever in his 11 seasons as a head soccer coach, and with 14 juniors becoming 14 seniors, the future is extremely bright for Louisiana Tech soccer.
The season starts Friday at 7 p.m. at Stephen F. Austin.