Aug. 28, 2008
RUSTON, La. -- The fifth season of varsity soccer for Louisiana Tech kicks off this weekend with a pair of games in Denton, Texas. The Lady Techsters play their first game of 2008 at the University of North Texas on Friday night, then face Texas Woman's University on Sunday.
Tech looks to make a huge turnaround from a tumultuous 2007 campaign which saw the Techsters win only two contests. But the team and the program as a whole have a new attitude and a new culture, and things are looking up in Ruston.
Head coach Kevin Sherry, entering his second year, knew that for results on the field to improve, things had to change off it. And several changes were made with team personnel as only 14 letterwinners return from the 2007 squad. However, those 14 managed to go through the spring season with an undefeated mark, including one tournament title.
"We've seen first-hand how things work when you change the culture," Sherry said. "We had positive results in the spring. We got faster and stronger, and everyone has been willing to listen and learn. We would not have gone undefeated in the spring if everyone hadn't bought in to what we're trying to do."
The 14 returning letterwinners, led by senior team captains Leslie Buck and Brittany Davis, in addition to seniors Emily Cleaveland, Denise Wilson and Amy Wolsted, will join 17 newcomers (16 freshmen, one transfer) that come in with great credentials and a work ethic and demeanor that fits with Tech's new soccer culture.
"The first thing I tell all our recruits is that for a program to be successful on the field, the culture of the program off the field has to be a certain way," Sherry said. "A team that values family, respect and hard work will be successful."
Tech's collection of veterans and newcomers will get a stern test immediately at North Texas with kickoff set for 7 p.m. Friday. The Mean Green (15-8, 7-4 Sun Belt in 2007) are picked to finish second in the Sun Belt and has been one of the top programs in the conference over the last several years, winning league titles in 2001, 2004 and 2005. They are led by junior Kendall Juett, who was named the Sun Belt Conference Preseason Player of the Year for 2008 and joined teammate Brittany Cleveland on the All-SBC preseason first team. Juett scored eight goals and added 12 assists last season, while Cleveland had 11 goals on the year.
As if that weren't enough, the Mean Green very rarely lose on their home turf. UNT has only lost four home games since the 2000 season, having put together home winning streaks of 24 and 23 games during different stretches over the last nine years.
Tech will remain in Denton to face Texas Woman's University with kickoff set for 1 p.m. Sunday. The Pioneers, an NCAA Division II school, went 8-9-3 in 2007 and were picked sixth in the Lone Star Conference preseason poll. They are led by forward Chastity Hayter, who was selected to the All-LSC team in 2007 after scoring four goals and two assists last season.
The Lady Techsters have never lost to a non-Division I school, going 3-0-1 all-time in those contests. Tech defeated Robert Morris, Belhaven and William Carey in 2005 and played to a 2-2 draw with Belhaven in 2004. Tech has outscored the opposition 25-2 in those contests. TWU is the first of two straight Division II opponents for Tech as it will face Delta State on Sept. 3.
Live stats for Friday's game will be available on North Texas' official web site, meangreensports.com. There will be no live stats for Sunday's contest at TWU. A full report and final box score will be available shortly after each contest on the official web site of Louisiana Tech athletics, www.latechsports.com.