Seniors Pave Way for Memorable Soccer Season
Nov. 13, 2017
RUSTON – Just before kickoff, Monica Gebler would get in the middle of a huddle surrounded by her Lady Techster soccer teammates.
In that circle she would give a message and that message was the same every time.
Play as hard as you possibly can and leave everything you have on that field. Don’t walk off regretting something. Walk away from that game knowing you did everything you could. Play for yourself and play for your teammates.
That message came across loud and clear in the 2017 season.
The Lady Techsters went 14-3-5. Three losses out of 22 matches. Just three, a new program record.
They went 6-1-3 in Conference USA play. One loss out of 10 matches. Just one, a new program record.
They qualified for the C-USA Tournament for a fourth straight year, one of only three league teams to do so, and ended up advancing to the semifinals for only the second time in program history.
The 21 league points, a program record. The eight road wins, tied a program record. The eight consecutive home games without a loss, tied a program record. The 14 victories, tied for the second most in program history.
“Overall, it was a very successful season breaking so many records and reaching the semifinals,” head coach Kevin Sherry said. “When you consider where we have come from when I first arrived in 2007, the turnaround has been truly remarkable. We were a struggling Division I soccer program. Now look at us. We are a program who gets a lot of praise and recognition on both a regional and national level.”
Back on August 6 – Report Day – Sherry stood in front of his new squad in their meeting room and gave a clear message himself. He told his team they were capable of winning Conference USA.
Expectations were bigger than usual. A large reason for that was because of the nine seniors, Gebler being one of them, in that room.
“I think what the team did this year was pretty amazing,” Said Gebler, a four-year defender out of Albuquerque, New Mexico. “The fact that you had nine seniors come in and were able to combine with the newcomers and everybody on the team, and work together like we did, was incredible. I am glad I got leave my senior year with such a great season.”
Don’t be fooled by the records though. There was plenty of adversity to face and overcome.
The first one hit them sooner than expected … the weather.
The Lady Techsters spent the bulk of their preseason practicing on the turf of the softball and football fields instead of their own pitch because of constant rainfall.
The early non-conference schedule was a challenge as well. Five of the first six games came on the road, including the first three that happened in the span of five days.
LA Tech powered through it though, going 4-1-1 with the only loss coming at home to Mississippi State. After a draw and a victory versus Troy and Jacksonville State on a home weekend, adversity hit five minutes to the west at Grambling State.
After having a two-goal lead erased, the team needed an overtime goal from senior Nomvula Kgoale to escape with a win. It was a gut-check momentum, no doubt.
“That game showed that if somebody has the desire to outwork you, then they will outperform you and beat you,” Gebler said. “It showed people who were not necessarily aware of that at the time, someone with heart will definitely beat somebody with talent.”
What followed was a stretch run of terrific soccer. Aside from a loss to eventual conference regular season champion Rice in the second league game, the Lady Techsters went unbeaten the rest of the way through the conference slate.
They tied three-time defending champ North Texas, beat Charlotte for the first time ever, came back from 2-1 down to defeat Middle Tennessee in Murfreesboro, handed UAB its lone home loss of the season and capped the regular season with a 3-1 win over Southern Miss on Senior Night.
Oh, almost forgot more misfortunes throughout the season … injuries. There were a multitude of them in the preseason. There were a handful of concussions that struck starters during the season. And senior Kailee Hervey went down with a leg injury in practice two days before the team boarded their flight to Boca Raton, Florida for the C-USA Tournament.
That is where the incredible season came to a halt, but not before they overcame a one-goal deficit to topple Old Dominion in the quarterfinals.
“What made us so successful through the season was the seniors,” assistant coach and former player Kiva Gresham said. “They showed our younger players that it doesn’t just take exceptional soccer skills to be competitive at this level. It takes hard work, aggression and heart as well. They reach peak physical conditioning and set new fitness and strength standards.”
Delve further into the season and the largest senior class in program history had their hand on so many shining moments.
Faith Washington coming up with a phenomenal save against Southern Miss. Lisanne Kleygrewe leading the attack on Senior Night. Au’Dresha Spates getting the game-tying goal at Marshall. Hannah McStay-Fenn sending a rocket to the upper 90 at FIU. Haley Laque providing unwavering stability on the back line. Olivia Millington shooting perfectly-played 40-yarders into the box. Monica Gebler doing a full field run down the right flank to place a perfect cross to (insert name). Kailee Hervey flicking two header goals in the regular season finale. Nomvula Kgoale and her numerous free kick goals (no surprise the word “goal” is in her last name).
“The nine seniors raised the standards of the program and the challenge to the returners and new recruits is to now work hard and raise those standards even higher,” Sherry said. “All of them had major contributions and were a big reason why we did so well.
“But we need to not rest on our laurels. We need to use this success as a springboard to push forward and reach even higher levels of success.”
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