Nov. 27, 2012
RUSTON - Seven key four-year seniors graduated. Ten others were lost due to injuries or other circumstances.
Enter 17 new players -- freshman and one sophomore transfer -- to take their place on a Louisiana Tech soccer squad that clawed its way to an 8-8-4 overall record and a last place finish in the Western Athletic Conference for 2011.
To say the 2012 season would be a complete unknown would be a complete understatement for head coach Kevin Sherry and just two returning seniors in defenders Mo Rockwell and Lindsay Brough. The rest of the WAC coaches agreed since they picked LA Tech to finish dead last in the conference during the preseason.
To make matters even more complicated, the Techsters would only get two weeks of practice in before their very first match.
Four freshman would score in the season opening win versus LSU-Shreveport, but it was the second win of the season that proved this team could have a specialness to it.
"The win against future Conference USA foe Southern Miss was a big win because it gave the players some self-belief that they can compete at this much higher level," said Sherry about the 3-1 home victory.
The confidence slowly began to build from there for the youthful club with three consecutive shutouts and even after the first loss of the season which came on a last minute goal.
Then the season really became magical as LA Tech went on one of the most impressive runs in Techster history - an 11-game unbeaten streak that saw first after first happen for the program.
The 1-1 tie with No. 19 ranked Denver was a very special memory," said Sherry who saw forward Emily Brennan tie the game up with two minutes left in regulation. "To play such a great team who have unlimited resources available to them and come off the field undefeated was a great testament to the players and the potential they have.
The tie was the first ever achieved against a ranked opponent. The road weekend sweep of conference foes was the first ever achieved. The win over UTSA with a player down was another first achieved.
A scoreless draw versus Seattle in the next game would be the clincher in what was the team's season goal from the start - qualifying for the WAC Tournament.
"It was only the second time in the program's history that this has been achieved and qualifying as the No. 4 seed was an added bonus," said Sherry. "A lot of the credit must go to the players for working so hard and always believing they could do it when so many people told us we couldn't. We were picked to finish last in the preseason poll by all the WAC head coaches and it was very satisfying to prove them wrong."
From there the Techsters would hit a lull, losing their last three matches and ultimately falling to Seattle 2-1 in the first round of the WAC Tournament to close the 2012 season with a 12-5-4 record.
What started out as such an unknown roster had suddenly become very well-known in just two and a half months thanks in large part to the emergence of an exhilarating freshman class.
Seven different players received WAC Player of the Week honors throughout the season. Brennan and Rockwell were selected second-team All-WAC. And Brittany Beddow was College Sports Madness WAC Freshman of the Year.
However, more unknowns are on the horizon for LA Tech Soccer now that they will be entering a brand new conference next fall where the team will hope to create even more magic.
"We say goodbye to Lindsay Brough, Mo Rockwell and Paige Dunn as they graduate, and we thank them for all they have done in building this program to the level it is today, but we must now look to the future," continued Sherry. "We will be competing in one of the toughest soccer conferences in the nation next year in the form of Conference USA. We will be playing against some of the best players and teams in all of college soccer and we have to be ready."