Soccer Preview: hope riding high for Cajun soccer
The 2013 season was one to remember for the University of Louisiana at Lafayette
Ragin’ Cajun soccer team, and 2014 is expected to be even better.
The team finished last year with a record of 8-7-3, the best in school history. The Cajuns finished tied for second in the Sun Belt Conference standings, and earned the number three seed in the conference tournament.
Heading into the 2014 season, the Cajuns are poised to exceed the results from last year. The team returns every starter from last year, minus senior outside mid-fielder, Shelby Eisley. Heading into his tenth year as head coach, Scot Wieland said he believes that his team is full of confidence.
“Expectations are different this year,” he admitted. “The expectations for us are higher. The girls expect to win.”
With arguably one the most talented teams Wieland has ever had, the Cajuns have 13 freshmen on the roster. Four fabulous freshmen at the forward position expect to make huge contributions this year: Danielle DeRosa, Madison Duncan, Haley Boroch and Denice Emokpae.
The infusion of freshmen gives the team more depth to complement the talent of two of the main catalysts for the history-breaking season: sophomore forward Yazmin Montoya and senior defensive player Grace Howell-Harries.
As a freshman, Montoya set the school record for points with 31, and earned First Team Sun Belt, as well as All-Louisiana First Team, honors.
“Going in as a freshman, I just wanted to play,” Montoya reflected. “Then, when six of us started, we soon learned we were here to make a difference. We learned so much the first year and started improving after a couple games. As soon as we clicked, we started making history. There is no better feeling than knowing all of our hard work really did pay off.”
Howell-Harries had an impressive season of her own last year, garnering Sun Belt Conference Defensive Player of the Year and first-team All-Sun Belt honors. She was also named first-team All-Louisiana by the Louisiana Sports Writers Association.
With the duo of Montoya and Howell-Harries returning, along with the additions of new talent, the Cajuns look to top their finish from last year and win the Sun Belt title.
“This year we have a lot of depth,” continued Montoya. “The freshmen are very talented and athletic so we are super excited. Since we had lots of returners, we just wanted to pick up where we left off. Practice was intense from day one and honestly, we were just working hard to get the freshman to click with us, and so far it’s been promising.”
As one of the older members of the team, Howell-Harries has been through some rough spots during her career with the Cajuns, but things are changing for the better.
“The culture of the team has changed drastically since my first year here,” said Howell-Harries. “We were in the building stages when I first set foot on the field and every single one of my teammates and coaches, past and present, have helped make this program everything it is today. We all know what the outcome of our season should be, and we will push each other to reach that goal. I couldn’t be prouder of all the work everyone has put in and I can’t wait to see what this season and future seasons of UL women’s soccer has in store.”