Ursuline will host MCHS

By: GEOFFREY STOUTE
The Morgan City Lady Tigers’ soccer squad has been to the second round four times during its short existence, including the last three years.

And all four times, the squad has lost.

For the current group of seniors, the second round is all they know, as they lost to DeRidder, 4-0, in 2009, Neville via penalty kicks (3-2) in 2010 and in 2011 to Cabrini, 1-0, at Pan American Stadium in New Orleans on wet, artificial turf.

Today, the Lady Tigers will again return to the second round and again return to Pan American Stadium for a 7 p.m. matchup with Ursuline Academy.

While Ursuline missed the playoffs in 2011, the squad made the postseason every year before since at least 2003.

The New Orleans squad comes into tonight’s matchup with a 16-2-2 overall record, but coach Winston Lewis would not call his team talented.

“Most of the games we’ve played, we’ve played against weaker opponents,” he said. “When we’ve come against teams that are even or stronger than us, those teams have been really, really tough games to play.”

Additionally, Lewis said his squad has only about seven returning players from last year and limited playoff experience.

“Even though we have a history of making the playoffs, this group, with the exception of three girls, (don’t) have playoff experience,” Lewis said.

Because Ursuline, the No. 7 seed, had a first-round bye, the squad made the trip to Morgan City to watch the Lady Tigers, the No. 10 seed, defeat South Terrebonne, 4-2.

Not only was it a chance for Ursuline to see what the Lady Tigers had, it also was a chance for Lewis' squad to experience a playoff atmosphere.

As for Morgan City, he said Shannon Theriot, who scored the Lady Tigers’ first three goals in Friday’s first-round victory, as well as Carmen Araujo and Sarah Patterson, all stick out.

“We were working yesterday and the days before on how to contain them if they play the same way,” Lewis said of the Morgan City squad’s first-round performance. “Being off for that period of time … that’s my one worry right now.”

In its last playoff appearance in 2010, Lewis said his squad had a first-round bye and then lost in the second round.

“This year, I’m trying to figure out how to get these girls to stay competitive” in the interim, he said.

While Morgan City coach Trevor Patterson said he knew little about Ursuline, he said because they are from the New Orleans area, they probably have a few players that play soccer year round.

“They’re not No. 7 for no reason and they’ve always been ranked (in the polls),” he said.

Despite Ursuline’s lofty record, Theriot said the Lady Tigers have to have confidence they can compete with them.

“You can’t think about them being the greatest team ever just because they’re from New Orleans,” Theriot said. “You just got to think that your team has to be solid and your team has to be strong enough to handle this kind of team, and if you just play your hardest … you can do anything.”

MCHS’ two seniors, Reina Fernandez and Sarina Morales, said Morgan City’s young squad’s enthusiasm motivates them more than just solely getting past the second round road block.

“All of them want to go far,” Morales said. “We have a bunch of new people, and we can do it.

“A lot of people before our senior year said this is …,” Morales said, stopping to remember the word. “What they called (it),” she asks Fernandez.

“A rebuilding year,” Fernandez responded.

“And we’re not rebuilding,” Morales continued. “We’ve really been good.”

For Morgan City, Patterson said the key to the game would be to adjust to the wider field at Pan American. While Morgan City plays on a field that is 55 yards wide by 120 yards long, Pan American is 70 yards wide.

“Fifteen yards on either side makes a big difference,” Patterson said.

Patterson said his squad has worked on shifting their formation and closing holes that would allow Ursuline to attack them.

“We played on that field before, so they should be able to adjust to it,” Patterson said. “It’s just when you get out there and the nerves start setting in, sometimes they forget how to move how they’re supposed to move.”

For Ursuline, Lewis said the key would be to defend as a group and for his midfielders to play disciplined and stay in position as well as to score when they have the opportunity.

“The games we have had trouble in, we’ve created opportunities and failed to score,” Lewis said. “What happens is when you create opportunities and fail to score, the other team gains confidence.”

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