The Lady Cardinals celebrate their win with the regular season Southland Conference plaque, in the center of the field at LU Soccer Complex, Friday night. UP photo by Karisa Norfleet

The Lady Cardinals celebrate their win with the regular season Southland Conference plaque, in the center of the field at LU Soccer Complex, Friday night.
UP photo by Karisa Norfleet

LU soccer wins first SLC Championship title

The Lamar Cardinals soccer team went from worst to first Friday night, winning the regular season Southland Conference championship for the first time since 2006 after finishing bottom of the SLC last year. The Lady Cards defeated their rivals, McNeese State, 4-1 at the LU Soccer Complex, in front of the 695 fans, setting a school attendance record.

“It’s the greatest moment of our soccer history,” head coach Steve Holeman said. “I’m just fortunate to be a part of this program. What a turnaround we had.

“They believed in everything we did. We’ve just been on this amazing run and it all leads all up to this. These seniors have never been to a conference tournament and now they’re conference champs.”

The Lady Cards scored their first goal off a penalty kick in the sixth minute and never looked back. Senior M.J. Eckart, who is one of the seven honored seniors at the ceremony before the game, scored the PK.

“Indescribable — I can’t even put together the words, what it means to be on this team,” Eckarts said. “We’ve worked so hard and the seniors have been through so much in the past years, to end on this note is an amazing feeling.”

In the second half, the Lady Cards increased their lead to 3-0, scoring quick back-to-back goals. Junior Juliana Ocampo scored on a scramble one minute into the second half, and Madison Ledet assisted Kelso Peskins in another goal less than four minutes later.

In action, freshman Lucy Ashworth

In action, freshman Lucy Ashworth

Senior Tori Alaniz scored the last goal for the Lady Cards after the assist from a corner by Lucy Ashworth, for a 4-0 lead. The Lady Cowgirls got a consolation in the 77th minute but could close the gap no further.

“Going from a team that barely won a game to a team that’s first in conference is amazing,” Alaniz said. “Honestly, we did the impossible. I’m just excited to get to Corpus Christi and hopefully we’ll make it to nationals. I love my team and I’m so proud of them.”

Lamar had its best offensive showing against the conference’s best defense, Holeman said.

“That’s what made it more special,” he said. “We’ve been pretty good on set pieces throughout the season. We know we’re dangerous on corner kicks, but we knew that could be the difference in the game and it was.

“(The Lady Cards) were energized. They came out with intensity. They wanted this. We said before the game, this is for the seniors.”

Holeman said there had been a buzz all week about the game.

“When it came down to the No. 1 vs. the No. 2 in the SLC title, the team started receiving calls,” he said. “Other teams from Lamar reached out and said they were going to come and support the Lady Cardinals and the local community. Everyone was on board. It was a phenomenal atmosphere and just a great moment for Lamar soccer.”

After the crowd rushed onto the center of the field to congratulate and celebrate with the team, the Lady Cards were presented with the Southland Conference regular season championship award.

Lauren Lovejoy, senior goalie, said she would not change anything about the season.

“Well, we’re going to go get that second ring (for SLC tournament),” she said. “That’s what’s pushing us forward — we want that second ring.”

The Lady Cardinals faced hosts Texas A&M Corpus Christi in the first Southland Conference game, Wednesday. Result was unavailable at press time.

But on Friday, Holeman said the team was just going to enjoy the moment.

“We enter as the number one seed which means everybody’s going to be coming after us,” he said. “It’s been an amazing run.”

Story and photos by Karisa Norfleet, UP contributor

Learn more about Lamar University at lamar.edu

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