Lamar Loop: Cardinal soccer headed to NCAA tournament

 Lamar University soccer players celebrate a victory

After winning their first regular season Southland Conference title, the Cardinal women’s soccer program grinded its way through the conference tournament and won it. LU defeated Texas A&M-Corpus Christi (1-0), Central Arkansas (2-1) and SFA (2-0) to advance to the NCAA Tournament after finishing a dismal 2-14-3 last year.

“It’s absolutely amazing,” said first year coach Steve Holeman. “What a special group this is. The fact that none of these players had ever been to the Southland Conference Tournament, and then come in as the top seed and win it all is tremendous. I’m just proud to be a part of it. This is a phenomenal team.”

LU got on the board at the 23:01 mark of the first half against Stephen F. Austin when Juliana Ocampo scored on a header off a Lucy Ashworth corner kick. It was Ocampo’s fifth goal of the season, while Ashworth picked up her eighth assist.

The Cards made it 2-0 with 5:21 remaining in the first half when Juli Rocha scored on a penalty kick after Brittany Harris was fouled inside the penalty area. It was the sixth penalty-kick goal of the season for LU, but the first for Rocha. The Cardinals mixed things up a bit, as M.J. Eckart had scored the last four penalty-kick goals for Lamar.

After that, it was up to goalkeeper Lauren Lovejoy and the LU defense to keep the Ladyjacks (13-8) at bay the rest of the way. Lovejoy made five saves to register her 10th shutout of the season and 12th of her career.

The Cardinals placed six players on the all-tournament team. Freshman Madison Ledet, who had goals in each of the first two games, was the tournament MVP. Joining Ledet as LU representatives on the all-tourney squad were Rocha, Lovejoy, Eckart, Ocampo and Kelso Peskin.

They will next play Texas A&M (17-2-1) on Friday, Nov. 10, at Ellis Field in College Station at 7:30 p.m. in a first-round NCAA tournament matchup.

“Texas A&M has a great soccer environment,” said Holeman. “I’m looking forward to our players getting one of the best experiences when it comes to soccer.”

LU is just the second program in NCAA Division I women’s soccer history to improve by 16 wins in one season, joining South Alabama, which went 18-3-1 in 1997 after going 2-17 the year before.

“Last year was a tough year, but we let it build us and strengthen us,” said Lovejoy. “If it wasn’t for our coach, we wouldn’t be here right now. He believed in us and encouraged us. I can’t think of a better coach to play for.”

The winner of Friday’s game will face the winner of the first-round game between Notre Dame and IUPUI at a site to be determined Nov. 17.

Football

The Cards trailed the fourth-ranked Central Arkansas Bears by only seven points late in the first half before the Bears rattled off 28 points to defeat Big Red, 42-14, in front of more than 8,000 Homecoming fans at Provost Umphrey Stadium on Nov. 4.

LU (1-8, 0-7) finished the night with 279 yards of total offense, while UCA recorded 565, including 332 on the ground. LU got an inspired effort from senior Blake McKenzie, who came off the bench to complete 14-of-23 (.609) passes for 165 yards and a touchdown. McKenzie was forced into action late in the second quarter when starter Andrew Allen, who has been starting for the injured Darrel Colbert, who left the game with a sprained AC (shoulder).

“UCA is a good football team – no doubt about it,” said coach Mike Schultz. “I give them all the credit. Of their five starters on the offensive line four are seniors I believe, and they were all over 300-pound. I thought that our kids played hard, and our defense fought extremely hard tonight. I looked out there tonight at one time and we had five true freshmen on the field defensively, and they’re fighting their tails off. I’m proud of these guys for that.”

Lamar will travel to Houston on Saturday, Nov. 18 to play Houston Baptist (1-8, 0-7) at 2 p.m.

“HBU don’t score a lot of points, but they play very well on defense,” said Schultz. “They are coming off a loss against Nicholls, where they lost on the last play of the game.”

Basketball

Both the men’s and women’s basketball teams will start the 2017-18 season on Friday, Nov. 10. The men will play at Tulsa at noon and the women at No. 3 Baylor at 7 p.m.

The Lady Cards will play at home against Louisiana College on Monday, Nov. 13, at     7 p.m. while the men host Coastal Carolina on Tuesday, Nov. 14, at 7 p.m.

Women’s golf

Elodie Chapelet overcame a slow start Oct. 31 to finish tied for ninth at the USF Invitational at the TPC Tampa Bay.

Chapelet continued her incredible streak of finishing in the Top 10 of every event in her career. The sophomore has finished ninth or better in all 14 of her events, winning medalist honors on five occasions.

Chapelet entered the final round tied for fifth, just two strokes off the lead, but opened the final round with a triple-bogey. She ended up at 9-over-par 80 for the round on the par-71, 6,145-yard layout. Chapelet finished at 17-over 230 for 54 holes.

“We were hoping Elodie would move up the leaderboard, but she started off with a triple-bogey and it ruined her confidence,” said coach Jessica Steward. “She did her best to pull it together, but the course got the best of her.”

Chapelet finished eight strokes behind the leader, Tilda Larsson of Barry, who shot a 74 to end the tourney at 9-over-par 222.

Lamar finished in 11th place with a score of 965. Georgetown won the 14-team tournament with a 918.

It was the last event of the fall season for Lamar, who open the spring season Feb. 12 at the Texas State Invitational.

Volleyball

Molly Shade had a career-high 39 assists, but the Cards fell in four sets to the host Abilene Christian Wildcats in Southland Conference women’s volleyball action on Nov. 4 The Cardinals (4-21, 2-13) wrap up their 2017 season when they travel to Stephen F. Austin to meet the Ladyjacks at noon on Saturday, Nov. 11.

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