Soccer Team Eager to Open 2002 Season at SFA
NACOGDOCHES, Texas — The LSU soccer team looks to win its fifth-consecutive season-opening contest on Saturday, as the Tigers open their 2002 schedule against the Stephen F. Austin Lady Jacks at 7 p.m. in Nacogdoches, Texas.
“Stephen F. Austin is a very good team,” said LSU head coach George Fotopoulos. “Last season, they had a great year, they have a new coach and she’s done a fantastic job. It’s not going to be an easy game for us at all. We’re playing on the road in a hostile environment, on some hostile turf and it’s going to be a good first test for us.”
Saturday’s non-conference matchup at the turf-laden Homer Bryce Stadium will be first game of the season for both squads. Despite ending with a 7-8-3 record last season, LSU enters the 2002 campaign full of optimism after finishing 9-0 in the spring and returning seven starters from its 2001 squad.
Stephen F. Austin comes into the game looking to begin a new era. Saturday’s contest will begin the coaching career of first-year head coach Nicole Nelson and winning at home against a quality opponent would bode well for the Lady Jacks’ chances in the Southland Conference this season. SFA finished the 2001 season with a 10-8-1 overall record.
LSU owns a 5-2 record in season openers and has won its previous four opening-day games. Last season, the Tigers blanked McNeese State, 5-0, at home. The win marked the first of three LSU home shutout victories in 2001.
The season-opening contest could mark the reaching of a milestone for a couple of members of the LSU soccer program.
Senior Ashley Mitnick is one assist shy of setting LSU’s all-time assist record. The Second-Team All-Southeastern Conference member is currently tied with former Tiger great Michelle McKinney with 14 career assists. McKinney set the record in 1996.
Fotopoulos, in only his third season, looks to become LSU’s all-time winningest soccer coach on Saturday. He is currently knotted with former head coach Miriam Hickey at 22-career victories. Last season, Fotopoulos became the fastest soccer coach in school history to reach the 22-win plateau as the Tigers recorded a 1-0 victory over Northwestern State on Oct. 10.
“I’m very anxious to see how we do on Saturday and I like the environment that we will be playing in,” Fotopoulos said. “It’s away from home, so it’s going to be hostile. It’s a tough ground to play on and there are going to be a lot of things that can possibly go against us. It’s going to be a good challenge for us to help us along in the rest of the year.”
LSU will open its home season against Loyola (N.O.) at 7 p.m. on Sept. 11, at the newly renovated LSU Soccer Complex. The game is being promoted as Stars and Stripes Patriotic Night.