Lee Looks Back on Historic Soccer Season

by LSUsports.net (@LSUsports)
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Lee Looks Back on Historic Soccer Season

BATON ROUGE — Head coach Brian Lee and the LSU soccer team recently wrapped up their most successful season in the history of the program as they advanced to the second round of the NCAA Tournament for the first time in 13 seasons.

The Tigers earned an at-large berth into the NCAA Tournament after winning their first ever SEC Western Division title with a 12-5-7 overall record and a 5-2-4 mark in league play.

After posting a 1-0 shutout of the Samford Bulldogs in the first round of the NCAA Tournament on Nov. 16, the Tigers saw their season come to an end with a 4-0 defeat at the hands of Florida State in Tallahassee, Fla., on Nov. 18. The Seminoles are set to take on Connecticut in the NCAA Quarterfinals on Friday night for the right to advance to next week’s College Cup.

“It was a big step for this program to reach the NCAA Tournament, and to win a game with such a young team shows that we are moving in the right direction,” Lee said. “The fact that we return nine starters and a number of key reserves next year bodes well for the future of the program.”

Lee said that while he is proud of his players for achieving what no other LSU team had done in 12 previous seasons, he is particularly pleased that seniors Sara Pollock, Caroline Vanderpool and Valerie Vogler were able to taste such success in their final season in Baton Rouge.

“It has to give our three seniors a great feeling of accomplishment to buy into the program when we arrived three years ago and reap the benefits of all their hard work over that time,” Lee said. “I believe they are three of the most important players to ever wear the LSU uniform.”

LSU hopes to build on its success in 2008 as it returns a talented roster that features a total of four Tigers who earned all-conference recognition for their outstanding play this fall.

Sophomore midfielders Michelle Makasini and Malorie Rutledge were each named First-Team All-SEC selections for the first time in their careers, while sophomore defender Chelsea Potts was named Second-Team All-SEC for the second straight season and freshman midfielder Taryne Boudreau was voted a member of the SEC All-Freshman Team.

The Tigers will also return their top 10 scorers to next year’s squad, including sophomore standout Rachel Yepez who finished the season as the team’s leading scorer with 14 goals and 31 points on the year. Yepez was one of seven Tigers to start all 24 matches in 2007.

“We feel good about where we’re at right now with this program,” Lee said. “We will bring back a talented squad next year, and many of our young players have room to grow and become great players during their careers here at LSU.”

The Tigers experienced great success this fall despite competing against one of the more difficult schedules in the country that included a school record seven nationally-ranked opponents. Among their successes was a 2-2 draw with No. 4 Texas in Austin on Sept, 18 and a dominating 3-0 win over No. 6 Tennessee in Baton Rouge on Oct. 5.

LSU’s victory over the Lady Volunteers was its first ever win over an opponent ranked among the top 10 teams in the nation, while it finished the season with a 1-3-3 mark against ranked foes.

The Tigers spent time in the national rankings themselves as they were ranked among the nation’s Top 25 for four weeks during the fall. They earned their first national ranking in team history at No. 19 in the Soccer America Top 25 released after blowing out the Lady Volunteers.

The match against Tennessee also drew a record crowd of 2,402 fans, shattering the previous record of 2,160 fans that filled the stands to see LSU defeat in-state rival McNeese State on Sept. 14. In fact, the all-time attendance record was set three times in 2007 as LSU opened in front of an overflow crowd of 1,828 on Aug. 31 for a match against Southern Miss.

The squad is poised to finish in the Top 10 nationally in average attendance this season after drawing an average of 1,294 fans in eight home matches, which breaks the previous record for average attendance in a season after drawing 824 fans per match in 2006.

“Our fans were tremendous all season long and helped create one of the best atmospheres for college soccer that I’ve ever been a part of,” Lee said. “We have some of the best fans in the country, and we’ve always thought that they would come out and watch a team that plays an attractive, winning brand of soccer.

“The winning has started to come for our team over the last three seasons, and we’re looking forward to achieving even more great things when we kick it off again in 2008.”