Ladyjacks Head to SLC Tournament
Nov. 3, 2005
NACOGDOCHES, Texas - The Stephen F. Austin Ladyjack soccer team has already stacked up a pile of achievements this season. The Ladyjacks' 14-3 overall record ranks as the best season in school history. Also, en route to winning the program's fourth Southland Conference championship, SFA completed the first undefeated, untied conference season in league history. For their efforts, the Ladyjacks were rewarded with six selections to the All-SLC first- and second-teams and three of the league's four superlative awards.
The Ladyjacks do have one more goal they've yet to check off of their list, though. They'll open play in the SLC Tournament Friday with their eyes on the tournament title and an automatic berth in the NCAA Championships. SFA begins play with a semifinal match against Sam Houston State at 4:30 p.m. All tournament matches will be played at Northwestern State's Demon Soccer Complex in Natchitoches, La.
"We reminded them that it means nothing that we're the No. 1 seed," first-year head coach Jaime Frias said. "All the accomplishments to this point mean nothing, right now. It's a new season, and they have to earn their respect, each and every day."
At last year's tournament, Frias, who was then an SFA assistant coach, got a first-hand lesson in how little the No. 1 seed means. The Ladyjacks won the Southland regular-season title before bowing out in their first tournament contest with a 2-1 loss to Louisiana-Monroe.
Several players from that squad returned for this season. Frias said last year's experience, plus the fact that his team was a perfect 7-0 against SLC competition this season, have combined to take the Ladyjacks into the tournament with a good blend of confidence and humility.
"Having already beaten everybody is a good thing in that the girls have confidence in themselves and in their abilities," the coach said. "They know that every opponent we could see in this tournament is beatable. The only thing is you have to keep them humble. I don't think that's a problem, though. They're not overconfident, and they understand that it's a whole new season."
Friday's opponent, No. 4 Sam Houston, defeated No. 5 Louisiana-Monroe, 2-1, in Thursday's quarterfinals match. The Ladyjacks defeated Sam Houston, 6-1, in their meeting earlier this season. SFA took a 2-1 lead to halftime in that contest, before pouring it on with four second-half goals. The Bearkats finished the regular season with a 3-11-1 mark, all three wins coming in Southland Conference play.
"Sam Houston is a much-improved team," Frias said of the Bearkats, who are making their first appearance in the SLC Tournament. "They'll bring a lot of heart and determination into the game. It's going to be difficult, but I think we have an edge in that we're better rested and don't have to play back-to-back games."
The winner of Friday's match will advance to the championship round, set for Sunday at 1 p.m., against the winner of the other semifinal contest between No. 2 Northwestern State and No. 3 Texas State.
On a Roll: The Ladyjacks open Southland Conference Tournament play with the momentum of a school-record 11-match winning streak. SFA has not tasted defeat since a Sept. 11 loss at Houston.
SFA in the SLC Tourney: The Ladyjacks have reached the Southland Conference Tournament in six out of the eight years of its existence, winning the championship for the first and only time in 2003. SFA has a 3-5 overall record in tournament play.
Ladyjack Leaders: Senior goalkeeper Natascia Michalezki and freshman forward Amanda Alders both led the Southland Conference in various statistical categories this year and cracked the national Top 20 in the list of NCAA leaders. Michalezki's .880 save percentage ranks seventh in the country. The senior has recorded 81 saves with just 11 goals allowed in 16 matches this season. She also leads the conference in goals against average (0.74). Alders' 15 goals not only tied a school mark for goals in a single season but put her in a tie for 14th in the nation in goals scored per game (0.88). Alders led the conference this season in both goals and points (33).
The Defense Rests: The Ladyjacks have put together a record-breaking year defensively, posting a school- and Southland Conference-record 11 shutouts this season. SFA allowed just 11 goals all season and finished with a .660 goals against average, both of which broke SLC records.
-- SFA --