Setting a high mark

For 11 members of the Lady Lions soccer team, this was their final season.
Let this not lessen their accomplishments, but magnify them. Over four years, this group has equaled a win total (51) set by one other group.
“Overall, I think we did pretty good,” said Kelsey Salcido, junior midfielder. “We all thought we passed the ball around really well. We could have done better during the tournament. I think we didn’t prepare ourselves very well for the tournament, but we have next year.”
This season saw early successes, midseason woes and a resurgence that vaulted them into the Southland Conference (SLC) tournament, only to let their form slip in the semifinal match.
“It’s been a rollercoaster,” said Kayla Vera, freshman forward. “Going through preseason for the first time is just difficult. But, overall, I think with everyone that we just fit together really well. We just connected and had that chemistry early and so it really helped later on in the season.”
The Lady Lions began the season 5-2-0. During that run, they only allowed six goals while scoring 23.
It was in the middle of the season that saw the Lady Lions’ form slip. Going 2-4-1 from mid September to early October, the Lady Lions gained only four of a possible 15 points at home during that stretch.
By season’s end, the Lady Lions righted the ship, earning the third seed in the SLC tournament. Southeastern lost in the semifinal match against Lamar.
“It was hard on us with Maiya being gone at the end of the season, but we managed to pick ourselves back up and keep going,” said Vera.
With senior forward Maiya Cooper sidelined with a knee injury, the Lady Lions were left without one of the most potent scorers in the SLC. But Vera took this as an opportunity to show her skills in the attacking third.
Vera garnered many accolades in her first season at Southeastern, including the 2012 Louisiana Sports Writers Association award for top freshman in the state. Vera was second on the team in points (18), with six goals and assists.
With young talent and veteran leadership returning, fitting in new girls is a key focus during the offseason for the Lady Lions.
“Team chemistry definitely,” said Salcido. “We lost a bunch of seniors this year and we have some new girls coming in. Hopefully we can work with them to come together as a team and play together as one, do better this season and hopefully come in first, make it through the tournament and go to the NCAA tournament.”
But nothing is more important than getting an education. After all, that is the underlying reason for being a student-athlete. The Lady Lions earned the Team Academic Award from the National Soccer Coaches Association of America for the sixth season in a row. The award was given to 504 women’s soccer programs that earned a team grade point average of 3.0 or higher.
 “I think it’s important from a standpoint of the big picture of student-athlete,” said Hornbuckle. “You arrive, your main purpose is to get your degree. You have to meet certain requirements and stipulations to stay part of teams. It’s a privilege, not a right to be part of a college athletic team.”
­­­­­­­Call it a going out party or a learning experience. Those soccer players graduating as Southeastern alumnae deserve credit. The players returning now have seen the hard work and dedication it takes to win. Now they have a goal, 52.