Something’s gotta give.
In two District 5-Division II encounters Destrehan and Central Lafourche battled to 0-0 outcomes on both occasions.
It was the only blemish for either team in league play as each finished 8-0-2 in district. Determining who is the best team will be decided when the teams play again, this time in the Division II girls soccer quarterfinals set for 6 p.m. in Destrehan.
“Both teams had both opportunities in both games but we just couldn’t put them away. We were missing a few players the both times we played them but this time we are healthy. We are looking to put all our weapons out there, and hopefully, we can score some goals and get the win this time,” said Lady Wildcats coach Mert Deger.
Both teams are so evenly matched that along with finishing with two ties and identical records in district play, it took several tie-breakers to determine who would be the district’s top representative going into the playoffs. With most every tie-breaking statistic virtually even, it came down to Destrehan being the higher-ranked team. That sent the Lady Wildcats into the playoffs as the No. 4 seed and Central Lafourche at No. 5.
In each of the two district encounters, Destrehan was without injured goal keeper Merritt Thompkins. That caused Deger to play midfielder Tayler Tabb in goal. Moving Tabb, who is third on the team in scoring with 22 goals while adding 15 assists, took away from Destrehan’s offense.
It also caused Tabb’s teammates to adjust.
“I think that the first game that we played, we were really more defensive minded,” said senior Noelle Kelley, the team’s leading scorer with 32 goals and 36 assists. “We were down one of our starting wings, so we had her in goal, so we were more worried about her being comfortable and supporting her in the back. I think that second game, we played a little uncontrolled. We tried to play more of their game where we played the ball up the field rather than play controlled and build it up through the middle on the wings.
“I think they definitely were two different games although the outcome was the same.”
Meanwhile, Tabb proved more than an adequate replacement, tossing a pair of shutouts against Central Lafourche.
“She is the only person that has goal keeper experience. We had to use her in the goal. She did great. She didn’t get scored on in both games but we missed her at midfield. We needed her presence in the midfield and attacking part of the game,” said Deger.
Destrehan is seeking to reach the semifinals for the second year in a row.
While Destrehan has posted a 19-1-2 overall mark and boasted a team that lost only two seniors from a year ago, the Lady Wildcats’ quest to get back to the semifinals, and perhaps beyond, took a blow when the team’s top scorer from a year ago, Morgan Rigby, suffered a torn anterior cruciate ligament during the summer.
“We were hoping to have her back around this time but somehow she had to have another surgery two months after the first surgery, so that’s why she couldn’t play for the whole season,” Deger explained.
The loss of Rigby took away perhaps Destrehan’s most versatile player.
“She can play everywhere. She can play defender, midfielder, forward, she was an all-around player,” said Deger.
Along with Kelley and Rigby, Ny Keller and Jordan Terrell picked up the slack in Rigby’s absence. Keller has produced 25 goals and 11 assists on the season. Terrell, a freshman, has added 15 goals and 12 assists.
Another major contributor has been defender Hailey-Ann Heyl, another senior captain who was selected for the state all-star game.
Deger is in his first season as Destrehan’s coach, although he was very familiar with most of the Lady Wildcats. Deger, a former coach at Newman, Riverside Academy and Chapelle, has been coaching the St. Charles club team for the past few years.
“I’ve been coaching St. Charles soccer for five years since we started competitive soccer there.
St. Charles had been a recreational club but about five years ago started the competitive side of it. I was one of the first coaches there. Most of the girls have been playing club over there,” Deger said.
Another deep playoff run, Kelley said, was sensed by the team from the start of the season.
“I think definitely at the beginning of the season we realized that we clicked a lot more this year than we have in past years,” said Kelley. “Although we have a lot of young players coming in, they really stepped up and taken on their role. It’s their first year playing high school. It’s a completely different level than it was for them at club. I think they really have taken to those roles. The upperclassmen, four of us have played together for the past four years, and with our juniors, we really made a cohesive effort this season and that is why we have been able to advance as far as we have.”
Terrell is one of those freshmen to have embraced her role with Destrehan.
“At first, it was very nerve-racking, starting as a freshman. As the season went on, I’ve gotten more comfortable,” said Terrell.
A win over Central Lafourche would advance Destrehan to the semifinals at St. Thomas More in Lafayette. Another win would send the Lady Wildcats back to Lafayette for the state championship game.
“It would mean everything to me. This is my last year of high school. Playing soccer has always been my favorite of the other sports I’ve played (which include tennis and volleyball). Being able to take it even a step farther than we did last year – what we did last year was amazing – it would be extremely gratifying as a senior at Destrehan,” said Kelley.
It’s a sentiment also shared by a Lady Wildcat freshman.
“It would mean a lot, especially being a freshman. For these seniors, I know it would mean a lot to go as far as we can,” said Terrell.