Mert Deger’s Destrehan girls soccer team had a breakthrough season a year ago.
The team allowed a total of 11 goals all season in going 19-2 and reached the Division II quarterfinals.
When a school finally has a breakthrough season, it usually means it was built over a period of time, generally with key seniors contributing.
Those seniors depart and a group of new players have to step up. That can be a bit of a slow process early, especially if the team is counting on numerous freshmen.
“The first month-and-a-half had been a struggle as far as trying to find our rhythm and try to get those four or five freshmen and three sophomore to get them to jell together,” Deger said. “I scheduled some tough tournaments and that’s why we lost a lot of points and a lot of games. We tied a lot of games that we should have won. We (also) had some injuries at the beginning of the season.”
All of this was taking place as the Lady Wildcats were moving up to Division I, another transition in and of itself.
“I scheduled my games accordingly so my schedule was tougher,” Deger explained. “That’s why we had a little (drop off in the record). We also lost some senior key players last year and it was mainly off our scoring side. That’s why at the beginning of the season we had a struggle to score goals to find the right players in the right spots.”
Destrehan got off to a slow start, leading to the possibility the Lady Wildcats might not even make the playoffs.
But the young players matured by the end of the regular season.
The Lady Wildcats won seven of their last nine, including the final five, to make the playoffs.
Destrehan not only made the playoffs as the No. 21 seed, it win at West Monroe 1-0 in the opening round of the playoffs. That allowed the Lady Wildcats to advance to the second round Tuesday against St. Joseph’s Academy at Catholic High in Baton Rouge.
In the West Monroe game, the lone goal was scored by forward Faith Leveck, one of several key freshmen for Destrehan. For the season, she has scored 16 goals and has eight assists.
“She has had a huge impact,” said Deger, whose team is now 10-7-4 on the season after the playoff win.
Another freshman making a key contribution is outside midfielder Elliss Viquez. She has 12 goals and 10 assists on the season.
Destrehan also has a freshman goalkeeper in Hope Berg.
“She played on the club level so she had some experience but not so much in high school,” said Deger.
“She started most of the games. She improved every game,” the Destrehan coach continued. “She had a little confidence issues, of course, at the beginning of the year being a freshman and playing Division I. After that, she’s now very confident and I’ve been very happy with her.”
Among the key seniors is center midfielder Stephanie Ruiz, who has 13 goals and eight assists on the season.
“She is one of the captains and we expect leadership from her,” Deger said of Ruiz, who was recently selected to a postseason all-star game.
Other major contributors among the seniors are defenders Jordan Lemoine and Jordan Callahan.
If Destrehan is to advance to the quarterfinals for a second year in a row, the Lady Wildcats have to keep St. Joseph’s from getting off to a quick start, according to Deger.
“We have to try and stop them first. We have to make sure they don’t score early goals and give them the momentum. We have to get our back players to challenge them,” Deger said.