Despite a lack of depth, the Live Oak girls’ soccer team was carrying an impressive streak into the start of district play.
The Lady Eagles (10-3-1) had a 10-match unbeaten stretch, including nine wins, stopped in a 7-1 loss to University High on Saturday.
Live Oak opens district play on Jan. 11 at Central, in a match that could give the winner a leg up in the league race.
Led by volume goal-scorers Raghan Walker and Chloe Bourque, the Wildcats (8-3-1) are two spots behind the No. 8 Lady Eagles in the power rankings.
The Lady Eagles travel to Woodlawn (Jan. 15) for another tough test before closing the regular season at home against Lee Magnet (Jan. 18) and Plaquemine (Jan. 22).
Coach Kraig Zeller is pleased with the momentum the Lady Eagles carry into the new year and doesn’t see any reasons why to deviate from the successful formula.
“I’m really happy with our record and how we’re playing,” Zeller said. “For my girls (the biggest key to success) is consistency and playing like they know how to play. I think if we stick to the philosophy, we’ve been practicing the past two months I think we’ll do pretty good…I know the kids are excited about the year. They’ve had a fun season and the upperclassmen have taken in the younger kids and taken then in under their belt. I think that’s one of the reasons we’ve had a successful year.”
In an effort to combat his team’s lack of depth, Zeller instituted at rigorous conditioning program to ensure that his team was fit to play for 80 minutes. Watching Live Oak play and they play efficiently above all else, attacking when the opportunity presents itself and snuffing out opposing scoring chances before they develop further.
“The girls know that we don’t have a lot of players on the bench,” Zeller said. “Every girl on the bench knows their role. Now that we’re in the last two to three weeks of this before playoffs begin, it all goes back to the summer when we did workouts.”
Slow start hasn't deterred Eagles
The Live Oak boys’ soccer team may be entering 2019 with a 6-9-3 record, but coach Zack Miller is not flustered.
Despite the tough results in the first two months of the season, the Eagles currently sit at 16th in the LHSAA’s power rankings and can easily play themselves into a home playoff spot with a couple of positive results in the last full month of the season.
Not only that, winning a district championship isn’t too unreasonable. In fact, the team is not shy about their prospects of reaching such a goal.
“We feel pretty confident that we can end up with one of the highest win totals we could have in the time since I’ve been here,” Miller said. “We could be somewhere around 14 wins and be looking at a home playoff game.”
Live Oak begins district play on Jan.16th at home against Plaquemine and finish with Central, defending district champion Woodlawn, Lee Magnet, and Belaire.
Woodlawn (8-4-1) is considered the clear-cut favorites in the district and are ranked sixth in the latest statewide rankings for Division II.
“We always seem to be looking up at Woodlawn,” Miller said. “That’s the one team we haven’t been able to get over the hump against. When we get a decent result or a tie against them, we end up stubbing our toe against someone else. They’ll always be the ones to beat.”
Central is another team looking to gain traction within the district and would love nothing more than to catch both Woodlawn and Live Oak.
While the Eagles have a nice buildup to the district phase of the schedule, Miller hopes that the holiday break can be used to refocus the team.
“It’s usually a mixed bag,” Miller said. “It usually comes at a necessary time when a lot of guys do need a break, especially coming off three back to back tournaments. That’s a lot of games and a lot of mileage over a short period of time. Physically and mentally, we’re usually ready for a break. It’s a long enough break to get everybody healed up but short enough to where they’re ready to get back after it without getting too rusty.”
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