Leslie Turk

STM girls' soccer title may solidify national ranking

by Leslie Turk

The STM Lady Cougars soccer team proved not only its ability to dominate in Division I but also took another step toward solidifying its position atop the national rankings. The undefeated Cougars, 27-0-2, shut out Barbe for their first D1 state title Saturday in Shreveport, thanks to two goals from sophomore MVP Danielle Murphy and a third from junior midfielder Kate Corley -- both assisted by senior/LSU signee Kellie Murphy. As of Feb. 19, the National Soccer Coaches Association of America/Adidas National Rankings had the local team ranked fifth, behind teams from Allen, Texas; Long Beach, Calif.; Wellington, Fla.; and San Diego, Calif. The next rankings will be published April 15.

After a slow start in Saturday's final, the Cougars stepped up their game, with several players chalking up their top performance of the year, assesses head coach John Fell. "Kate Corley had the best game of her season," says Fell, noting also the critical role of the Cougar defense, with sweeper Jordan Gauthier and starting fullbacks Rebecca Cernich and Emily Pontiff holding Barbe to four shots on goal -- all pressured or deflected by a flawless performance from junior goalie Natalie Dronet. But one of  the key defensive strategies, Fell maintains, was the decision to have stopper Megan McCollum mark Barbe's leading scorer, Anna Clark. "Megan played all over their target forward," he says.

The 2008 team is the first in Lady Cougars history to end a season undefeated, and Fell also believes the 5th place national ranking is the highest ever. It's anybody's guess, he says, what will happen when the new rankings are posted in mid-April.