Vandebilt Catholic has had Loyola’s number.
The Lady Terriers knocked the Lady Flyers out of the LHSAA Division III semifinals last year and topped coach Mark Matlock’s club 2-0 on some disputed calls earlier this season.
Now the Lady Terriers (24-4-3) are the only team standing between the Lady Flyers (21-6-3) and their first state title. As Loyola headed through Baton Rouge traffic Tuesday afternoon listening to “not too intense” music provided by Matlock’s 10–year-old daughter, Ainsley, Vandebilt Catholic was on the minds of Loyola’s seven seniors.
“I was in a boot with a high ankle sprain when we played them earlier, but I feel more confident than ever about our chances this time,” said Flyer senior Liz Bryan. “We are the underdogs, and I like the way we look attitude wise heading into this game.”
The Lady Terriers topped Loyola 2-0 in the state semis last year, then defeated Academy of Sacred Heart 3-1 for the Division III title. The game in November could have gone either way when the Lady Terriers scored on a free kick and a penalty kick.
“The refs said our goalie (Mary Kathryn Smith) stepped over the line, but she did not step over the line,” Matlock said. “I sent film of that one into the league office.”
Meanwhile, the Lady Flyers have basically constructed their entire season around getting a rematch with Vandebilt, which will happen at 5:30 p.m. Wednesday in Tad Gormley Stadium in New Orleans. One Flyer fan bus was already filled and another was just 20 riders short of filling as of Tuesday morning.
“Last year, we played three back against them and we struggled, so we changed to four defenders on the backline, knowing we’d probably see them again,” Matlock said. “We’ve designed our system around stopping those two excellent forwards they have.”
The goal is to keep the forwards from getting behind the Loyola defense.
“We did a good job against them last year,” Matlock said. “We definitely want a little revenge.”
At a Tuesday morning pep rally on Jordan Street, Bryan and fellow senior Rebecca Mays thanked the crowd for their support and invited them to make the trip south. The student body and cheerleaders formed a line to send the pillow-toting players off to cheers and applause.
If the team made it through Baton Rouge traffic in a timely fashion Tuesday afternoon, they were due to practice at Pan American Stadium in New Orleans at 3 p.m., eat dinner at an Italian restaurant then retire to the hotel for some film study.
Wednesday morning’s routine will include a trolley ride before seniors Marie Marcalus, Renee Lyles, Shannon Anderson, Grace Folsom, Ally Peters, Mays and Bryan will play what could be the final soccer game of their careers. Having been there before and winning three state titles in club soccer with Shreveport United should give this team an even chance against the defending champions, who counter with eight seniors.
“The experience of winning state in club soccer will help us with nerves. And the losses in school soccer have made all of us realize how special it is to get here,” Bryan said. “It’s more than just having a good team. We’ve had that in the past. We hope to bring more to the game than we have in the past.”