The Sam Houston State soccer teams resumes conference play in Louisiana this weekend with rematches against Louisiana-Monroe on Friday and Northwestern State on Sunday.
The Bearkats last played these two teams at the beginning of October, losing both matches. Head coach Marcia Oliveira said the experience and familiarity her players gained in those matches should help the Kats provide tougher competition this time around.
“It’s going to be much better,” Oliveira said. “We’re going to be a lot calmer, and a lot more in-tune. We already know them, so we will be able to play a little more objectively, knowing when to score and when to be careful.”
That objectiveness should remain constant for the remainder of the season, now that the Kats have faced every team in the Southland Conference. Given the fact that SHSU is winless in conference play and currently sits at the bottom of the SLC, making it to the conference tournament is a goal, which has almost slipped out of the Bearkats’ hands.
Oliveira said that possibility is not entirely unattainable, however. “(The players) have not given up,” she said. “They are aware that although it is a big disadvantage for us, being stuck in this situation, they still think we can win a few more games.”
If the Kats do win a few more games, and some of the lower teams in the conference, such as Nicholls State and McNeese State, lose a few more games, SHSU could reach the tournament. To qualify, the Kats must be one of the top six teams in the SLC.
The upcoming matches will be somewhat of a crossroads for SHSU. If the Kats win their next two matches and McNeese State loses their next two, SHSU will move into a tie for the sixth and final qualifying spot for the tournament.
That scenario is possible, given that McNeese plays Southeastern Louisiana, the top team in the SLC, in one of those games.
The Kats will have to find a way to get their offense going if that is to happen, though. SHSU has been shut out in five of their last six matches. Part of the offensive ineptitude is due to injuries to the Kats’ core of forwards.
Stacy Smith is out for possibly the rest of the season with an ankle injury, and Katie Blaylock is suffering from tendonitis. Tynice Friday sprained her ankle a couple of weeks ago, and is slowly returning to peak condition.
Despite having a difficult road ahead of them, the Kats are not letting the pressure bother them any more than necessary.
“We’re still very positive about everything,” Oliveira said. “We are not going to give up, and if worse comes to worse, we will just get good experience and get ready for next year. We’re going to play to win as much as possible to the very last minute of the very last game.”