The Sam Houston State soccer team will make their fourth consecutive appearance in the Southland Conference postseason tournament when they play the No. 4 seed Nicholls Thursday at 7 p.m. in Lake Charles, La. The Colonels are making just their third tournament appearance and first since 2004.
The game is a rematch of the regular-season finale, where Nicholls beat Sam Houston State, 3-2, in Thibodaux, La. The win clinched a spot in the conference tournament for Nicholls.
“Our target has been to play well and qualify for the tournament and understand that now everybody goes back to 0-0,” Bearkat head coach Tom Brown said. “Everybody starts with the same record and this is something we’ve been looking forward to. We’ve tried to make sure our players are healed and recovered. They are excited to play and feel like they have a lot to prove.”
Led by four players named to the All-Southland teams, the Bearkats finished the season with a 6-6 league record. Second-team member Mariah Titus leads the Kats with eight goals.
Tricia Mallory, the team’s lone senior, is second on the team with four goals and was named an honorable mention all-conference selection. Joining Mallory on the honorable mention list are freshman defender Megan Bennett and sophomore goalkeeper Kylie Hambleton.
Nicholls is led by the Southland Player of the Year, Spencer Valdespino. A native of Spring Hill, Fla., Valdespino finished the regular season leading the league in shots (108), shots per game (6.00), points (37), points per game (2.06), goals (16), goals per game (0.89), second in game-winning goals (six), eighth in assists (five) and ninth in assists per game (0.28).
Her single-season totals in goals, points and game-winning goals are the best in Colonel history and she currently sits in second in the Nicholls’ record book in goals and points after just two seasons. Valdespino is the seventh Nicholls player to earn all-conference honors and only the fourth to garner a spot on the first team.
Thursday night’s winner will play No. 1 seed Stephen F. Austin in a semifinal match at 7 p.m. Friday with the championship match slated for 1:05 p.m. Sunday.
“Our preparation has been a little bit tough. Monday is normally our recover day after playing two matches over the weekend. Tuesday is our day off so there hasn’t been a lot of other prep. But really at this point the season has been the preparation. Sunday was an emotional game for Nicholls because they had to win to get in. But it’s given us a chance to get a little more of a scout as far as their ideas,” Brown added.
Last season in the conference tournament, Sam Houston also earned the No. 5 seed and fell in the opening round to Oral Roberts. The Bearkats have reached the championship match only one time in school history, losing to Northwestern State in 2005.
Single session tickets on Thursday and Friday are available for $10 for adults and $6 for youth. Two-day, two-session tickets are $15 for adults and $10 for youth. Tickets for Sunday’s championship are $8 for adults and $6 for youth. Children under the age of 5 and student at Southland Conference institutions are free with a valid ID. For more information, contact the McNeese State Ticket Office at email@example.com or at 337-562-4678.
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