Lady Cats learning, having fun in first season

Published 12:00 am Monday, January 11, 1999

MICHAEL KIRAL / L’Observateur / January 11, 1999

RESERVE – Soccer, for years the most popular sport in the world, continues to grow in popularity in the United States. That growth can beseen in the growth of soccer programs, both boys and girls, on the high school level.

East St. John High School joined that growing ranks this year, introducinggirls’ soccer to go along with its boys’ program that has been in existence for four years.

Two girls played on those early boys teams and one played last year. MauraSmyth, a teacher at the school, wanted to see what kind of interest there was for a separate girls’ team. Smyth, who had grown up with the sportand had played club soccer at Fairfield University, put up signs around school asking for girls to try out.

Smyth said a lot of girls came out at first. With the usual attrition thatcomes with a first-year program, the team currently has 14 members.

Smyth coaches the team and is assisted by Eileen Cullen, a teacher at The Glade School.

Smyth said she has gotten support from both principal Debra Schum and athletic director Ronnie Stephens. She said the boys’ soccer team has alsobeen a wonderful help, coming to practices on their off days to offer assistance.

Coaches from the teams in the Lady Cats’ district have also offered support. And fund raising efforts have helped pay for balls and uniforms.Smyth said the team has also gotten great parental support. Parents wereout Tuesday night to watch the Lady Cats play district rival Hahnville on a bitterly cold night at Joe Keller Stadium where the team plays its home games.

The Hahnville team that the Lady Cats played is an example of where they want to be in the future. The Lady Tigers advanced to the state semifinalslast season in only their second year of existence.

“They are an inspiration of what could happen,” Smyth said.

The Lady Cats have gone through some growing pains against more experienced teams like H.L. Bourgeois and Hahnville. Those teams also havean advantage in that most of their players have experience in recreational leagues. Without the benefit of a recreational soccer program in St. JohnParish, few of the girls on the East St. John team have played soccerbefore.

The Lady Cats are also a young team, consisting mostly of sophomores.

Smyth said everything being done this year is for the long term with the goals for this year’s team being to improve on its skills and have fun while also increasing the interest in the sport. Smyth points to the growthof the boys’ program as an example of what could happen.

And while the Lady Cats may not yet have the skill level of their more experienced opponents, few teams have shown more heart or a better work ethic this year.

“I love working with them,” Smyth said. “They are such an inspiration.They have shown so much heart and willingness to keep coming out. Theyare having a good time and so am I.”Members of the 1998-99 Lady Cats are Tena Baham, Helen Beard, Ashley Fallon, Latasha Gaines, Letita Hicks, Kasie Knight, Shea Lewis, Christine Lobel, Katie Madere, Melissa McBrayer, Winter Pierce, Jennifer Schexnayder, Sheila Schilling and Alcadia Tambunga.

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